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Boot, Jesse, 1st Baron Trent
1850-1931

Drug manufacturer and founder of the chain of chemist shops. He was born on 2 June 1850 in Nottingham, where his father, John Boot, a dedicated Wesleyan local preacher, had a herbalist's shop. (His Methodist grandmother had also been interested in herbal remedies.) After his father's early death in 1860, when Jesse was 10, he joined his mother in continuing the business and in 1877 took it over. By great application and entrepreneurial flair he developed it into a nation-wide chain selling cut-price medicines (increasingly produced from his own factories). By 1900 he had over 250 shops throughout the country. He was inspired by the example of Quakers such as Joseph Rowntree and the Cadburys to take the welfare of his employees seriously.

He remained a Wesleyan with wide evangelical sympathies and his considerable benefactions included the rebuilding of theAlbert Hall, Nottingham (1906-9) and what was to become Nottingham University. He was made a freeman of the city of Nottingham in 1920. A strong Liberal supporter, he received a knighthood in 1909 and a baronetcy in 1917 and was raised to the peerage in 1929. Increasingly crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, he sold his interest in the business in 1920 and retired to Jersey, where he had bought a large house, 'The Grove', overlooking St. Aubin's Bay. He died at Millbrook on 13 June 1931.

His widow, Florence Annie Rowe, daughter of a St. Helier bookseller, had been the inspiration behind Boots Circulating Library and other developments in the business. She commissioned M. René Lalique to refurbish the interior of St. Matthew's Church (known as 'the glass church'), at St. Lawrence, Jersey, in his memory.

Quotations

'During the years he was struggling to establish himself, Boot directed almost all his enormous energy into the business, reserving the remainder only for his Sunday exercise and chapel worship. He worked a sixteen-hour day every weekday, beginning at seven o'clock. In after years he recalled that " Every night after the shop closed at nine p.m. I had to go through the stock and re-order owing to the shortage, thus working five nights a week till eleven or eleven-thirty and on Saturdays we kept open till eleven p.m."... Elliott [the errand boy at his first shop] recalled that -

  At the time I first knew him [in the early 1880s], he had no interest in theatres, amusements, games, card-playing, dancing or any of the social sides of life...  I believe he had no close friends, in the sense of  visiting or being visited merely in friendship. He had plenty of acquaintances, and some of his closest were      probably men of religion including some of the Quakers of  50 to 60 years ago... On the other hand, he was keen on good literature, the beauties of nature, swimming [in the Trent] and walking, etc. He would walk from Nottingham to Sheffield or any similar distance [37 miles], for pleasure... I know that Dovedale was a favourite spot. 'It was on these solitary walks that he would renew hias spirit and dream up new schemes for the extension of his business.' (Chapman, pp.48, 50)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Person

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