John Potter (Liberal politician)

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Sir John Potter (10 April 1815 – 25 October 1858) was a Liberal Party politician in the United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

John was born in April 1815 at Polefield near Prestwich, Lancashire.[1] He was the elder son of Sir Thomas Potter and his second wife, Esther née Bayley. His father was involved in business and politics in the rapidly developing town of Manchester, and was named as the borough's first mayor when it was granted a charter of incorporation.[1]

John grew up on the family estate at Buile Hill, Pendleton after its completion in 1827.[2] He was educated at the University of Edinburgh.[1]

Political career[edit]

Potter took no part in public life until the death of his father in March 1845. He was given his father's aldermanic seat on Manchester Town Council and made a justice of the peace for the borough.[1] He elected to serve as Mayor of Manchester in 1848, serving three terms until 1851.[1] During the visit of Queen Victoria to Manchester he was invested as a knight bachelor on 10 October 1851.[3][4] In the same year he was made deputy lieutenant of the County Palatine of Lancaster.[1] During his term of office the Free Library was founded an institution to which he made a number of donations.[3] In politics he was stated to be an "Advanced Liberal" in favour of the widening of the electoral franchise.[1] He continued to be a member of Manchester Town Council until his death.[3] He was the head of Potter, Morris & Company, a large firm of Manchester merchants.[1][3]

The greatest of his many contributions to Manchester was the founding of its Free Library.[5]

Queen Victoria visited Manchester in 1851 and during the course of that visit she conferred on him the honour of a knighthood on 10 October 1851.[6]

At the 1857 general election, he was elected as one two members of parliament (MPs) for Manchester. However, he suffered from ill health from the time he entered parliament, and declared his intention to resign his seat.[3]


Sir John died in office on 25 October 1858 at the age of 43 at Beech House, Eccles. He was buried at Ardwick Cemetery, Manchester.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Late Sir John Potter, M.P". Daily News. London. 27 October 1858.
  2. ^ Beatrice Claire Potter, great-great niece
  3. ^ a b c d e "Death of Sir John Potter, M.P". Morning Post. London. 26 October 1858. p. 5.
  4. ^ "The Lord Mayor's Office : Former Mayors of Manchester (1838–1892)". Manchester City Council. p. 5. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008.
  5. ^ After the Free Libraries Act was passed in 1850, Sir John Potter, the Mayor of Manchester, led a campaign to collect subscriptions to purchase a building and the books to put in it. Cash subscriptions and donations of books came flooding in from all corners, from the working men's committee to Prince Albert himself. In September 1852 Manchester became the first authority to establish a rate-supported public lending and reference library under the Free Libraries Act (Salford opened its library in 1850 but this was under the earlier Museums Act). The Manchester Free Public Library opened at the Hall of Science, Campfield (near the site of what is now the Air and Space Hall of the Museum of Science and Industry). Its first librarian was the prominent public library campaigner Edward Edwards.
  6. ^ Obituary in Manchester Guardian dated 26 October 1858
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Civic offices
Preceded by
Sir Elkanah Armitage
Mayor of Manchester
Succeeded by
Robert Barnes
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Milner Gibson and
John Bright
Member of Parliament for Manchester
With: James Aspinall Turner
Succeeded by
James Aspinall Turner and
Thomas Bazley