Born 1838. LL.D. Princeton (USA), Manchester and Bristol Universities. Member of Parliament for Salford 1885-86, for Gorton 1889-98 and for Rossendale 1900-1904. Died 1920.
In 1817, Peter Mather, a visionary and an entrepreneur had seen emerging opportunities in textile machinery manufacture during the Industrial Revolution in Manchester. In 1845, the Mather family joined hands with John Platt at Salford Iron Works to serve the expanding business of textile finishing machines.
In 1883 William Mather (later the Right Honourable Sir William Mather) purchased the patent rights to the Grinnell sprinkler for all areas outside North America. His company, Mather and Platt, became the 'father' of the U.K. sprinkler industry.
Afterwards, the invention of the steam engine by virtue of its rôle as prime-mover was included in a catalogue of products. Further diversification of business included the manufacture of earth-boring and artesian well equipment, water purification plants, reciprocating pumps and centrifugal pumps of the volute type.
In the 1870s, the invention of Edison-Hopkinson dynamo was announced and in the UK Professor Osborne Reynolds developed an original design of centrifugal pump. The Company immediately recognised the vast potential of these inventions and acquired rights to develop and manufacture them. In the 1880s the Company made the world's first turbine-type, multistage centrifugal pump and the first electric generator with calculated output. During the same decade, in 1883, the Company also became well-known in Europe for the development and application of Grinnell automatic sprinkler and fire alarm systems.
During the nineteenth century, William Mather had been responsible for many innovative and humanitarian procedures in terms of work-force management. He was an enlightened man with a far-reaching vision which touched every aspect of the business. Mather and Platt was a company which cared enough to put people - if not before, certainly on a par with - profit, as this New York Labor Bulletin of 1905 states:
"In the private yard the men work ten hours a day, and in the government yard only eight hours a day. Nevertheless the government employees, with their short workday but intelligent and efficient application, were able to make as rapid progress as the workmen who labored two hours a day longer."
The same Bulletin states another instance of a successfully shortened work-day.
"In 1893 the Salford Iron Works of Mather and Platt at Manchester, England, established the eight hour day. Owing to keen competition both in home and in foreign markets, the experiment was keenly watched by the firm and the conclusion that the labor cost did not increase in consequence of reduction in the working hours, was based on a thoroughly accurate and careful investigation.
Eleven years later in a letter dated May 24, 1904, the firm wrote: 'Our experience since the first year in which it (the eight hour system) was tried has fully borne out the conclusions then arrived at and we are fully satisfied that as regards the comparison between eight and nine hours per day the balance of advantage is in favour of the shorter period.'
It is at least conceivable that shorter hours may mean more efficient labor, less "spoiled work," and an equal output. Instances which support such a conclusion may be multiplied, and facts are not lacking which point to the possibility that legislative action based primarily on the necessity for health or police regulation may represent an industrial gain."
Mather himself was a sought-after Industrial Relations consultant and played no small part in the settlement of many industrial disputes. He surrounded himself with competent men who shared his passion for both the industry and the betterment of working conditions.
After Sir William's death, in 1920, his son, Loris Emerson Mather (qv), compiled a biography of his father's life and it is through this volume (too extensive to be placed here) that much can be learned about the man, his life and work.
Lady Mather died just a short time after her husband. Whilst it is not within the brief of this project to present anything other than the historical background to the company, Mather & Platt, and the personalities and other companies associated with it - boots, braces, belts and boardrooms - it is felt that an exception should be made in this case and therefore a touching company obituary is reproduced here in her honour. (Emma Jane Watson).