Sir William Pearce, 1st Baronet.
William Pearce was born on the 8th January 1833 in Brompton, Kent. He trained as a naval architect at the famous Chatham Naval Docks. It was here that his talent for shipbuilding was recognised when, at the age of only 27 years, he supervised the construction of the first ever iron-clad warship HMS Achilles. This practical experience, and the knowledge of the Admiralty (Royal Navy) that he gained at Chatham, served him well throughout his professional life.
He moved to Scotland in 1863 to take up the post of surveyor to the Lloyds Register on the River Clyde. He moved on to become general manager of Robert Napier & sons, It was there he designed innovative fast, transatlantic liners. He then became a partner in John Elder & co. He became sole owner of the company in 1878. He then converted the business to a limited company. Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering company was born.
Pearce was one of Govan’s leading business men and took up the public office as councillor for Govan. A Conservative , Pearce was the 1st MP elected to represent Govan in 1885-1888. In 1887, he was made a Baronet in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Honours, a hereditary and highly prestigious honour that ranks above a Knighthood and which entitled the use of ‘Sir’ before and the letters ‘Bart’ after his name.
The Pearce Institute in Govan, Sir William Pearce, Lodge The Princes No.607, Lodge St. Columba No.729 assisted at the laying of the foundation stone at the Pearce institute 20/9/1902. It was officially opened in 1906 and still remains open to this day. 21/09/2020
Perhaps it is not surprising, given the pace, ambition and responsibilities of Pearce’s life, that his health started to fail, and on 18 December 1888, he died of a weakened heart at his home in London’s Piccadilly. He was 55 years old. He left behind a vast fortune of £1,069,669, about £120 million in today’s money.
Pearce memorial in Craigton cemetery
1889 then demolished in 1970’s
Extract from the History of The Princes Lodge No.607.
An examination of the Lodge's first declaration book shows that the first initiates were John William Burns of Cardross and William Pearce of Elmbank House, Govan, both receiving their first degree on the eighteenth October, 1878.
William Pearce was, of course, the baronet who had succeeded John Elder as a Shipbuilder at Govan and was chief of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.
Sir William brought early honor to his mother Lodge, when in 1880 he was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Glasgow.