Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Langton, William

LANGTON, WILLIAM (1803–1881), antiquary and financier, son of Thomas Langton (who in early life had been a merchant at Riga, afterwards at Liverpool, and who died in 1838 in Canada West), was born at Farfield, near Addingham, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 17 April 1803. His mother was the daughter of the Rev. William Currer, vicar of Clapham. He was educated chiefly abroad, where he acquired familiarity with foreign languages. From 1821 to 1829 he was engaged in business in Liverpool, during the latter part of the time as agent for some mercantile firms in Russia. Removing to Manchester in August 1829, he accepted a responsible position in Messrs. Heywood's bank, and in connection with that house he continued until 1854, when he succeeded to the important post of managing director of the Manchester and Salford Bank, which flourished under his rule for the next twenty-two years. He resigned in October 1876 in consequence of the complete failure of his sight.

During the long period of his residence in Manchester he was justly regarded as one of its most accomplished and philanthropic citizens, and was associated in the establishment of some of its prominent institutions. He took a leading part in the projection of the Manchester Athenæum in 1836. His services were publicly recognised in 1881 by the presentation to the Athenæum of his marble medallion bust, along with those of his co-founders, Richard Cobden and James Heywood, F.R.S. When the Chetham Society was founded in 1843 he became one of its earliest members, and was elected its treasurer, subsequently exchanging that office for the honorary secretaryship. He edited for the society three volumes of 'Chetham Miscellanies,' 1851, 1856, 1862; 'Lancashire Inquisitions Post Mortem,' 1875; and 'Benalt's Visitation of Lancashire of 1533,' 2 vols. 1876–82. About 1846 he acted as secretary to a committee that was formed to obtain a university for Manchester. Though unsuccessful, this scheme probably in part suggested to John Owens [q.v.] the foundation of the college which bears his name. He was also, in association with Dr. Kay (afterwards Sir J. P. Kay-Shuttleworth [q.v.]), a chief promoter of the Manchester Provident Society, 1833, and of the Manchester Statistical Society in the same year. To the latter society he contributed in 1857 a paper on the 'Balance of Account between the Mercantile Public and the Bank of England,' and in 1867 a presidential address.

Among other professional papers he wrote 'On Banks and Bank Shareholders,' 1879, and a letter on savings banks, 1880, addressed to the chancellor of the exchequer. He was an accurate genealogist, herald, and antiquary, a philologist, a skilful draughtsman, and a graceful writer of verse, both in his own language and in Italian. On his retirement into private life 5,000l. was raised in his honour, and a memorial Langton fellowship founded at Owens College. He spent his retirement at Ingatestone, Essex, where he died on 29 Sept. 1881. He was buried in Fryerning churchyard, Essex.

He married at Kirkham, Lancashire, on 15 Nov. 1831, Margaret, daughter of Joseph Hornby of Ribby, Lancashire, and had issue three sons and six daughters.

[Memoir in Chetham Society's Publications, vol. cx., which contains also a portrait of Langton from the Athenæum bust; Manchester Guardian, 30 Sept. 1881; Manchester City News, 1 Sept. 1877 and 1 Oct. 1881; Foster's Lancashire Pedigrees.]

C. W. S.