Biographical article on the Tyler family and their contribution to the founding of the University, written and researched by Caroline Wessel
In May 1921 three Leicester brothers presented a £20,000 gift to the University College, to establish a Faculty of Commerce in memory of their late father, Mr William Tyler, founder of their prosperous hosiery business, Wm. Tyler & Sons of 31 King Street, Leicester. The income from the endowment was to pay for the salary of a Faculty of Commerce Principal and fund some commercial student scholarships. No doubt it was the financial gains of the 1920 merger of Wm. Tyler with the larger Leicester hosiery firm of Wolsey, to which the brothers were appointed directors, that facilitated their most generous donation to the University in the form of Wolsey shares.
William Tyler (snr.) (1845-1906) was born in Queniborough and educated in Leicester. In 1870 he began work with the Leicester hosiery manufacturer F. Warner & Co., and the following year married Emma (née) Lewis. Later William founded his own hosiery and glove business and was joined in partnership by his three sons: Alec (1875-1930), William Edgar (1876-1921) and (Horace Charles) Sydney (1879-1946) (Sydney shown at left). William (snr.) was a member of St Margaret’s Vestry, President of Leicester Chamber of Commerce (1904) and a Director of the Temperance & General Building Society. Sidney and William Edgar both served in the First World War; the former as a 2nd Lt. in the RASC and the latter in the Royal Navy, aboard HMS Hyacinth. Sydney was wounded and suffered from his injuries right up until the time of his death.
William Edgar died the year the University College opened, but his brothers both played a significant role in its governance: Alec was on the Court of Governors, the College Council and the Botanical Gardens Committee; Sydney was also on the Court and the Council, and in 1938 was elected a Vice President. However it was William Edgar’s widow, Mrs Jeannie Tyler BA (1877-1936), a well-educated woman with a degree in English from the University of Wales, who maintained the strongest links with the College, serving on its Council, its Court, and the Ladies and Hostel Committees. All four of these Tylers were members of the Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society.
The income from the Tyler Trust would provide a Lecturer’s salary of £800 p.a. and some one-year scholarships of £20 each for students living in Leicestershire or Rutland. There were twenty applicants for the post of Lecturer but no-one was appointed and the trustees agreed that the money could be used for general educational purposes until such time as the Chair of Commerce was filled. Classes should prepare students for the London University B.Com. degree, and for professional examinations in banking and accountancy.
During the 1920s and 1930s Sydney Tyler played a major part in the activities of Wolsey Ltd, the oldest menswear brand in Britain. In 1927 he welcomed the Prince of Wales on a visit to the Wolsey factory; in 1928 he funded a new pavilion for the Wolsey Sports Ground, formally opened in grand style by his wife; in 1934, when the Duke of York (later King George VI) visited, Sidney presented him with gifts for his two daughters, and received a personal hand-written reply; and in 1935 Wolsey was granted a Royal Warrant. Sydney also had altruistic interests, for in 1928 he was given an ivory model boat from the Baptist Missionary Society ‘as a small token of their appreciation of his work in connection with the Congo Jubilee Exhibition of 1928′. In due course Sydney Tyler’s daughter married Percy Gee’s son, cementing yet one more bond between the University’s early founding families.
In 1923 Sydney’s parents-in-law, Mr and Mrs Alfred F. Cholerton, ‘generously presented three handsome ceremonial chairs, the Presidential Chair being of ebony, inlaid with ivory’ to the College. The following year the Tyler family gave an oil portrait of William Tyler (snr.), and today there is still a University of Leicester ‘William Tyler Professorship of Economics’ to honour Mr Tyler’s memory, and the Tyler family’s commitment to higher education.