John Pearson

1872 - 1959

From Kent CBA

John Westall Pearson was born 13 November 1872 in Gainsborough, eldest son of Isaac Pearson & Ellen Westall. The family moved to Scotland soon after John’s birth as in 1881 Isaac & Ellen with seven children were living in Partick in Lanarkshire with Isaac recorded as a seed crusher. John was educated at Repton school.

John married Agnes Alice Erskine (surname unknown) on 18 September 1900 in Glasgow. In the 1901 census John & Agnes were living in Partick with John recorded as a seed crusher, so following his father. However by the 1911 census John & Agnes were living in Hampstead with John now a managing director. John was employed by British Oil & Cake Mills Limited which crushed oilseeds to produce vegetable oil. He was chairman & managing director for 32 years. In later years he was a director of Lever Bros, Unilever Ltd & various other companies. He was also founder & chairman of the National Seedcrushers Association. In World War two he was director of the Oils & Fats division of the Ministry of Food.

By 1921 John & his family had moved to Manor House, Bishops Down in Tunbridge Wells. Agnes by then was breeding pedigree bulldogs & by 1939 she had the largest bulldog breeding kennels in England. They lived at Manor House for over 40 years & during their residence restored some of the lost beauties of the house. At one time he kept seven cows, forty pigs & over two thousand head of poultry on the estate.

In 1921 John was elected as a member of the Tunbridge Wells & Counties Club. He was honorary secretary of the club for over 35 years. His wife Agnes also played bridge.

John & Agnes had two daughters, Matilda (known as Maud) & Dorothy, who both learned to play bridge as teenagers. There are separate articles about Maud under her married name of Corbett & Dorothy.

John with the help of his daughter Maud founded KCBA in 1937, he had only just retired. He was elected the president which position he held until his death.

In 1950 John was elected as chairman of the EBU which post he held for a year. Then in 1952 he elected chairman again & this time he served until 1955. Around this time he presided over the annual EBU congress held at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne. Once his term as chairman was over he was the first vice president of the EBU, a position he held until 1958.

Agnes died 17 February 1959 & John two months later on 17 April 1959. Both were buried at the Kent & Sussex Cemetery in Tunbridge Wells.

Outside of bridge John was a keen golfer, although not as accomplished as his daughter Dorothy. John was a member of both Tunbridge Wells & Nevill golf clubs, he served as secretary of the former. Agnes was also a member of both clubs & was on the committee of Tunbridge Wells club for many years.

From Bridge Magazine:

John Pearson, a former chairman of the English Bridge Union, died at his home in Tunbridge Wells in April just two months after the death of his wife. He was 86.

He founded the Kent Contract Bridge Association in 1937 and was its only President. “I am not a successful bridge player” he once said. He may not have been, but he was a most successful and highly respected business man. He was a director of Unilever Ltd and chairman for more than 30 years of a Unilever associated company.

Bridge was one of his loves, so too was golf, and he was quietly very proud of the fact that one of his two daughters won the English Women’s Golf championship and the other played for the British team in the Women’s European Bridge Championship.

He had a fine sense of humour and great personal charm. “I often forget how many trumps have been drawn” he said, “but I never forget bridge is a game.”