JAMES PEARCE MA JP
1819 – 1898
A five-time mayor of Maidenhead, James Pearce gifted Kidwells park and many buildings to the town.
James Pearce, the son of Rev. Pearce of the Congregationalist Church in West Street (now the URC), so prized the Victorian values of total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco that he was inspired to build the Cliveden Temperance Hotel in Queen Street, and the establish the Maidenhead Tent of Rechabites.
With money lent to him by Mrs Crauford, he opened the Crauford Hall College in Marlow Road. His wife, Mary Brown, was a schoolmistress and helped him run it.
James was a generous benefactor of Maidenhead and among his gifts to the town were Kidwells Park and the Pearce Hall, where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission now stands. He also built a common lodging house in Bridge Street, later used as the British Legion Club.
Maidonians held James in great esteem and he was mayor five times – in 1856, 1857, 1862, 1889 and 1890.
James’ family also made a significant contribution to the town. His son Major James Pearce was an engineer, and introduced electricity to Maidenhead. He built a development of concrete houses, Garden Cottages, as housing for the deserving poor. James junior was also mayor, in 1902.
Dr Walter Pearce, another son, was house surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, and he established the Maidenhead Drum & Fife Band. Soon after his marriage, he committed suicide by shooting himself at the hospital at the age of 36.
A further son, Crauford Pearce, was a solicitor. In his fanatical quest for purity he carried the virtues of abstinence and self-discipline to such an extreme that he wasted away at the age of 24. James’ daughter, by contrast, lived to the age of 91.