... myself and my three sons have been engaged of late in a business, conducted by two of my sons in Australia and one at Wokingham, as wool and general merchants ... Our shipments to Australia have been heavy, and upon our import and export trade we more particularly depend.
James Twycross, letter to the Reading Mercury, 19 May 1857
James Twycross was a strong man: devout, firm in his opinions, capable in the way he approached his business and civic roles, and committed to his large family of twelve children. One of his grandsons would later write that he 'was a man of splendid physique and could hold at arms length a weight of 30lbs in each hand at the same time', a feat of strength that obviously left an impression.
James was born in Godalming, Surrey, England, around 1790, into a family of fellmongers and tanners who dealt in the preparation and processing of sheep and cattle hides. James followed the family profession, as did his sons.
In December 1812, James married Mary Howell in the Berkshire town of Wokingham, about fifty kilometres west of London. The couple's eldest son, George, was baptised in the parish church of All Saints' in 1813, while the family were still living in nearby Eversley, a village to the south west of Wokingham, in Hampshire. It was here that several more children were born, including John Twycross in 1819.
James moved the family to Wokingham in 1820 to a large, two-storied brick house, south of the town's centre. He named the family's new home The Brook, after the small river Emm Brook that ran across the bottom of the property.
By the 1840s, James Twycross and his sons were well established as fellmongers, tanners and woolstaplers, dealing in the processing of animal hides and the sale of wool. A decade later, James Twycross & Sons had expanded still further. The business was thriving, with James Twycross employing 43 workers. A further 36 men were employed through the firm's branch in Bradford. John Twycross, now in his late twenties, played an active role as a tanner at the Twycross tanneries on Barkham road, Wokingham.
James Twycross was a respected business man and influential figure in Wokingham by the 1850s. In 1856, he was appointed a member of Wokingham's council, and in April 1858 he became the town's Alderman, a role with responsibilities similar to those of a mayor. At the conclusion of his term, the council minutes recorded their unanimous thanks to Twycross 'for the efficient manner in which he had displayed the duties of Alderman during the past year'.
James died on 3 December 1862 at the age of 67, to 'the irreparable loss of his sorrowing family'. For five years, his sons would carry on the family business, both in England and Australia, before John Twycross decided to commence his own commercial ventures in Melbourne.