John Rylands, the third son of Joseph Rylands was born in St. Helens on 7th February, 1801. After being educated at a local grammar school he became a weaver. At eighteen, John established a textile business with his father and two brothers Joseph and Richard.
Rylands & Sons at Wigan manufactured ginghams, calicoes and linens. The company grew rapidly and by 1823 had opened a warehouse in Manchester. This was followed by a dye and bleaching works in Wigan. A new spinning mill was opened and Rylands purchased the Ainsworth Mills near Bolton.
In 1839, with the retirement of his two brothers, John Rylands became the sole proprietor of the business. He expanded the company by purchasing a large warehouse in London and building a new one in Manchester. By 1873 the company had become the largest textile manufacturing concern in Britain.
Rylands lived in Stretford, a village near Manchester. He provided the people of Stretford with a town hall, baths, library and coffee-house. Rylands was a staunch Congregationalist and gave money to help establish orphanages and homes for senior citizens.
John Rylands died at Longfield Hall, Stretford on 11th December, 1888. His widow, Augustina Rylands, wanted to erect a permanent memorial of her husband. The result was the building of the John Rylands Library in Manchester that was opened on 6th October 1899.