Born in 1893, James Reginald Heslam was one of the sons of a military family who originated from Carlton le Moorland in Lincolnshire. After spending parts of his childhood in Bermuda, where his father was billeted, and at a military school in Ireland, he returned home to Aubourn where his mother ran a grocery store. His first job was with Ruston and Hornsby and then a Corn Merchant in Louth.
Following his urge to be self-employed, James Heslam started a series of businesses and began to build up a portfolio of property. His biggest venture was to set up a furniture store in Scunthorpe, which prompted him to make a home for himself and his wife Mary at nearby Winterton, where they stayed for the rest of their lives.
They did not have any children of their own but as he became more successful he embarked on charity work which was often directed towards the young.
He was chairman of the Hospital Board, the Magistrates Bench and other bodies. He was a keen member of the Methodist Church and set up charities to help with promoting sport for the young and help for disadvantaged people.
In 1963 he set up a charitable trust to purchase art for the citizens of Lincoln and, over the last 53 years, works of art of all kinds have been purchased by the Trust and donated to the city through the Usher Gallery and the Collection. In many cases, the Trust has supported the purchase of the more expensive works by sharing the cost with other bodies, and helped purchase many of the sculptures around the city which have arrived in the last decade.