William Edwin Cotton was a cotton and waste merchant of Slaithwaite.
He was born in Slaithwaite, the son of weaver and grocer James Shaw Taylor.
He married Mary Ann Dyson, daughter of bookseller John Dyson, on 25 December 1868 at St. James, Scammonden. The couple had five known children:
By 1881, the family was living on Lewisham Road, Slaithwaite. By the 1890s, his son Albert Edward was assisting in the business. Before his death, he had established W.E. Cotton and Sons, Limited with his two sons.
He died on 7 June 1896, leaving an estate valued at £9,492 5s. 11d.