Goulding, William (1817–84), businessman and politician, was born 15 November 1817 in Birr, Co. Offaly, the elder son of Joshua Goulding (1788–1826) of Birr, Co. Offaly, and his wife Sarah, daughter of Humphreys Manders of Blackpool, Co. Cork. Educated at Mountmellick grammar school, William moved to Cork with his family after the death of his father. By 1842 he was in business as an oil and colour merchant at 22 Maylor Street, and in 1844 was listed as following the same trade at 108 St Patrick's Street, Cork. In 1846 he entered into partnership with his brother Humphreys Manders Goulding (c.1820–1877) and their firm, W. & H. M. Goulding, became agents for patent animal dressings (1854) and fertilisers. Owing to difficulties in securing a regular supply of fertilisers, the brothers ran a pilot operation producing superphosphates for two years, and in 1856 went into full-scale production at the old Glen Distillery plant in Blackpool, Co. Cork. The market responded well to the Goulding products and the company expanded rapidly: production rose from 857 tons in 1861 to 7,139 tons in 1868 and 16,538 tons in 1872, and by that time the firm had a network of 500 agents in the UK, USA, France, Portugal, Russia, Norway, and Natal.
In 1872 the business became a limited company, with a capital of £150,000 and William Goulding at its head. When large quantities of rock phosphates became available, Gouldings first acquired a phosphate bed near Cahors, France (1873), then imported the raw material from Pernambuco, Brazil, and later North Africa. By the time of Goulding's death the firm had five factories and was one of the largest concerns of its kind in Great Britain and Ireland. William Goulding's other directorships included the Great Southern and Western Railway Co. and Levy & Co., London; he was also chairman of the Imperial Union Accident Assurance Co. and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society.
Despite his considerable business interests Goulding found time for politics and public affairs, and was appointed a JP and DL for Cork. He was co-founder (1872) of the Dublin Constitutional Club and for many years vice-president of the Cork Conservative Registry Association. Having unsuccessfully contested the Cork city constituency in February 1874, he won a seat at Westminster in May 1876. He was the first conservative elected in the city for thirty years, and only lost to C. S. Parnell (qv) in the 1880 election. Locally he was a member of the Cork Union Board and the Cork Lunatic Asylum Board, and nationally treasurer of the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society. He was a member of the general synod of the Church of Ireland and held several high-ranking diocesan posts. In 1872, with the help of the archdeacon of Cork, he established the Cork High School and Kindergarten for Girls.
In 1849 Goulding married Susan Smallman, eldest daughter of Isaac Smallman of Montevideo, Co. Tipperary. They had one daughter shortly before Susan's death. In April 1855 he married Maria Heath Manders (d. 1892), daughter of Edward and Ann Manders of Dublin. They had seven children, including Sir William Joshua Goulding (qv) and Edward Alfred Goulding MP, later Baron Wargrave. The family lived at Summerhill House and Ballyrusheen, Co. Cork. Goulding died 8 December 1884 in Cork. A stained glass window was dedicated to his memory at Christ Church, Taney Road, Dublin.