Robert Waithman was born in Wrexham in 1764, the son of John and Mary Waithman.
His father, who worked at the Bersham Ironworks, died two years later and his mother remarried. Robert was sent to live with his uncle and was educated in Bath. He was employed by a London linen draper and at the age of 22 had his own shop in Fleet Street which prospered and he was able to move to larger premises. He took a keen interest in politics and was a leading orator.
In 1812 he stood as MP for the City of London but was defeated but gained the seat in 1818 only to lose it again in 1820. He was again elected MP in 1826 and held the seat until his death. Waithman was elected an Alderman for Farringdon in 1818. In 1820 he became Sheriff of London and Middlesex and three years later was elected Lord Mayor. He died at his home Woburn Place on 6 February 1833 and is buried in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.