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British Industrial History

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Edward Wilson (1846-1917)

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Im20161102RB-EdWilson.jpg
c1874. Wilson's Improved Disintegrator.
c1881. Wilson's Patent Pinning or Striking Machine.

Edward Wilson (1846-1917) of Edward Wilson and Son.

1846 May 7th. Born at Camberwell the son of James Wilson, a Merchant and Hat Manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth.

Up to the age of 28 he worked at his brother's tannery - Thomas Wilson and Co at 45 Grange Walk, Bermondsey. It was here he obtained the invaluable knowledge of tanning.[1]

Late 1860s - He designed and patented a disintegrator for shredding bark at his brother's tannery. This was so successful that he arranged for it to be manufactured by a foundry in Goole, Yorkshire.[2]

1870 He started advertising in the Leather Trades' Circular and Review.[3]

By 1874 ten different sizes of 'Edward Wilson's Improved Patent Universal Disintegrator' were being made. It was sold from the Bermondsey tannery for many other purposes: "grinding corn, fuel, glass, bones, stone, iron borings etc."[4]

1875 He left Thomas Wilson and Co to start his own engineering business - Edward Wilson, Engineer in Exeter. Another brother of his was also working in Exeter at this time in the tanning industry, at Tremlett and Wilson (later Tremlett Brothers).[5]

1877 By this time he had been manufacturing his Patent Disintegrator in various sizes and had swiftly added a variety of other tanning machines. He was also advertising at Patent Rolling, Polishing and Levanting Machine, and Steam Pumps.[6]

"Among Edward Wilson's most scientific inventions was the Wilson circular slide rule calculator, the patents of which were later sold to J. Halden & Co. the drawing office instrument manufacturers, by whom it was made and sold as the 'Halden Calculex' until 1965. Many thousands must still be in use, and we are advised that today there is no substitute for it."[7]

Edward Wilson could've quite possibly developed the world's first fleshing machine. This early patent although never succeeding commercially, imitated hand fleshing concentrating on the butt and shoulder portions more than the belly. It was so many years before it's time and not developed sufficiently to cope with the belly portion of the hides, but it was an ingenious machine none-the-less.[8]

1878 Married at Newton Abbott to Sophia Stevens (1855–1935).

1881 Living at Lansdowne Villa, Regent Street, Exeter: Edward Wilson (age 34 born Camberwell, Mddx.), Master Engineer Employing 9 Men and 4 Boys. with his wife Sophia Wilson (age 26 born Newton Abbott) and their two children Ida M. Wilson (age 1 born St. Thomas, Exeter) and Esau G. Wilson (age born St. Thomas, Exeter). One servant.[9]

In 1881 he exhibited his Patent Pinning or Striking Machine, which later became known world wide as the Double Arm Butt Striker. A report on this appeared in the trade paper of October 1881: "Among other advantages, the inventor graphically reminds us that it is never bigoted, drunk, tired or lazy, and besides the great saving of labour (equal to from 8 to 10 men) it possesses many other great advantages"[10]

1893 Mentioned as Edward Wilson, Civil Engineer, of 22 St. Leonard's Road, Exeter.[11]

1897 Edward's eldest son Evan, joins the business.[12]

1901 Living at 22 Thomas Road, Exeter: E. Wilson (age 54 born Camberwell), Mechanical Engineer - Employer. With his wife S. Wilson (age 46 born Newton Abbott) and their three children; J. M. Wilson (age 21 born Exeter); E. G. Wilson (age 20 born Exeter); and E. A. Wilson (age 12 born Exeter). Two servants.[13]

"By 1905 trade from Exeter had declined, and Evan G. Wilson, realising that any future for the business must lie in the north-west decided, against his father's advice and wishes, but with the moral and financial backing of his uncle, Charles Tremlett, to establish a branch factory in Liverpool."[14]

1906 Moved from Exeter to Great Crosby.

1909 Changed his business name to Edward Wilson and Son Ltd.

1911 Living at 10 Coronation Drive, Great Crosby, Lancashire: Edwd Wilson (age 64 born Camberwell), Engineer (Leather Trade) - Employer. With his wife Sophia Wilson (56 born Newton Abbott) and their son Edwd Austin Wilson (22 born St. Thomas, Exeter), Draughtsman Engineers. One servant.[15]

1917 April 6th. Died. Of 26 Bath Street, Waterloo, Lancs. Probate to Evan George Wilson, Engineer, and Edward Austin Wilson, Rubber Planter.


1917 Obituary [16]

The death has taken place, at Newton Cottage, Waterloo, near Liverpool, of Mr. Edward Wilson, one of our best-known leather trade engineers.

The deceased was born in 1846 and was thus in his 70th year. During the past two years his health has not been good, and, suffering from heart trouble, he had not of late taken such an active part in the business; in fact, for the six months he had been seldom out of his house.

Edward Wilson was - says "The Leather World" - the son of a tanner, his father and several of his brothers being formerly connected with the trade at Gomshall and Exeter. His boyhood was spent at Gomshall in company with his brothers, Thomas and Allen, and, being of a mechanical disposition, turned this talent to engineering and established himself as a leather trade engineer at Exeter 1874.

Lancashire having become the centre of the heavy leather industry, the business was in 1906. removed to Bootle, near Liverpool, Mr. Wilson's son, Evan, being at this juncture taken into partnership, and bringing many years' experience with him.

Mr. Wilson's name has long been associated with many tannery machines, his first important invention being a high-speed disintegrator. His patent butt striking and scouring machine followed, for which he was granted several gold and silver medals at International Exhibitions.

Her also was the originator of many other inventions and improvements in connexion with leather trade machinery, and, at the close of his career brought out his automatic tanning marine, which possesses all the elements of success.

Not only has the leather industry benefited by Mr. Edward Wilson's genius, as he invented several ideas for other trades, a pocket calculator, now known as 'Haldon's Calculex", being a notable one.

Even shortly before has death he was working improvement in connexion with gramophones. We sincerely regret our trade has lost the inventive genius of Edward Wilson, and can only assure the relatives he has behind that no man leaves a better reputation, for honesty and sterling character them our departed friend.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  2. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  3. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  4. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  5. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  6. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  7. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  8. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  9. 1881 Census
  10. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  11. Exeter Flying Post - Saturday 11 March 1893
  12. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  13. 1901 Census
  14. Over One Hundred Years of Service to The Leather Industry - Edward Wilson and Sons Ltd. (1875-1975) Company booklet.
  15. 1911 Census
  16. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Tuesday 17 April 1917