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British Industrial History

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Henry Wiggin

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Sir Henry Samuel Wiggin, first baronet (1824–1905), metal refiner and politician

1824 born at Cheadle, Staffordshire, on 14 February 1824, son of William Wiggin (1783–1862), draper, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Milner (d. 1832).

1838 Wiggin was apprenticed to a draper in Birmingham, where a friend of his father, Charles Askin, spotted his business acumen. Wiggin was released from his indentures with the draper, and joined the metal refining business in Birmingham which Askin had established with Brooke Evans.

Wiggin studied chemistry with assistance from the metallurgist John Percy, and attended lectures at the Birmingham Philosophical Institution to prepare for a role in the business.

1842 Henry Wiggin joined the business of Evans and Askin.

1847 Following Askin's death, Wiggin was taken into partnership by Evans.

1851 Wiggin married Mary Elizabeth (1832/3–1911), daughter of David Malins, brass founder, of Edgbaston. They had four sons and two daughters.

1862 On the death of Brooke Evans, Wiggin took over the metal-refining business, which dominated the nickel industry in Britain. Evans's two surviving brothers remained partners.

1864 Mayor of Birmingham; during his tenure of office the Birmingham Exchange was opened, as was a free library (during the visit of the British Association).

1870 After the last of the Evans brothers died, the business became Henry Wiggin and Co.

1877 Recruited a German chemist, Gustav Adolph Boeddiker, who worked on improvements to the original refining process and kept the business at the forefront of technical advances.

1880 Wiggin passed the management to Alfred Smeaton Johnstone, whom he had taken into partnership. He was elected member of parliament for East Staffordshire as a Liberal

1885 Elected MP for the new constituency of the Handsworth division of Staffordshire.

1892 He did not seek re-election at the general election. He was created a baronet.

1892 The firm was converted into a limited company. Wiggin retained the chairmanship along with directorships of the Midland Railway Company, the South Staffordshire Water Works Company, the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank, and Muntz's Metal Company.

1905 Died. His eldest son, Henry Arthur Wiggin (1852–1917), who had studied at the Royal School of Mines, was managing director of the company from 1892 to 1899.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Henry Samuel Wiggin, ODNB