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British Industrial History

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John Dickinson (1825-1908)

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John Dickinson (1825-1908) of John Dickinson and Sons

1860 Birth of his son James Clark Dickinson

1908 Obituary [1]

JOHN DICKINSON was born at Hebburn-on-Tyne, on 4th July 1825.

He went to work at the early age of nine years, and in 1841 he was placed in the works of Messrs. John Clark and Co., Sunderland, as an apprentice, and while there, was employed on the construction and erection of colliery engines. The works changed hands shortly after he went, but he remained until 1846, when they were finally closed.

After this he went to Consett to work at the mills which were then in the course of construction, but this class of work not appealing to him, he soon had an opportunity of giving it up, and went to Houghton-le-Spring, where he was again employed on colliery work.

After a short period he returned to Sunderland, and was employed by Mr. Burlinson, and Mr. George Clark, on repair work of various kinds.

In 1852 he started a small repairing establishment of his own, where the repair work was confined principally to the tugs and small colliers and traders then coming to the port, and was the foundation of the present marine engine and boiler works.

The work so increased in volume that extensions had to be made, and a move was made to a more commodious site on the top of Palmer's Hill. Gradually the whole of the bill was acquired, extending down to the river, and was cut into terraces on which the present shops were erected.

The works now occupy an area of about five acres, with a quay frontage of 600 feet, and when in full swing about 1,200 men are employed. He was the inventor of a crank-shaft, which is well known to engineers, in connection with marine work.

His death took place at Harrogate on 3rd July 1908, within one day of his eighty-third birthday.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1880.

1908 Obituary [2]

JOHN DICKINSON of Sunderland died at Harrogate, on July 3, 1908, at the age of eighty-three. He was a native of Hebburn, and moved to Sunderland when he was about twenty-two years of age to work at his trade as a blacksmith.

In 1852 he established a business of his own, but not until 1892 was that business converted into the limited liability form, under the style of John Dickinson & Sons, Limited. He became chairman of the company, with his three sons on the board.

In 1906 the output of the firm, employing about 2000 men, included 33 sets of marine engines and 3000 tons of boilers.

Mr. Dickinson was a member of the River Wear Commission, an office which he held for about eighteen years. He was a Justice of the Peace for the county of Durham, a life governor of the Sunderland Infirmary, and took a deep interest in local affairs.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1884.

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