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British Industrial History

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John Hinks

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John Hinks (1810-1885) of Hinks, Wells and Co

1810 Born in Atherstone, Warwickshire, the son of Jonathan Hinks, Woolcomber, and his wife Maria Lester. Brother to James Hinks

1837 Married(1) in Birmingham to Mary Ann Harper

1881 Living at 87 Harborne Road, Edgbaston: John Hinks (age 70 born Atherstone), Steel Pen Manufacturer employing 350 persons - Widower. Also his nephew Samuel G. Moore (age 26 born London), Steel Pen Manufacturer. One servant.[1]

1882 Married(2) in Balby With Hexthorpe, Yorkshire, to Mary Rebecca Toone

1885 February 13th. Died, of Tudor house, 87 Harborne Road, Edgbaston. Probate to his widow Mary Rebecca Hinks.


Biographical Notes.[2]

John Hinks was steel pen manufacturer. He was born in about 1810 in Atherstone, Warwickshire, the son of Jonathan HINKS, a wool comber. John was older brother of James Hinks who was a significant lamp manufacturer who is also buried in Key Hill Cemetery.

John married Mary Ann Harper (1814-79) in Birmingham in 1837. In the mid-19th Century Birmingham was the world centre of steel pen and steel nib manufacture and more than half the steel nib pens manufactured in the world were made in Birmingham. In 1856 there were only 14 steel pen manufacturers in the world and nine of them were Birmingham firms.

By 1841 John was in business with George Wells as Hinks, Wells and Co, steel pen manufacturers. They had a factory in Buckingham Street, near Old Snow Hill. In 1844 John and others took out a patent for the manufacture of metal pens. In 1848 a fire at the factory destroyed £500 of property, but fortunately they were well insured. By 1851 they made twice as many pens as their main rival, Joseph Gillott & Sons, and they employed 564 hands, used 2½ tons of steel a week and turned out an incredible 262 million pens a year.

Hinks & Wells exhibited at Crystal Palace in 1851 and then in Paris in 1878. Their Paris show-case was described as one which did “justice not only to their own reputation but to that of the town from whence their products proceed … Some of their pens are marvels of make and finish, being elegantly shaped, beautifully coloured, and engraved and pierced in the most elaborate and artistic fashion …”

John was also a Liberal politician and served on the Birmingham Town Council for All Saints Ward from 1847-56 and for St George’s from 1865-79; he was also on the Board of Guardians. His wife, Mary Ann, died in 1879 and he married widow Mary Rebecca Toone (1827-1910) in Yorkshire in 1882.

Following a short illness and an operation John died aged 75 in London in February 1885. His obituary mentioned that his “sympathetic nature and his kind interest in the working classes found expression in the adoption of a nine-hour system of labour some years before it became the general rule.” He was buried in Key Hill Cemetery.

John did not have any children and after his death the company was managed by John’s nephew, Samuel Moore and Thomas Hooper. In 1920 Hinks, Wells and Company amalgamated with William Mitchell (Pens) to become British Pens Limited.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1881 Census
  2. 20200605 LB