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British Industrial History

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Joseph Hinks

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Joseph Hinks (1840-1931) of James Hinks and Son

1840 Born the son of James Hinks

1861 Living at (?), Handsworth: James Hinks (age 48 born Caldicote, Warks), Lamp Manufacturer employing 120 hands. With his wife Elizabeth Hinks (age 44 born Birmingham) and their three children; Joseph Hinks (age 20 born Birmingham); Rosa J. Hinks (age 13 born Birmingham); and Clara E. Hinks (age 1 born Hornchurch, Staffs.) Two servants.[1]

1865 June 1st. Married in Aston to Francis Ann Dain

1911 Living at The Templars, Bridge End, Warwick: Joseph Hinks (age 70 born Birmingham), Chairman Lamp Manufacturing Co. With his wife Frances Ann Hinks (age 67 born Erdington). Married 45 years with 8 children of whom 7 are living. Four servants.[2]

1890-3 Mayor of Leamington.[3]

1931 April 24th. Died, of Orkney Cottage, Taplow, Bucks. Probate to Francis Dain Hinks and others.


Biographical Notes.[4]

Joseph was born in 1840 in Birmingham, the son of James Hinks, the lamp manufacturer; his father’s career was very varied until he hit upon lamp making and at the time of Joseph’s baptism in 1844 his father was a licensed victualler.

Joseph started work at his father’s factory when he was 17 and the business was known as ‘James Hinks and Son’ from about 1862. They operated from the Crystal Lamp Works on the corner of Great Hampton Street and Hockley Street. The great selling point of their lamps was that they didn’t need frequent trimming or give off nasty smoke or smells. In 1864 they developed the “Patent Duplex Lamp”, which used two wicks instead of the usual one, and gave out twice the light. Hinks lamps were state-of-the-art until the early 20th century when electric lighting became the norm.

The firm had bases in London and Birmingham. Important customers included railway companies, which used oil lamps to light stations, trains and signals. With an eye to the domestic market, Hinks’ lamps were also decorative and borrowing from the designs of beautiful European china and porcelain table decorations their lamps were also a byword for domestic beauty, so much so that there is still a flourishing market for antique Hinks’ Lamps. They also developed specialist lamps and hurricane lanterns for India which was one of their most lucrative markets.

Joseph married Frances Dain (1843-1928) in 1865 in Aston; they had eight children (one died as a child). In 1872, on a train journey from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield their eldest daughter Edith leaned against the train door and fell out while the train was at full speed, causing much panic and consternation; the train stopped about a mile on and when Edith was found she had suffered only a scratch behind her ear!

The family moved to Leamington Spa in the 1870s and Joseph was mayor of Leamington in 1890 and 1892; he was also a borough magistrate and alderman. He took over the family business in 1898 when his father retired. Joseph’s son, Harry became managing director in 1901 when Joseph moved into a less demanding chairman role.

Joseph died on 24 April 1931 in Taplow, Buckinghamshire – interestingly the newspapers reported him as being 80 but he was actually 91. When he died his estate valued at about £111k [about £7m in today’s money] and his Will made generous bequests to local hospitals, charities and his servants (as well as his family).

During his lifetime he was described as a “dapper little man with the bearing of a distinguished soldier rather than a quick-witted inventor or a successful man of business.” During WW1 the firm made mess tins, hand grenades and shell components. After the war competition from the US and an increase in the cost of raw materials led to a business decline. The factory closed after 1929 and the old factory was pulled down in the 1930s.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1861 Census
  2. 1911 Census
  3. Rugby Advertiser - Friday 08 May 1931
  4. 20200605 LB