John Wilkinson Ironmaster of Broseley


John Wilkinson Family

Michael Berthoud, J Wilk Soc 17 1995

John Wilkinson Heritage

by Vin Callcut, BLHS Journal 33, 2011

Ironmaster Extraordinary

Ron Davis, 1987, original book text without illustrations.

King of the Ironmasters

Wayne Turner, J Wilk Soc 1, 1973 and 7, 1979

The Lawns - Wilkinson's Broseley Home

Ralph Pee, J Wilk Soc 1 1973

John Wilkinson Copper King

Wilkinson's Copper Interests (Continued)

Vin Callcut, BLHS Journal 27, 2005

John Wilkinson Tokens

Wayne Turner, J Wilk Soc 2 1974 and 7, 1979

John Wilkinson Token Weights

From 'Wilkinson - Copper King' - Yet to be uploaded

Wilkinson Bicentenary Tokens

commemorating John Wilkinson (1728-1808)

Willey Ironworks

Ralph Pee and Maurice Hawes, J Wilk Soc 16, 1988

New Willey Ironworks

Ralph Pee, J Wilk Soc 9 1981

John Wilkinson as seen by Others

Neil Clark, J Wilk Soc 12 1984

Joseph Priestly and the Wilkinsons

Diana Clarke, BLHS Journal 34, 2012

John Wilkinson and the Improved Steam Engine

Jim Andrew, BLHS Journal 31, 2009.

John Wilkinson's Transport Interests

Neil Clark, BLHS Journal 30, 2008

The Wilkinsons at Bersham

Steve Grenter, BLHS Journal 30, 2008

Iron Ships in Green Fields(1777-1833): Wilkinson's Legacy

Richard Baker, BLHS Journal 30, 2008

John Wilkinson's Trade Connections

Eric Alexander, BLHS Journal 30, 2008

The Significance of the Women in John Wilkinson's Life

Frank Dawson, BLHS Journal 30, 2008

John Wilkinson and the Medical Use of Ether

Paul Luter, BLHS Journal 29, 2007

The Quarrels of the Brothers Wilkinson

Frank Dawson, BLHS Journal 26, 2004

The Spirit of the Age: Ideas and Movements of the Eighteenth Century and John Wilkinson

Diana Clarke, BLHS Journal 24, 2002

Beaumaris and John Wilkinson: Stragers or Fellow Conspirators?

Ruth Dodd, BLHS Journal 22, 2000

Thoughts on John Wilkinson and Bradley

Ron Davies, BLHS Journal 21 1999


More John Wilkinson Literature

From: Neil Clarke, J Wilk. Soc. 12, 1984, updated for the 'Heritage of John Wilkinson Paper'

Alexander, Eric, ‘John Wilkinson’s Trade Connections’, J. Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc, 30, 2008, pp34-38. (Broseley Local History Society includes The Wilkinson Society)

Barker, Richard, ‘Iron Ships in Green Fields’, J. Broseley Local Hist. Soc, 30, 2008, pp20-33.

Barker, Richard (Ed.) ‘Wilkinson Studies’ Merton Priory Press, Vol. I 1991, 67pp, ISSN 0962-9173, Vol. II, 1992, 100pp, ISBN 0 9520009 0 3,

Bennett, John (ed.), ‘Minera Lead Mines and Quarries’, Wrexham Maelor Borough Council, 1995, 101pp, ISBN 0 952 55 29 0 6.

Bloy, Marjie, ‘The Speenhamland System’, (1795 poor law allowance standards),


Braid, D.H.P. ‘Gun Boring from the Solid’ Trans. Newcomen Soc. 58 (1986) pp. 45-58.

Butler, Janet, ‘John Wilkinson’, PhD thesis, unpublished draft, Coalbrookdale Library.

Callcut, Vin, ‘John Wilkinson – Copper King?’, J. Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc, 27, 2005, pp2-28  (

Carlisle, J A & Carlisle, J, ‘John Wilkinson, Ironmaster’(

Challoner, W. H., ‘The Agricultural Activities of John Wilkinson, Ironmaster’, British Agricultural History Society, 1957 (5) Pt 1,  (

Challoner, W. H. ‘John Wilkinson as Note Issuer and Banker’, Seaby's coin and medal bulletin (Dec. 1948), pp. 550-553

Challoner, W. H. ‘New lights on John Wilkinson's token coinage’, Seaby's coin and medal bulletin (July 1948), p. 306-308.

Challoner, W. H., ‘Dr Joseph Priestly, John Wilkinson and the French Revolution, 1789-1802’, Trans Royal Hist. Soc. 8, 1958, pp21-40.

Challoner, W. H., ‘The Skilled Artisan 1750-1850’ The Historical Association, 1969, 16pp.

Clarke, Diana, ‘The Spirit of the Age:  Ideas and Movements of the Eighteenth Century and John Wilkinson’, J Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc. 24, 2002, pp2-18.  (

Clarke, Neil ‘John Wilkinson’s Transport Interests’, J. Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc, 30, 2008, pp3-14.

Cossons, Neil & Trinder, Barrie, ‘The Iron Bridge’, Moonraker Press, 1979, 139pp.  SBN 239.00187.7.

Dalton, R. & Hamer, S. ‘The Provincial Token Coinage of the 18th Century’., Allan Davisson's 2004, 566pp.

Davies, Ron, ‘John Wilkinson – Ironmaster Extraordinary’, 2nd Ed., Broseley Local History Society, 26pp. ISBN 0 9504999 5 1.

Davies, Stanley A. ‘Isaac Wilkinson (c. 1705-1784) of Bersham, Ironmaster and Inventor’, Trans. Newcomen Soc. 27 (1949) pp69-72.

Dawson, Frank, ‘John Wilkinson, King of the Ironmasters’ Unpublished book, Broseley Local Hist. Soc, 2009, 118pp.

Dawson, Frank, ‘The Significance of the Women in John Wilkinson’s Life’, J. Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc, 30, 2008, pp39-44.

Dickinson, H. W. ‘Matthew Boulton’, TEE Publishing 1936, reprinted 1999, 218pp. ISBN 85761 112 8.

Dickinson, H. W. and Jenkins, R., ‘James Watt and the Steam Engine’, First Edition 1927, Second edition 1981, reprinted Encore Editions 1989, 415pp. ISBN 0-903485-92-3

English Heritage, ‘The Heritage Dividend Methodology:  Measuring the Impacts of Heritage Projects’, c2005, 27pp.

Forward, B A. ‘The Early History of the Cylinder Boring Machine’ Trans. Newcomen Soc. 5 (1924) pp24-38.

Grenter, Stephen, ‘The Wilkinsons at Bersham’, J Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc.  30, 2008, pp14-19.

Harris, J R, ‘The British Iron Industry, 1700-1850’, Palgrave Macmillan, 1988 96pp.

Harris J. R., ‘The Copper King, A Biography of Thomas Williams of Llanidan’,  Liverpool University and University of Toronto Press, 1964, 194pp

Hayman, Richard & Horton, Wendy, ‘Ironbridge: History and Guide’. Tempus Publishing, 199, 160pp.  ISBN 0 7524 1460 7.

Herfindal, Orris C. ‘Copper Costs and Prices: 1870-1975’, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore.  1959, 260pp, Library of Congress Cat Card 59-15390.

Hope, Bryan D, ‘A Curious Place, The Industrial History of Amlwch (1550-1950)’, Watch House Books, Moelfre, 1994, 176pp.  ISBN  0 9535268 0 1.

Lentin, G.L.L., ‘Letters on The Island of Anglesey Copper Mine and Associated Foundries and Factories’,  Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius, Leipzig, 1800, translated by Rothwell, Nancy, Amlych Industrial Heritage Trust, 2007.

Mantoux, Paul ‘The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth CenturyAn Outline of the beginnings of the modern factory system in England’. Methuen, 1964 528pp.  ISBN 0-416-68240-5.

Morton, G. R. & Smith, W. A., ‘The Bradley Ironworks of John Wilkinson’, J.I.S.I. 1966, July.

Nelson, Robert L, ‘Price of Bread: Poverty, Purchasing Power and the Victorian Labourer’s Standard of Living’, []

Pee, Ralph and Hawes, Maurice, ‘John Wilkinson and the Two Willey Ironworks’, J. Wilkinson Soc. (now incorporated in Broseley Local History Soc.) 16, 1988.


Pye, Charles, ‘Provincial Copper Coins or Tokens: Issued Between the Years 1787 and 1796’  Nicho;s & Egerton, 1797

Randall, John, ‘Broseley and its Surroundings’, Salopian and West Midland Journal, 1879, 328pp.  (available in CD-ROM format from Broseley Loc. Hist. Soc.).

Randall, John, ‘History of Madeley’, 1880, reprinted by Salop County Library, 1975, 387pp.  ISBN 0 903802 02 3

Randall, John, ‘Our Coal and Iron Industries; the Wilkinsons’, Randall, 1876, reprinted Barrow News & Mail, 1917, 57pp & 14pp appendix.

Randall, John, ‘The Wilkinsons’, book published 1876.

Reeve, Robin  M. ‘The Industrial Revolution 1750-1850’, University of London Press 1971, 270pp. ISBN 0 340 07349 7

Riden, Philip, ‘A Gazetteer of Charcoal-fired Blast Furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660’, Merton Priory Press, 1987, 1993, 166pp, ISBN ) 9520009 1 1.

Rogers, D L ‘Shropshire Canals’. Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust, Issue 10, May 2003,  []

Rolands, John, ‘Copper Mountain’ , Anglesey Antiquarian Society, Llangefni, 1966, 201pp.

Rowlands, Eryl Wyn, ‘Masts and Shafts, The Story of the Town and Port of Amlwch 1793-1913’, Millenium Working Party, Amlwch, 2000, 28pp.

Soldon, Herbert C., ‘John Wilkinson (1728–1808) English Ironmaster and Inventor’ Edwin Mallen Press, New York 1998, 380pp, c170 refs. (ISBN: 0-7734-8268-7)

Selgin, George,  ‘Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821’. Independent Institute, 1957, 2008, 345pp.  ISBN-13: 978-0-472-11631-7. 

Symons, John, ‘The Copper Mines of Cornwall: Property and Profit’, CHN Conference 2002, Worcester, summarising the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the Copper Industry, 1799. 

Tann, Jennifer, ‘Boulton and Watt's Organisation of Steam Engine Production before the opening of Soho Foundry’ Trans. Newcomen Soc. 49 (1977)  pp.41-56

Tann, Jennifer, ‘Riches from Copper: the Adoption of the Boulton & Watt Engine by Cornish Mine Adventurers’Trans Newcomen Soc. 67 (1995), pp.27-52.

Trinder, Barrie, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire’, Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 1981, 308pp, ISBN 0 85033 428 4.

Turner, Wayne, ‘John Wilkinson’s Trade Tokens’, J. Wilkinson Soc. 1974, 2, 10-12.

Uglow, Jenny, ‘The Lunar Men’, Faber & Faber, London 2002, 588pp. ISBN 0-571-21610-2.

Webb, Dominic ‘Inflation, the value of the Pound 1750-2005’ House of Commons Research Paper 06/09, 13/02/06.  (

Researching John Wilkinson Literature

Manuscript sources in public collections:

Birmingham Reference Library: Boulton & Watt collection

Correspondence with John and William Wilkinson List of John Wilkinson's engines

British Museum: Egerton M.S. 1941

Annotated drawings of John Wilkinson's blowing engine of 1776

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust: Lilleshall Company Collection

Leases, agreements and map relating to Hollinswood, Snedshill and New Hadley Ironworks

National Library of Wales: John Wilkinson's Estates

A volume containing balance sheets of Wilkinson's estates, 1820 - 23 (MSS. 10822E) A group of accounts relating to Wilkinson's estate, 1825 - 31 (MSS. 18023E)

Shropshire Record Office: Forester Collection (1224)

Leases, accounts and correspondence relating to John Wilkinson and the New Willey Company. Shackerley Collection (1781): correspondence of Gilbert Gilpin with John and William Wilkinson

Warrington Public Library:

Priestley Correspondence Letters, chiefly written to John Wilkinson by Joseph Priestley.

Books and articles

John Randall, ‘The Wilkinsons’ (1876)

A.N. Palmer, ‘John Wilkinson & the O1d,Bersham Ironworks’ (1899)

H.W. Dickinson, ‘John Wilkinson: Ironmaster’ (1914)

W.H. Chaloner   ‘John Wilkinson: Ironmaster’ (History Today, May 1951)

W.H. Chaloner   ‘The Agricultural Activities of John Wilkinson, Ironmaster’ (Agricultural History Review, v, 1957)

W.H. Chaloner   ‘Dr. Joseph Priestley, John Wilkinson and the French Revolution’ (Transactions of Royal Historical Society, viii, 1958)

W.H. Chaloner   ‘Isaac Wilkinson: Potfounder’ (Studies in the Industrial Revolution, 1960)

W.H. Chaloner   ‘The Life of Gilbert Gilpin, chief clerk at Bersham Ironworks, near Wrexham, 1786 - 96, and his relations with the Wilkinson brothers’ (National Library of Wales Journal, ii, 1960).

G.R. Morton & W.A. Smith   ‘The Bradley Ironworks of John Wilkinson’ (Journal of the Iron & Steel Institute, July 1966)

W.A. Smith   ‘John Wilkinson & the Industrial Revolution in South Staffordshire’ (West Midland Studies,5, 1972).

Ralph Pee    ‘The World's First Iron Boat’ (Shropshire Magazine, July 1972)

Ralph Pee    ‘The Broseley Home of John Wilkinson’ (J. Wilk. Soc., 1, 1973)

Wayne Turner   ‘King of the Ironmasters’ (J. Wilk. Soc., 1, 1973)

Wayne Turner   ‘John Wilkinson's Trade Tokens’ (J. Wilk. Soc., 2, 1974)

Maurice Hawes and Ralph Pee ‘John Wilkinson and the two Willey Ironworks’ (Wilkinson Society Monograph, No. 1, 1974)

N. J. Clarke  ‘New Hadley Colliery & Ironworks’ (J. Wilk. Soc. , 7, 1979)

Ralph Pee  ‘The New Willey Ironworks: a reappraisal of the site’ (J. Wilk. Soc. 9, 1981).

Cyril McCoombe ‘Report on the current state of the Wilkinson Monument at Lindale, Cumbria.’ . . (Foundry Trades Journal, 1981).  (see also ‘Wilkinson Monument Restored’, J. Wilk. Soc. 13 p13.


Inventions and Patents

Wilkinson was the first to realise and to obtain the accuracy needed in the making of modern machinery[93].  His inventions and patents included:-

675/1753         Metallic Rollers for Grinding Grain and Sugar Canes

713/1757         Blowing Machine for Forges, Furnaces Etc.

                        Method of boring cylinders for steam engines using a boring bar supported by bearings each side of the work piece.  This technique was not patented and was copied by Coalbrookdale and by Banks and Onions among others.  He helped design the new lathe at the Soho Manufactory and provided a suitable boring bar from Bersham[94].  

1063/1774       Method of Boring Cannon including making a coreless or solid casting and mounting it to rotate round the boring bar.  This was such a strategic advantage that the Board of Ordinance had the patent revoked in 1779[95].  All founders used the Wilkinson method for years thereafter and it was a major contributor towards the defeat of the enemies of Britain.

1694/1789       Cutting Spiral Grooves in Bore of Cannon (Rifling) and Bolted or Winged Shot applicable thereto.

1857/1792       Rolling Metals, the use of two steam engines, one for each direction to give a reversing mill, alternately the use of one steam engine with bands operating on the up and down strokes.

1993/1794       Manufacture of Iron  (use of a new furnace lower than a blast furnace and the addition of Manganese).  This use of manganese was also later patented by Reynolds in 1799[96].

1799                New idea for a Chimney Boiler, beautifully coloured drawing given to William Reynolds, drawing No 47 in the possession of John Randall, 1880[97].

                        First to make iron chairs, horse pattens, vats for breweries & distilleries and iron pipesof all sizes[98].

                        First Iron Boat. 



























































Broseley t.