Broseley Local History Society Journal No 12 1984



The Year's Activities (1982 - 83)

Programme of events for 1984 – 1985

Stop Press

Change of ownership at "The Lawns"




Manuscript sources in public collections

Birmingham Reference Library: Boulton & Watt collection

British Museum: Egerton M.S. 1941

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust: Lilleshall Company Collection

National Library of Wales: John Wilkinson's Estates

Shropshire Record Office: Forester Collection (1224)

Books and articles



The Society was formed in 1972 to meet the demand for an organisation to preserve the material and documentary evidence of Broseley's industrial past. Since an important part in this industrial past was played by John Wilkinson, who lived for a time at "The Lawns", it was decided that the organisation should be known as The Wilkinson Society.

The aims of the Society are

(i)         to act as custodian of any relevant material and information

and to make such material and information available to interested individuals and organisations ;

(ii)        to promote any relevant preservation activity and to assist individuals or organisations in such activity where deemed appropriate ;

(iii)       to provide a link with the community of Broseley for individuals or organisations undertaking local historical research.

Any available material will be added to the existing collection of Broseley and Wilkinson relics, part of which is on display at Broseley Hall.

Administration of the Society is by an annually elected committee. Membership is open to anyone interested in the Society's aims and activities. These activities include illustrated lectures, social evenings, researching and exhibiting the collection, field trips and coach tours. Members are kept informed by newsletters, and this annual Journal presents articles on the history of the Broseley area, John Wilkinson, and industrial archaeology in general.


The Year's Activities (1982 - 83)

The Tenth Annual General Meeting was held at the Broseley Church Hall on Friday, 15th October 1982. Society officials were re-elected on an individual basis with no changes from the previous year, and the Committee was re-elected en bloc with the addition of one new member, Mrs. Veronica West. A proposal was made to raise the annual subscription to £2, but was withdrawn after some objections. It was agreed that an Extraordinary General Meeting should be called to deal with this matter at a later date. After the A.G.M., Mr. Chris Whall gave a short and very informal talk on "The Wem Cow Club and other Curiosities of Insurance in Shropshire", much appreciated by the audience.

On 9th November 1982 the meeting was held at the Cumberland Hotel, Broseley, by kind invitation of Mr. Ivor Southorn, who addressed us on"Broseley pipes and other interesting things". This was a fascinating meeting, well illustrated by a wide selection of specimens, documents and photographs relating mainly but not entirely to the clay pipe and ceramic industries in Broseley.

On 8th December 1982 we once again joined the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum for their pre-Christmas entertainment at the Severn Warehouse in Ironbridge. The subject on this occasion was "Local Dialects in the Black Country", presented on tape and video by members of the Redditch Historical Society.  This was a most rewarding evening, completed by seasonal refreshments provided by the Ladies Group of the Friends.

The Extraordinary General Meeting referred to above was called for 18th February 1983. At this meeting a resolution was proposed, to increase the annual subscription from £1 to £2 per annum for ordinary members, and from 50p to £1 for children and bona fide students, with effect from 1st October 1983. After a short discussion, the resolution was passed 'nem con'.     The Social Evening which followed, on the theme "Objects made in the Broseley Area", was notable for the appearance of a catalogue from the former Benthall Pottery Works, brought along by a visitor from Nordley. We have since been able to obtain a photo-copy of this catalogue for the Society library.

On 18th March 1983, the Rev. L.F. Peltor gave a highly polished account of some of the items of information he had been able to extract from Parish Registers in the various parts of the country in which he had worked. The talk, entitled "The Parish Chest", included many references to our local parishes of Barrow and Willey. The evening was much enjoyed by all those present.

During the winter months of 1982 - 83 the Committee, assisted by Mr. Eric Cox, worked very hard to rebuild the Museum exhibits in the cellars of Broseley Hall. Special thanks are due to Fred Clarke, who masterminded the reconstruction of the main exhibit stands, and to Veronica West, who not only kept us supplied with coffee and biscuits, but also devoted much of her own time to provide the finishing decorative touches with the paint brush after the bulk of the construction was finished. The New Museum was formally opened on 1st May 1983, when 15 members of the Society accepted the invitation of Mr. & Mrs. West to be the first visitors, with guides and refreshments provided free of charge.

The Annual Outing was once again planned as a joint venture with the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, this time to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Sadly, this had to be cancelled for lack of support.

On Monday 19th September 1983 the Society was very pleased to entertain Mr. & Mrs. Leighton Wilkie and Mr. and Mrs. Jon Henricks, from the Do-All Company in Des Plaines, Illinois. Guided by our Secretary, and for some of the time by the Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Stuart Smith, they visited the Old and New Willey Sites, the Museum of Iron at Coalbrookdale, The Elton Collection, The Coalport China Works, the Broseley home of John Wilkinson at "The Lawns", and, finally, the Society's Museum in Broseley Hall where Mr. & Mrs. West gave a sherry reception in their honour. Mr. Leighton Wilkie has been a lifelong admirer of John Wilkinson, and has published several books and other documents which emphasise the part played by Wilkinson and Watt in the Industrial revolution. He has also founded a very impressive Wilkinson/Watt Museum at his factory in America, and has instigated the publication of educational material relating to the development of machine tools. Mr. Wilkie presented copies of his publications to the Society, and we were glad to be able to reciprocate in a small way by offering to read the proofs of the next, revised edition of Mr. Wilkie's book "John Wilkinson, Ironmaster".

Most of the committee work for this year was done on an informal basis during the many sessions of work on the new Museum, but a formal Committee Meeting was held on 9th August 1983, to discuss the future of the Iron Roof Frame still standing in the yard at "The Lawns", and to plan the Society's calendar for 1983 - 4. It was agreed that the Iron Roof should be given to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum on condition that they would dismantle, transport and re-erect it on a site to be decided. The Quaker Burial Ground in Broseley was considered to be the most suitable site, if this proves practicable.

Programme of events fcr 1984 – 1985

 12th October            12th A.G.M., followed by viewing of china collection bequeathed to the Society by the late Ralph Pee.

23rd November             "Portraits of John Wilkinson" - illustrated talk by David de Haan.

12th December            Joint meeting with Friends of Ironbridge Museum.

15th February   Social Evening - "Found under the floorboards,".

22nd March            "Oral History in the Ironbridge Gorge" – illustrated talk by Ken Jones.

May 1985            Summer Outing to Bersham Industrial Heritage Centre.


The Journal

 Whilst the editor is prepared to provide material from his own researches, he would prefer a steady flow of contributions from members. Unfortunately, these have been in short supply during 1984 and partly account for the delayed appearance of this issue of the Journal. Contributions (articles, short notices, letters, etc.) for the 1985 issue, now in preparation, should be sent to the editor, N.J. Clarke, Cranleigh, Little Wenlock, Telford.

Back numbers of the Journal can be obtained from the Assistant Secretary, Mrs. Freda Spickernell, 11 High Street, Broseley.

Mrs. Barbara Bale who has been associated with the production of the Journal since 1978, is retiring in September, 1985. The Society would like to place on record its gratitude to Barbara for making such a professional job of the Journal, and to extend its very good wishes for her retirement.

 Stop Press

Change of ownership at "The Lawns"

John Wilkinson's former home at "The Lawns", Church Street, Broseley, was sold by the Pee family at the beginning of May 1985, to a private buyer. We understand that the new owner intends to use the house as his private residence, and that he is aware of its historic connection with John Wilkinson, John Rose and Thomas Pritchard, and of its subsequent importance in the history of Broseley and the Industrial Revolution.




 In his will the late Ralph Pee, founder and Curator of the Wilkinson Society, left to the Society "all my blue China (alleged to be Caughley) in the dining room at The Lawns".

When the china was collected from the solicitor acting for the Trustees, there were found to be about 40 pieces, falling into two main categories :-

(a)        late 18th and early 19th century oriental blue and white porcelain, including two slightly damaged teapots, several small teacups, a willow-pattern saucer, and a late Imari-style blue and white vase with overglaze red panels;

(b)        early and middle 19th century Staffordshire blue and white pottery ware, including an early Spode Caramanian meat dish, three damaged butter boats, several willow pattern soup plates, and a ginger jar and cover.

The collection was examined by Mr. R. Edmundson of Bridgnorth, and by Mr. J.L. Talbot of McCartney, Morris and Barker, Ludlow. Both came independently to the conclusion that there was not a single piece of Caughley or Coalport china in the collection, and that the total value might be in the region of £200.

Your Committee was therefore faced with a very difficult situation. The china collection had no connection with local factories, much of it was damaged, and in any case there was too much to put on display in the Society Museum. After obtaining the opinions of members at the meeting on October 12th 1984, and two committee meetings held specifically to deal with the problem, it was decided that the best solution would be :-

(a)        to keep three of the best and most representative pieces of oriental porcelain, as typical of the type of china that provided the patterns for English porcelain manufacturers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and as a nucleus of the original bequest;

(b)        to sell the remainder of the oriental porcelain and all Staffordshire ware, with the aim of using the proceeds to purchase a few good examples of Caughley porcelain as and when opportunities arose, for eventual display in the Society Museum.

Accordingly, the bulk of the collection was sent to the salerooms of Messrs. McCartney, Morris and Barker in Ludlow, where it was sold on 5th February 1985 and realised the sum of £221.92 for the Society's account. This money will be used as soon as possible to purchase good examples of Caughley (or possibly early Coalport) china for the Museum, to be displayed in one case with the three pieces of oriental porcelain which were retained, together with a plaque acknowledging the original bequest as the source of the exhibit.

 M. H.



The Society gets many enquiries from researchers into the Life and work of John Wilkinson. The following List of sources aims to provide a basic guide. We would be interested to hear of any other relevant material.

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.







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