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1822 Born in Kendal, son of Isaac Wilson and his wife Mary
1861 Iron master and earthenware manufacturer, living in Nunthorpe, Yorks, with Anna Dorothy Wilson 39, Mary Wilson 12, Helen Wilson 10, Anna Gertrude Wilson 7, Sarah Maria Wilson 5, Robert Theodore Wilson 5, Dora Beatrice Wilson 1
1881 M P, Iron Master, Farming 350 Acres Employing 10 Labourers, living in Nunthorpe
1899 Died in Middlesbrough
The death on the 22nd inst. of Mr. Isaac Wilson, of Nunthorpe Hall, near Middlesbrough, removes another of the few remaining pioneers of the Cleveland iron trade. He was one of the earliest in that district to engage in the manufacture of pig iron; and he has continued closely connected with it till his death. Few men took a more prominent part in furthering in various ways the trade of Teesside; and his services have been several times recognised by the town and trade of Middlesbrough, which has been the centre of his business operations. He was invited to become the first member of Parliament when the borough of Middlesbrough was incorporated in 1868, but holding that the late Mr. H. W. F. Bolckow had a prior claim, he declined. When, however, Mr. Bolckow died in 1878, Mr. Wilson was elected, and continued to represent the borough till 1892, when he retired on the ground of ill health. The trade of the district then presented him with a piece of plate and accessories of the value of £500, and his portrait was placed in the Middlesbrough Council Chamber.
The late Mr. Wilson was born in Kendal in 1822, his father being a woollen manufacturer there. For some time after completing his education he assisted his father; but in 1841 he settled in Middlesbrough, on the advice of Mr. Joseph Pease, one of the railway pioneers, who had been also one of the founders of Middlesbrough some ten years previously. Mr. Wilson first engaged in the manufacture of earthenware, there being in the town at that time only the foundry of Messrs. Bolckow and Vaughan, and a small engineering works. Afterwards he went into partnership with the late Mr. Edgar Gilkes, and they established the Tees Engine Works in 1844, under the style of Gilkes, Wilson and Company, at which place a large number of the locomotives used on the Stockton and Darlington Railway were built.
In 1853, shortly after the discovery of the main seam of Cleveland ironstone, Mr. Wilson made his first practical acquaintance with the manufacture of pig iron, for in conjunction with Mr. Gilkes and others, he built blast furnaces at Cargo Fleet, near Middlesbrough, the firm carrying on business as Gilkes, Wilson, Leatham, and Co. With these works he has been connected ever since, the name of the firm being now Wilsons, Pease, and Co. The deceased also, in partnership with Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Gilkes, and others, founded the Teesside Ironworks, consisting of blast furnaces and iron rolling mills. Mr. Wilson was closely connected also with the railway development of the district, and for many years was a director of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which was incorporated with the North-Eastern in 1873, in which Company Mr. Wilson had a seat on the directorate. He was elected one of the first members of the Council of Middlesbrough when the town was incorporated in 1853. The first mayor was the late Mr. H. W. F. Bolckow, but at the termination of his year of office, Mr. Wilson succeeded him in the civic chair. He served on the Council for many years as Councillor, and afterwards as Alderman, and on his retiring the burgesses presented him with a handsome service of plate in recognition of his many public services.
He was chairman of the Middlesbrough School Board for twelve years. When the Tees Conservancy Commission was formed, in 1852, he was elected a Commissioner, and continued on the Board up to the time of his death, acting for many years as chairman. When the Commission was constituted the Tees could at low tide be forded almost up to its mouth, now the Commissioners have so improved the channel that there is a depth of 18ft. at the mouth at low water.
Mr. Wilson, in January, 1863, as chairman of the Commission, laid the foundation-stone of the South Gare Breakwater, which has now been completed, is 12,000ft. long and cost £300,000. The difficulties which had to be faced in order to secure the improvement of the stream were vast but they have been successfully overcome, and the Tees is now one of the finest rivers in the country for commercial purposes.
Few men have died more full of deserved honours than Mr. Wilson, and he lived to see the full fruition of his enterprise. His funeral at Great Ayton was attended by the leading men of the district, many of whom had worked side by side with him in developing the trade of Middlesbrough, and were thus able to appreciate fully the value of his genius.