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British Industrial History

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John Okill (1687-1773)

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John Okill (c1687-1773)

John Okill (c.1687 – August 20, 1773) was a pioneering and successful 18th century shipbuilder from Liverpool, England. Not much is known about his early life, though by the time he was 50 years old, he was a leading citizen of the town, having undertaken the roles of timber merchant and shipbuilder.

His yard was on the south of the Salthouse Dock, Liverpool, and over the years he would build many coasting brigantines and sloops in alliance with William Marsh.

By 1739 his reputation an accomplished ship builder got him the first of many commissions by the Royal Navy to build ships of the line. The first was the "Hastings", a ship of 44 guns and weighing 682 tons.

1740-58 Built eight ships for the navy.

His shipbuilding company saw several other partners over the years: by 1758 the firm was Okill and Rigg, and in 1768 it became Okill and Sutton.

In addition to shipbuilding John Okill was also a Liverpool member of the Company of Merchants trading to Africa, formed in 1750. Though many of the other merchants traded in African slaves, Okill's was the only firm to take no part in the slave traffic, which instead "traded in wood and teeth (ivory)".

In 1747 Okill was the donor of the lease for the site upon which the original St. Thomas's Church was built.

In 1773 he started work on a manor home in Woolton called Lee Hall. He died later that same year, with work on the building completed by his inheriting nephew, James Okill. There were problems associated with the disposal of John Okill's estates, requiring an Act of Parliament in 1784, to enable the trustees to dispose of certain of them. James and his inheritors, the Dutton family, helped to plan and layout what would become Gateacre.

There was a monumental inscription to him at original St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool. Lee Hall was torn down sometime after 1971. His commercial Day Book for 1752 – 1753, listing the daily transactions relating to his shipbuilding business can be found at the Liverpool Record Office and Local History Service.

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