Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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William Henry Watson

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William Henry Watson of Sunlight Soap

1859 Q2. Born at Sellafield, Whitehaven, the son of Henry Hough Watson (died 1886) and his wife Jane, the daughter of William Atkinson

1861 William Henry Watson is living at Low Braystones (age 2 born Sellafield). With his parents Henry Hough Watson (age 51 born -), Scientific Chemist, Proprietor of land, and of the Chemical Society of London, and his wife Jane (age 46 born Sellafield). Also listed is their son John Walton Watson (age 8 born Bolton le Moors). One servant. [1]

1871 William H. Watson is living at Braystones, Lowside Quarter, Cumberland (age 12 born Bolton), a Student in Science Chemistry. With his parents Henry H. Watson (age 61 born Bolton), a J.P. and Scientific Chemist, and his wife Jane (age 56 born Sellafield). Also listed is their son John D. (age 18 born Bolton le Moors), a student in Science Chemistry. Three servants. [2]

1881 William H. Watson is living at 227 Folds Road, Little Bolton (age 22 born St. Bridget's, Cumberland), a Scientific Chemist. With his 'brother' (but WHW is then shown as his son) William B. Watson (age 69 born Bolton), a Retired Analytical Chemist and a widower. One servant. [3]

The success of Lever Brothers (which became Unilever) was based on an invention by William Henry Watson, a young industrial chemist, from Lever's home town, Bolton. Watson developed a new formula for soap using vegetable oil in place of tallow. The resultant soap was superior in every respect to all other soaps then on the market. It was named Sunlight and the formula was patented. A huge nationwide advertising campaign was undertaken and, helped by numerous original ideas, success was immediate and prolonged and the strong foundations of what is now the great Unilever organisation were well and truly laid.

1891 William H. Watson is living at Braystones, Lowside Quarter, Cumberland (age 32 born Sellafield), an Analytical Chemist. Two servants. [4]

1892 Married Florence Maud, the daughter of Frederick Priestley of Donnington, Mddx.

1901 William H. Watson is living at Steelfield Hall, Gosforth, Cumberland (age 42 born Sellafield), Living on own means. With his wife Florence M. (age 28 born London) and their son Henry H. (age 7 born Braysones, Cumberland). Three servants. [5]

1901 "Steelfield Hall, the property and residence of William Henry Watson, Esq., J.P., F.G.S., is a large square built mansion, standing in its own extensive grounds, from which views of mountain, landscape, and sea may be obtained." [6]

Had son William Henry Watson

1911 William Henry Watson is living at Braystones, Beckermet, Cumberland, (age 52 born St Bridget's, Beckermet, Cumberland), a Painter (Artist) and J.P. With his son Henry Hough Watson (age 17 born Braystones), a Student. One servant. He declares that he has been marred for 18 years and has two living children. [7]

Watson retired to Braystone's House near Beckermet on the Cumberland coast, where he lived the comfortable life of a country squire

1934 May 17th. Died and buried in St. Bridget's churchyard, Beckermet, Cumberland

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1861 Census
  2. 1871 Census
  3. 1881 Census
  4. 1891 Census
  5. 1901 Census
  6. 1901 Bulmer's History and Directory Of Cumberland
  7. 1911 Census