Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 143,348 pages of information and 230,029 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
John Lancaster (1815-1884)
1884 April 21st. Mining engineer and coal and iron master, died in Hampstead.
1884 Obituary 
JOHN LANCASTER was born at Radcliffe, near Bury, Lancashire, on 19th September 1815, and from a very early age showed a strong liking for mechanical and mining engineering.
When about twenty years old, he joined one of his brothers in boring for coal on Chat Moss; and in 1841 he projected and carried on the sinking of the shaft for the colliery at Patricroft, through the permian formation, reaching coal at a depth of 440 yards.
Whilst engaged in the practical management of this colliery, he started about 1844 the lower cannel pits subsequently belonging to the Ince Hall Coal and Cannel Co.
In 1845 he started the Kirkless Hall Colliery, Aspull, near Wigan.
From 1847 he acted for several years as mineral agent to Lord Mostyn, at Mostyn Colliery.
In 1855 he took charge of sinking the Shireoaks Colliery near Worksop, 520 yards deep, which was completed in 1858.
From 1856 to 1860 he built five blast-furnaces at the Kirkless Hall Iron Works, which were the first iron-smelting furnaces in Lancashire, excepting two small charcoal furnaces at Ulverston.
From 1865 to 1870 he was chairman of the Wigan Coal and Iron Co., comprising the Kirkless Hall and other works.
Subsequently he was for the rest of his life chairman of the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Works.
Other works with which he was concerned were the Bestwood Coal and Iron Works, near Nottingham; the Eldon Colliery, Durham; and the Nantyglo and Blaina Collieries in South Wales.
He was the principal originator and the chairman of the Lancashire Union Railways, started in 1866 and publicly opened at the end of 1869.
From 1868 to 1874 he was one of the members of parliament for Wigan, and took a prominent part in connection with the Mines Regulation Bill, having previously hold the office of president of the Mining Association of Great Britain.
He became a Member of the Institution in 1863, and in 1864 gave a description of the Blake stone-breaking machine, which he had introduced at the Kirkless Hall Iron Works (Proceedings 1864, page 20); and in a discussion in 1867 (page 184) he gave some particulars of cost of sinking bore-holes. From 1871 he resided at Bilton Grange near Rugby; and having been placed on the commission of the peace for the county of Lancaster in 1865, was afterwards appointed deputy- lieutenant for Warwickshire.
His death took place at his residence in London on 21st April 1884, in the sixty-ninth year of his age, after a brief illness.
1884 Obituary 
JOHN LANCASTER, who died September (sic) 21, 1884, was born at Radcliffe, neary Bury, Lancashire, on September 19, 1815, and was one of seven sons of Mr. John Lancaster, of that place.
From a very early age he showed an enthusiastic liking for mechanics and mining engineering, and when about twenty years of age he and his brother bored for coal on Chat Moss.
In 1841 he projected and carried on the sinking of the colliery at Patricroft through the Permian formation, when coal was cut at a depth of 440 yards. This colliery was worked by his father and partner for several years, and during its whole life the deceased had its practical management. Whilst engaged with this colliery he projected the lower cannel pits at Ince-in-Makerfield, along with Mr. H. King, of Rochdale, about the year 1844. The lower cannel pits were sold in the year 1845 to. the present Ince Hall Coal and Cannel Company.
In the year 1845 Mr. Lancaster started the Kirkless Hall Colliery, Aspull, and there laid the foundation of that great concern—the Wigan Coal and Iron Company—which has since developed into one of the largest mining companies in the kingdom.
In the year 1847, Mr. Lancaster became mineral agent to Lord Mostyn at Mostyn Colliery, Flintshire, and continued to fill that post for several years.
From 1849 to 1856 he had the management of Earl Granville's ironworks and collieries, Shelton, North Staffordshire, and he erected the Shelton Bar Ironworks, in which Earl Granville is and was from the first largely interested.
In 1855 he took charge of sinking a new colliery at Shireoaks, near Worksop, 520 yards deep, for the Duke of Newcastle. This colliery was completed in 1858, and has been, and still is, very successfully worked by a company, which bought, it and leased the mines from the Duke. In the year 1858 Mr. Lancaster and his partners built the Kirkless Hall Ironworks. Five furnaces were built from 1856 to 1860, and they were the first erected in Lancashire, with the exception of two small charcoal furnaces at Ulverston. The Kirkless Hall Works have been extended from time to time until they now comprise ten blast furnaces.
In 1865 the Wigan Coal and Iron Company was formed, with a capital of over two millions, by an amalgamation of the collieries belonging to and worked by the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres and the collieries and ironworks carried on by Mr. Lancaster and his partners. The concerns taken over were the Haigh and Holland Collieries, the Kirkless Hall Collieries and Ironworks, the Standish and Shevington Cannel Works, the Broomfield Colliery, and the pits worked by Mr. J. Taylor under the style of the Standish Coal Company. Mr. Lancaster was appointed the first chairman, and he continued his connection with the concern until 1870, when, owing to certain differences, he withdrew from the company. From that time until his death he was chairman of the West Cumberland Iron and Steel Company. He was also a partner in the Eldon Colliery, Durham; the projector and the chairman of the Bestwood Coal and Iron Company, near Nottingham; and a partner in the Nant-y-Glo and Blaina Collieries, South Wales.
Mr. Lancaster took an active interest in railway development. As chairman of the Lancashire Union Railway Company he rendered services to the coal trade of that county which were recognised in August 1865 by the presentation to him of a service of silver plate, for the purchase of which over £400 was raised by public subscription.
One of the most notable events in the career of the deceased gentleman was his rescue, on the 19th June 1864, of the captain and crew of the Alabama, after the fight between that well-known Confederate .cruiser and the Federal war-steamer Kearsage. On the 25th March 1866 Mr. Lancaster was returned as member of Parliament for Wigan, and sat for that constituency until 1874, when be was opposed and defeated. He was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the county of Lancaster in 1865, and shortly afterwards he was appointed Deputy-Lieutenant for Warwickshire.
Mr. Lancaster was an original member of the Institute, and had acted on the Council from 1870 until the time of his death. He was a tolerably regular attender at the meetings of the Institute, and occasionally took part in debate. He was also a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a member of the Board of Management of the British Iron Trade Association, and a member of Council and past-President of the Mining Association of Great Britain.
He married, in 1841, Euphemia, eldest daughter of Mr. Gibson, of Johnstone, near Glasgow, who predeceased him.