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British Industrial History

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William Thompson (1811-1878)

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Founder of a business, which later became the John Thompson Company, and sire of the Thompson family, whose members ran the company for many decades.

1811 William Thompson was born in Wolverhampton.

1821 At the age of ten he began work in his father’s mine. The loss of an eye whilst working there led to the intervention of his mother, who insisted that he should never work in the pit again.

1823 He was engaged by G. B. Thorneycroft and Co, at the small Millfield's ironworks, Bilston.

1834 William Thompson married Susannah Briscoe. Their first home was in Broad Lane. They had a family of eight children and also looked after William’s younger brother, Stephen (c.1822[1] - 1886). Their sons were William, John, James and Enoch; daughters Pamela, Ellen, Susan.

Sometime between 1834 and 1840, William Thompson established himself as a boilermaker and maker of canal boats at a works situated on the Birmingham Canal, at Highfields near Bilston.

c.1850 the business encountered difficulties and was taken over by Stephen; by 1861 he was employing 50 men[2]. William's son John (born c.1840[3]) learnt his trade under his uncle Stephen, and became progressively more responsible for running the company.

c.1860 John bought the business from Stephen. The name of the business became William Thompson and Son in the early 1860s. Eventually the name was changed to John Thompson.

1870s, the business focussed on steam boilers at the Ettingshall site. Another son of William (the firm’s founder), also called William, ran the works at Highfields after John had bought it from Stephen.

1878 William Thompson, the founder, died.


See Also

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Sources of Information

History of John Thompson: http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/Museum/Engineering/JohnThompson/johnthompson01.htm

  1. 1861 census
  2. 1861 census
  3. 1881 census