14th July 1808. ‘Iron-Mad’ John Wilkinson.
Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, made homeless in Birmingham by the mob for supporting the French Revolution, was brother-in-law of ‘Iron Mad’ Jack Wilkinson who died Today in 1808.
Wilkinson was a pioneer of Cast-Iron with its most famous use being the [first] Iron-Bridge, in Shropshire, now a World Heritage Site.
Wilkinson is credited with the invention of precision tools from his ability to bore the cast iron cylinders for James Watt’s steam engines, an application of the first machine tool.
In 1775 he was the initiator of the building of the famous Iron Bridge, requiring an Act of Parliament, to connect Broseley, then an important industrial town, with the other side of the River Severn.
Wilkinson pushed for the use of iron as opposed to wood or stone after persuading local businessmen of its merits.
Abraham Darby III was the preferred builder with a quote of £3,150/-, at which time Wilkinson sold his shares to Darby in 1777, leaving the latter to steer the project, which was opened in 1781.
In 1796 Wilkinson at 68 was producing 1/8 of British cast-iron, by which time he obsessively was making all manner of articles for his household and elsewhere, including the world’s first iron boat and his coffin.
Wilkinson died a wealthy man leaving c £9m (in 2015 values), with his children as heirs. However his nephew Thomas Jones contested the will, resulting in the case ending-up in the infamous and long-winded Court of Chancery, which Charles Dickens inveighed against. The result was that by 1828 the money was dissipated into the hands of lawyers.
Even his iron coffin was moved several times, but eventually found a resting place at Lindale Church, Cumbria.
The commemorative iron obelisk was moved from Castle Head Estate, owned by Wilkinson from 1750, after a change of hands in 1928, to be erected at Lindale.
google.co.uk/waymarking/Pic of obelisk.
geograph.com/Pic of obelisk base.