'Iron-Mad' Wilkinson

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John Wilkinson (1728-1808) was a major producer of iron goods and contributed to the development of copper coinage.

He was part of a network of important Shropshire industrialists and improvers, an associate of Matthew Boulton and brother-in-law of Joseph Priestley, yet very little is widely known about this important contributor to regional and national history.

John Wilkinson was born in Cumberland, brought up in a non-conformist family and educated at a dissenting academy in Kendal. These academies were higher education institutions which provided an advanced education for non-conformists, who were prevented from attending Oxford and Cambridge for religious reasons.

His father, Isaac, worked at Little Clifton Blast Furnace, near Workington, now in Cumbria. The family invested profits from a patent for a box iron, used to frill cuffs, in a small iron foundry near Back Barrow, Furness, and later moved to the West Midlands area.

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