Sarah Boutland married Joseph Wilkinson at All Saints Church, Newcastle. Sarah was the daughter of William Boutland; she had a brother (also called William, abt 1792-1859) who was a ship builder at Bill Quay. Sarah and Joseph had a son, our William Boutland Wilkinson, born 1819.
In 1830, William (WBW) became a pupil of Dr Bruces Academy up to the age of 14. On 18th October 1833 he was apprenticed to Robert Robson, Master Plasterer of Clayton Street, Newcastle. For the 1841 and 1851 census, WBW resided as a plasterer at Smith’s Dock.
He married Elizabeth and – as previously noted – they had six children. Sadly young William died aged 12, leaving WBW with one surviving son Charles and four daughters.
WBW became a businessman in his own right and in 1861 he was listed in the census as residing at 2 Warwick Place, Byker, Newcastle. By this time he was employing 55 men and boys.
In the 1871 census the family had moved to 5 Ellison Place, where WBW lived almost to his final days in 1902.
WBW also invested in shipping (many of our occupants in Ellison Place had maritime connections one way or another!), sharing ownership with Joseph Wrightson Wilkinson. He became a JP and expanded his business.
This is a typical advert of the time:
WBW sought a means of fireproofing in the construction of buildings, and embedded strips of iron in mass concrete based on broken coke, sand and Portland cement. He patented his invention in 1854 and effectively invented reinforced concrete – something which has become a staple feature in the construction industry since.
WBW’s plasterwork and concrete flooring was much in demand, and his work is often cited – such as in Millar (see my references at the end of this article) – as forming a rough surface on the granite concrete platforms at York railway station; abattoirs in Newcastle; diary and food factories, concrete stairs and many other uses.
I’ve included a photo here of a beautiful ceiling rose, still here in 5 Ellison Place. I can’t prove it’s WBW’s handiwork, but take my word for it, it’s a beautifully executed piece of work and sadly damaged by putting up a partition wall sometime during the 20thC. Other examples of equally fine plasterwork exist in the building.
To prove the versatility of his invention WBW built a 2-storey servants’ cottage in concrete in 1865. It was built at his cement works, behind Ellison Place. The house was occupied and stood for years, including after WBW’s business was taken over by W Ferguson & Son Ltd in 1910 (Managing Director, Mr W C Alder). Members of the firm (it was reported, the foreman) lived in it until approximately 1934 and after that, it was used for storage.
Professor Cassie and Mr F W Harvey, Education Architect, researched the building in 1954 and produced documentary proof of the building’s age. Professor Cassie published his findings in 1955 in “The Structural Engineer”, the journal of the Institute of Structural Engineers.
In 1954 the building was pulled down to make way for the construction of the new Rutherford College of Technology which has subsequently become Northumbria University – Ellison Building, to be precise.
WBW outlived his wife who died in 1987 and seems to have spent the final stages of his life at his son Charles’ house. He died on 13th October 1902 at Belvedere House, Whitley Bay. (Belvedere House still stands but sadly looking nothing like as grand as it was then.)
WBW left an estate of £171,494. He ensured his son and daughters had annuities and remembered his workmen and a number of charities in his will. The main charities to benefit were the RVI, Newcastle (Royal Victoria Infirmary), Prudhoe Memorial Convalescent Home, and the Church Institute Newcastle.
The concrete house may no longer remain as a testament to WBW, but there are other tangible reminders. His grave is in the South West Cemetery of Jesmond, and includes other family members. When I visited it in autumn 2010 it was overgrown, but I carried out a little bit of guerrilla gardening so it’s visible again. There is also a splendid stained glass window dedicated to his memory in St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle. Sadly the light levels are too poor for me to get a decent photo. It’s a lovely cathedral to look around so make the effort if you can and are in the area – WBW’s window is on the left hand side as you head to the altar.
Having uncovered so much about WBW I felt it was fitting to apply for a commemorative plaque, so I contacted Newcastle City Council. The submission has been considered and he’s included for future years, but alas the recession has taken its toll and it looks like the plaque won’t be commissioned particularly soon.
I like the thought that there is still a remote link to WBW – Northumbria University’s School of the Natural and Built Environment is based in Ellison Building and I’d like to think that reinforced concrete is discussed somewhere in the curriculum! I wonder if those students have any idea that they’re standing on the very spot where it all started.
Source: http://www.seaham.i12.com/myers/newcastle.html accessed 10 March 2010
Brown, J.M. “W.B. Wilkinson (1819-1902) and his place in the history of reinforced concrete”, Newcomen Society, Transactions, Vol.39 
Collins, P., (2004), “Concrete: the vision of a new architecture” 2nd Ed. McGill-Queen’s University Press – p38 ISBN 0773525637
Cusack, T., (2004), “Wilkinson, William Boutland (1819–1902)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Jan 2008, 673 words
Millar, W., (1897) “Plastering plain and decorative”, Batsford, London. (This book is available from Donhead Publishing as a facsimile if you’re interested: http://www.donhead.com/plastering_millar.htm. I proudly possess an original – my husband rescued it from a skip (argh! Sacrilege!) and being a bookbinder, I’ve restored it.)
Newcastle Libraries, Newcastle City Council; Local Studies fact sheet No.2.
Wards Directory: various
And thanks also go to Bob Boutland, a descendent of WBW who has shared his family research.
Here’s another household we don’t know an awful lot about. John Hall occupied no.3, after Jemima Loraine, and appeared on the 1871 census. He was born in 1827 in Northumberland, as were the three sisters who lived with him: Dorothy (b 1825), Margaret Ann (b 1831) and Hannah Ochiltree (b 1834). There were two resident servants: the cook Susan Mills (b 1845, from Ireland) and Mary Scott (b 1847).
We know John Hall was a shipowner; various records mention him as such (although to be accurate it’s usually “Messrs Hall” so it wasn’t just him!). Averil has also found him listed as a timber merchant – it’s probable he used his ships to import-export.
When visiting the Laing Art gallery in Newcastle, I stopped at Holman Hunt’s “Isabella and the pot of basil” for a look and noticed that it was owned by Sir Charles Palmer, of Palmer, Hall & Co, Shipping, of Newcastle. I asked Averil to check it out. She wasn’t able to prove the Hall in Palmer Hall, and John Hall, were one the same – but! She found that Palmer lived at No.6 Ellison Place. Just about every line of enquiry we follow seems to be leading us back to Ellison Place!
Back to our John Hall. Trying to trace some ships that might have belonged to him, I did find the following record which intrigued me for its clues: he took part in the East India trade and this ship sailed across the globe to Canada too (for the timber?).
The loss of lives was tragic and I suppose it was something far more prevalent then, than now. Hopefully. One name jumped out at me: Mr Ochiltree, the superintendent for Messrs Hall & Co – spot the link ..?! John Hall’s sister Hannah Ochiltree was living with him in 1871 – it’s such an unusual name I’m tempted to think it probable that Hannah married her brother’s superintendent. Unfortunately I’m speculating and know no more than that; nor do I know why she was living there. Was her husband away at sea maybe? That’s the problem with historical research: just when you think you can draw a line under something, something else pops up which presents a whole new basket of questions!
The 1841 census indicates that the following servants were probably living at No.1: Isabella Ross, Elizabeth Poulsby, Ann Scott and Mary Nevis. The more attentive of you (!) will recognise Isabella: it looked like she stayed on for a couple of changes of occupants in the house.
William Leslie, shipbuilder, was living there first (we now know). His obituary was published following his death on 3rd March 1827 in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’, Vol.97, Part 1, p285, 1827 obituary. “March 3 in Ellison Place, Newcastle, advanced in age, William Leslie, Esq, an eminent shipbuilder”.
His daughters Esther and Ruth Leslie stayed on in the house after his death, until Captain Manchester took it over (he appeared in the 1851 census).
If you’re local, or interested in industrial or maritime history, the name “Leslie” may have a ring of familiarity. I thought, aha! “Hawthorn Leslie, shipbuilders, right”? Well, er … no. It was Andrew Leslie from Glasgow who formed the shipbuilders which merged with Hawthorn Leslie (ultimately Swan Hunter). I had a quick look at the Tyne & Wear archives online and I can’t find our William Leslie linked to them – so perhaps he was independent. (www.tyneandweararchives.org.uk) If anyone can provide any further information on William Leslie we’d be interested to hear it!
Apologies for the pause in uploading information – strewth what a busy summer that turned out to be! Anyway just to show that we haven’t been idle, here’s a PDF which shows who occupied these houses during the period of our investigation. The dates may be out a little here and there, but I’m pretty confident we’ve got it now. In many cases we know something about the families and it’s my plan to start sifting through that information and start putting that here. If there’s a family or occupier you’re particularly interested in, drop me an email and I’ll see what we’ve got and look at them first.
ellison place occupier timeline
The Abbot family probably have a greater connection with Gateshead than our Ellison Place – but they lived here, so here’s a brief summary of the family.
John Abbot (senior) was born c1784 in Newcastle, and married Mary born c1785 of Penrith. They had a son, John George born 1817 in Gateshead, and he married Catherine (1824, Whitehaven). In the 1851 census the four of them were in the house with two nieces of John (senior) from Whitehaven – Elizabeth Adamson (b1825) and Annie Adamson (b1826). There were four house servants – Jane Dunning from Blagdon, Elizabeth Reay from South Shields and Sarah and Jane Glover from Newcastle.
The Abbots owned a metalworking foundry and were major industrialists in the area. John Abbot located the bulk of his metalworking interests in Gateshead – in fact, on the land now occupied by the Sage Gateshead. It was originally called Rector’s Field. The foundry was closely involved in the construction of the High Level bridge and Newcastle Central Station. They also supplied copper tubes to Stephenson Locomotives in 1830 (yes, those Stephensons!).
The Abbots were obviously astute industrialists and businessmen – they supplied products from their foundry all round the globe and established a reputation for the fine quality of their pewter ware. Many domestic products were produced in pewter – serving dishes, plates, crockery, drinking vessels – and Abbot pewter can still be found if you’re prepared to rummage around in antique shops. (I’ve had a great time poking about in the antique shops of Barnard Castle – some nice tea shops around there too!) This website gives a lot more information if you’re interested:-
Back to the family. In the census of 1861, the Abbots had moved to 4 Saville Place – that’s the Saville Place just off Northumberland Street – sadly some of Saville Place was demolished in the 1960s, was there no end to their vandalism? John Abbot and his wife were living there with the son John and his wife – her rellies arrived mob-handed as there were four Adamsons listed as “visitors”. There were five servants from Northumberland, Ireland, County Durham and the Isle of Man.
John Abbot owned the freehold of 2 Ellison Place – not so strange nowadays, but back then it was quite usual for families to rent their houses and not necessarily to buy them as we do now. He also had a share of the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and when he died on 18th July 1863, his will stated he left effects nearing £300,000. Not a bad sum now and it must have been a fortune then. Sadly his son didn’t outlive him for long – he himself died on 5th February 1867 leaving effects of nearly £600,000.
Averil has uncovered two stories about the Abbots. Abbot Industrial School, Gateshead, was built in 1869 by John’s widow as an industrial school to reform and educate “gutter children”. It closed in 1930 and was demolished in 1968 – a picture from a postcard is below:-
For the historians amongst you, Averil traced this picture from the following website:
The other story regards a tempest in 1839.
January 7th 1839: The North of England was visited by a tempest, which, as regarded resistless fury and appalling magnitude, had not been equalled in this part of the country, and which bore a closer resemblance to a West Indian tornado than the storms which, however fierce, visit the temperate regions of the globe. Soon after midnight, the wind shifted from S to WSW and gradually increased in fury until about six o’clock in the morning, when its violence was perfectly frightful. It is impossible to describe the sensation felt during this period. Impenetrable darkness veiled the face of nature, and when a sudden crash awoke the inmates of a dwelling, they know not where to look for shelter amidst the ruin which surrounded them. At length morning dawned on a scene of devastation, such as few have witnessed. Bricks, slates, and tiles and broken fragments, lay scattered over the streets in every direction, as if the town had stood siege. No one ventured abroad that could possibly avoid it, and every thoroughfare was literally deserted. In Gateshead the storm raged with even more serious effects than in Newcastle. Nearly every house upon the Fell was unroofed or otherwise injured. The beautiful chimney of the Brandling Railway Company, 115 feet in height was blown down, and a man named Henry Hawks had one of his legs broken. A chimney at Messrs Abbot and Co’s, 75 feet high, fell with a fearful crash, and a man named John Errick was killed, while another person narrowly escaped.
Of all the people we’ve investigated, Captain Manchester is proving highly elusive. We know very, very, little about him. So little in fact, that it seems odd: most of the householders have left a paper trail of one sort or another – the servants less so, but certainly you’d think the head of the household would have left something. He is turning out to be a man of mystery.
The following is a short summary of the facts as we know them.
We know his parents were Thomas Manchester and Eleanor. R T Manchester was one of three sons. Alan Wilkinson Manchester was born on 14th October 1785; Ratcliff Thomas was born in Newcastle a little over a year later on 21st December 1786, and the youngest brother James Robinson on 16th December 1787, again a year later. (Poor Eleanor …..!!) The practice then was to christen babes pretty quickly, infant mortality being high then. Unusually though, these three siblings weren’t christened until later – the 28th March 1792. Why so late, and why altogether?
The 1841 census doesn’t list the properties at Ellison Place individually, annoyingly. He doesn’t appear on them so may – or may not – have been resident.
The 1851 census however does list him, but as “Robert”, unmarried, aged 64. He has two house servants: Frances Ross, (F) aged 64, and Isabella Ross (unmarried), aged 33 (born 1818).
The Ward’s Directory of 1859/60 provides us with no further information except to list him as “Captain”.
The 1861 census correctly lists him as Ratcliff, not Robert; still unmarried and now 74 years of age. There’s no mention of Frances Ross, but Isabella is still with him and remains unmarried at the age of 43; she has been elevated to the position of Housekeeper.
Captain Manchester died on 29th May 1864; he left approximately £35,000 in his Will (no small sum in those days). His executors were Margaret Whitaker Cohen (spinster) and George Whitaker Cohen, of Shacklewell, in the county of Middlesex.
And that’s it. Captain? Captain of what – the navy? Army? Averil has searched the royal and merchant navy records and didn’t find him; she’s tried other military records too. She’s tracked down various Manchesters but not ours specifically, so what was his career? How did he earn his fortune? Number One Ellison Place is a substantial house and would have been imposing. Strange to have only two servants – unless he wasn’t there of course, well he wouldn’t have been if he were sailing around the globe. If that’s the case, would he have sailed from the Tyne – and to where? Europe? Scandinavia? Or would he have travelled to Liverpool? We simply don’t know.
There is one connection with the sea that we’ve found – but it’s no proof of course he was a naval Captain. The following story is a rather sad one but at least our Captain Manchester had the decency to make a donation.
So – the life story and exploits of Captain Ratcliff Thomas Manchester are, at present, entirely conjecture ……..
Drowning at Cullercoats, 1848
“1st February 1848. A melancholy occurrence happened this morning off Cullercoats. As a coble, containing seven fishermen, viz, George Lisle and Robert Lisle, brothers, Robert Lisle and George Lisle, sons of the above George Lisle; Robert Clark, James Stocks. and Charles Pearson, was proceeding from Cullercoats to the several vessels lying in the offing, the boat was struck by a heavy sea, and the unfortunate men were thrown overboard and drowned, in the sight of their relatives and friends. The most lamentable fate was that of Stocks. He was a bold swimmer, and though he was washed off the coble bottom several times always got back to it. The last time he was on the coble he stripped off his jacket and waistcoat and prepared to swim ashore, as the coble had then approached the rocks. He was so near that his brother shouted to him, “Jim, swim ashore,” Stocks answered, “I’m done, I’m done,” and, after combating awhile with the sea, he hung his head and sunk. Much commiseration was felt in the district for the sufferers, who were well known, and respected by everybody. A subscription was afterwards set on foot for the relief of the families of the deceased men, and a very handsome sum was speedily collected, and distributed according to the separate wants of each. (From T.Sykes ‘Local Records Vol 3′ 1867)”
From several sources Kelvin Wilson has compiled a list of names of subscribers to the relief fund mentioned above and would welcome any additional information on any of the persons mentioned – in exchange for which he will supply further details of the subscription – the sum, how it was collected and the source of the information. Kelvin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org ”
Taken from T. Sykes ‘Local Records Vol 3’ 1867. Accessed 8 June 2010 on www.bpears.org.uk/genuki/NBL/Tynemouth/subscribers.html set up by Kelvin.email@example.com
The list of subscribers include Captain R T Manchester of 1 Ellison Terrace, and Sanderson Ilderton of 4 Ellison Terrace.