W.A. Wilkinson Ltd

A History of the Business

Where was W.A. Wilkinson Ltd?

Locations marked on 1956 map.

Red: Location of W.A. Wilkinson’s Ltd in 1941 and site of the air raid disaster. 51 King Street and 10 George Street, North Shields.

Blue: Location of Wilkinson’s yard and stables. The business was transferred to this location after the disaster. It became a builder’s yard when Wilkinson’s went out of business in the mid 1960s. The buildings including the chimney stack were demolished in the 1980s.

Green: The site of Phoenix House, the home of W.A. Wilkinson and family. Following his death in 1924 the property was sold in 1928 and became an RAOB Club.

wilkinson's location

First Mentions…

William Arthur Wilkinson came from Gateshead to North Shields in 1866 as a young hairdresser, opening a barber shop at 48 Clive Street in the town.

In the 1875 Ward’s Directory, he is listed also as a soda water manufacturer at Elder’s Quay. Directories from 1879 have him as an Ale and Porter merchant and mineral water manufacturer operating from Coach Lane, North Shields.

Move to King Street Hall

From the 1886 and 1890 directories he is at 51 King Street and by 1898 he has large adverts and is listed occupying King Street Hall at the corner of 51 King Street and 10 George Street in the east end of the town.

At this time the large Wilkinson family lived at Phoenix House, King Street just opposite the factory.

In 1900 tragedy struck the family when William Arthur Jr was injured by an explosion at the factory which shattered glass bottles. As a result he lost an eye as well as being badly cut around the face and neck. The injury did not however prevent him serving with the RAF during World War I. In later years William Arthur Jr became totally blind.

By the early 1900s, W.A. Wilkinson Ltd had become a firmly established and major employer in North Shields.

 

W.A. Wilkinson’s shop c1915. Given its relatively ornate entrance and corner position we think this is part of the main King Street Hall premises. This is the only known photo of W.A.Wilkinson Ltd.

The family enjoyed increasing prosperity and it was said they were the first in the town to own a motor car.

W A Wilkinson in car seated middle at back c1921. The portly gentleman on the right is Henry Thompson, a long-standing friend. The location would appear to be outside Northumberland Park on King Edward Road, North Shields.
[Thanks to Mike Coates for the photo and identifications]

The car, a  4 seater Humber 11-4 bhp was sold by auction on 11th April 1924, following the death of W.A. Wilkinson.

From the Papers

Shields Daily News
Thursday 16 February 1882

Not a dog man then…

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Thursday 07 September 1882

Hay for sale…

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Tuesday 07 September 1886

Closure…Annual Trip notice

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Wednesday 20 October 1886

Glass sandblasting – bottle recycling

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Saturday 26 December 1891

William A announcing a “new Branch” of his business…a Spirit Dealers’ License

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Friday 03 June 1898

The first mention of the famous SMILA mineral water drink

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Wednesday 22 June 1898

The advert suggests a refurbishment of the old King Street Hall premises.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Friday 19 August 1898

Bottle washers!

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Tuesday 29 November 1898

Strong lads wanted!

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Monday 31 December 1900

Return your bottles!

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Monday 28 August 1905

Annual picnic outing to Morpeth!

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Tuesday 28 December 1909

Trade advert

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Wednesday 27 April 1910

First advert for PINEOLA….the younger brother to SMILA

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Tuesday 02 February 1915

Trade advert promoting the ever-popular SMILA temperance drink.

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
British Newspaper Archive

Shields Daily News
Friday 23 December 1932

Trade advert

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
British Newspaper Archive

Deaths

However, tragedy again struck the family with the death of William Arthur’s wife, Emma in 1904 aged 54.

1924 Probate William Arthur Wilkinson

William Arthur survived his wife by nearly 20 years, dying on January 18th 1924.

The probate document for W.A.Wilkinson showed he had left £28,830 9s 8d.

According to the National Archives’ currency converter, that would have been worth £864,000 in 2005.

 

 

 

A Family Business

Following the death of its founder, control of the Company passed to his son Alfred Ernest. He ran the Company until his own death in 1939.

W. A. Wilkinson became a limited company in 1926.

 

War-time

Alfred Ernest’s son, also called Ernie, (Young Ernie) is believed to have run the company up until the time of the air raid in 1941.

William Arthur’s (Snr) daughter, Gertrude, married David Moffitt in 1919. Mr Moffitt was a company driver at the time of the bombing disaster in 1941. He is believed to have helped rescue people trapped in the basement shelter .

 

Demise

In 1954, W. A. Wilkinson’s brother, Joseph, sold his factory in Gateshead and bottles to Margaret Pearson of Sunderland. It wasn’t long before W. A. Wilkinson met a similar fate.

The North Shields business was sold in 1964. In 1900, Wilkinson was a big fish in the small pond of North Shields, but by the sixties they just couldn’t compete with the larger national companies that dominated the market.