Thorneycroft, George Benjamin

Ironmaster, born on 20 August 1791 at Tipton, Staffs. After a spell at Kirkstall, near Leeds, the family returned to Staffordshire. George became a puddler at the Moorcroft foundry at Bradley and invented a new method of puddling iron, for which he received a percentage of the profits In 1814 he married Eleanor Page of Moxley With his savings and his wife's dowry he bought a small forge at Willenhall; then joined his twin brother Edward at the Shrubbery Ironworks in Wolverhampton, which later became the firm of Thorneycroft, Hartley, Kesteven and Perks.

George Thorneycroft became Church Warden at St. Peter's Church in Wolverhampton, but contributed £500 to the Wesleyan Centenary Fund and attended Darlington Street WM chapel on Sunday evenings, sitting in the 'top seats' over the clock. Conservative in politics and supporting the Corn Laws, he was nevertheless supportive of his workers. A blunt, outspoken, public-spirited man, he was involved in the Wolverhampton (now the 'Royal') Hospital. When the town was made a borough in 1848 he was the first Mayor, serving two terms and founding the 'Thorneycroft Benefaction' which provided relief for the poor. He was made a Justice of the Peace for Staffordshire and Shropshire.

In 1845 he was nearly burned to death when a boiler at one of his collieries at Willenhall burst. He never fully recovered, but died on 28 April 1851 and crowds lined the streets at his funeral.

His formidable wife, Eleanor, née Page, born on 28 March 1795, remained a staunch Wesleyan and one of the pioneers of Trinity Chapel, Wolvrhampton (1863). She died on 5 January 1874 and her memorial tablet was on the wall of Darlington Street chapel.

One of their daughters, Emma, married the Smethwick glass-maker John Hartley (1813-1884) who became a partner in Chance and Sons. Their son, the Rev. John Thorneycroft Hartley (c.1849-1935), vicar of Burneston, N. Yorks, won the men's singles at Wimbledon in 1879 and 1880 and was runner-up in 1881. Another daughter, Ellen (Eleanor), in 1857 married Henry Hartley Fowler. The Thorneycrofts, Hartleys, Chubbs, Perks, and also the Macdonalds, were part of a powerful West Midlands Wesleyan 'cousinhood'.

  • Wolverhampton Chronicle, 10 April 1851
  • J.B. Owen, A Memoir of G.B. Thorneycroft (1856)
  • 'The Man who Pioneered Modern Wolverhampton', in Wlolverhampton Magazine, no. 1, July 1963
  • Centenary Festival Handbook (1863-1963) of Trinity Methodist Church, Compton Road, Wolverhampton