Industrialist and philanthropist, born in Sulten, North Germany, on 8 December 1806. After commercial training in Rostock he was invited in 1827 to move to Newcastle upon Tyne to work with Christian Allhusen in the corn trade. In 1840 Bolckow was persuaded by his brother-in-law the ironmaster John Vaughan (1799-1868) to invest in the iron industry. They established the Vulcan Ironworks in Middlesbrough and blast furnaces at Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland. The discovery of large iron ore deposits in the Cleveland hills facilitated the expansion of the business to become the largest on Teesside, with 10,000 employees and an annual payroll of £1 million. The partnership was formalised in 1853, and Bolckow, Vaughan and Co. became a limited liability company in 1865.
Bolckow was one of the twelve original commissioners appointed under the 1841 Middlesbrough Improvement Act and was the town's first mayor, following incorporation in 1853. He was elected unopposed as Liberal MP for Middlesbrough in 1868, when the town gained representation in parliament, having been naturalised a British subject in 1841. He retained the seat in 1874. He contributed most of the cost of the Middlesbrough Infirmary (1864), funded the Albert Park (1866-68), and gave generously to local schools. From 1856 he lived at Marton Hall, transferring his allegiance from Centenary WM to the local parish church. He died at Ramsgate on 18 June 1878, and was buried in Marton churchyard. A statue erected in Albert Park in 1891 now stands in Exchange Square.