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Cameron, Colonel John William

Brewery Owner

John William Cameron was born in 1841 in Kirkby Stephen, Lancashire, although his family was of Scottish origin.

Before he came to West Hartlepool as a young man he had served his apprenticeship in the Brewery trade in Barnard Castle. It was also during his time at Barnard Castle that he became interested in things military and before he came to West Hartlepool he had been 5 years in the Volunteer Rifle Corps there. This interest he was to develop a great deal further in his new home.

He moved to West Hartlepool in 1865, at the age of 24 years to become head brewer at the Lion Brewery. The Brewery had been set up in 1852 when William Waldon bought up the land to build on. He was a newcomer to West Hartlepool, as were all the important figures in the early days. Waldon was elected as a Town Improvement Commissioner to serve on the first Board running the new town but he died before its first meeting, on 5th September 1854.

Waldon’s widow then ran the business until the eldest son was of age, in the period before Cameron’s arrival. William Waldon Junior does not seem to have been interested in the brewing business and he died young in 1872, after which Cameron agreed with the trustees to take over the business on a 21-year lease. He soon embarked on a 10-year programme of building and enlarging the premises, buying up more land near Stockton Street.

In 1893 he bought the brewery outright and made the business into a Limited Company. He then embarked on absorbing nearby competitors; he bought up Nixey, Coleclough & Baxter on the Headland and M. Rickinson & Company by 1895, so that he doubled his tied houses from 50 to 103.

His involvement in philanthropy and public works was extensive and his military activities also took much of his energy. He joined the Artillery Volunteers on coming to West Hartlepool and was a Sub-Lieutenant by 1871. By 1874 he had become Captain and in 1881 he became commander of the town’s Corps. In 1885 the Rifle & Artillery Volunteers amalgamated and he became Lieutenant Colonel. The 4th Durham Volunteers had a good reputation due to their record in National Shooting competitions and their smart turn out at local civic occasions.

His political career led to his being prominent in the history of the new town. In 1873 he was elected a Town Commissioner and he was to be on the Board for 14 years. Although he only became the chairman in 1886 it was in this period that the Town gained its Charter of Incorporation, largely due to his efforts.

At the first Municipal Elections he came top of the poll and was elected an Alderman, he did not become Mayor until 1889, letting Alderman William Gray and George Pyman take precedence. His brewery’s attractive head office “Greenbank” was the site of Stranton’s celebrations in 1887, the year of Victoria’s Jubilee and West Hartlepool’s Charter.

His last civic act was to offer the statue of the town’s founder, Ralph Ward Jackson, to West Hartlepool, in 1895. He wished it to be unveiled at the top of Church Street, where it stands today, and that it be unveiled in 1897, the 50th anniversary year of the opening of the West Dock. He himself died before the ceremony in 1896. Perhaps a more important monument to him was the Cameron Hospital, presented to the town by his family.

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