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Thomlinson, William

Managing Director
Sea View 10 The Green Seaton Carew

Born at Haughton-le-Skerne (Houghton-le-Spring) in County Durham. William travelled to America where he worked in the iron industry in Tennesee. In October 1875 at aged 21 he is recorded as sailing on the SS Britannia from Liverpool for New York. On his return to Britain he settled in Seaton Carew in 1882 when he bought a large house on the Green that had been the King's Head Hotel. He named the property Sea View (the building later became known as Seaton Hall) and converted it into a family home. William worked at The Seaton Carew Iron Company (controlled by the Carlton Iron Company) where he was appointed Manager. He married Hannah Kirk, the daughter of Thomas Kirk the Managing Director, at Stockton in 1882. When Kirk died in 1906 William took his place as Managing Director. In 1920 the Company was bought out by Dorman Long making William an extremely wealthy man. He retired from business in 1924.

Hannah Kirk was born in 1860 at Bredbury, Cheshire and married William in 1882 at Stockton-on-Tees. The couple had four children: Kathleen Mary was born in October 1883 and married Lionel L Benke. She died in 1936. Gladys Kirk was born October 1885 and married Charles L Wainwright in June 1912. She died in January 1975. William Francis Kirk was born 30 September 1893 and died on 23 May 1963. Aileen Phyllis was born 13 June 1897 and married Raymond Windham De La Poer Beresford-Peirse on 3 July 1923. She died at Swainby, North Yorkshire on 2 April 1944. Hannah (known as 'Nancy') died on 8 January 1926 and was buried at Seaton Carew on 11 January.

William was closely associated with the Y.M.C.A. movement and was the founder and first commanding officer of the Imperial Lad's Brigade. He devoted much time and energy into furthering of the volunteer movement locally and was an officer in the old Durham Royal Garrison Artlillery. He was also an officer in the Durham Light Infantry. As Deputy Lieutenant of the County he applied himself with vigour and initiative to the military side of that position.

He was instrumental in the raising and training of two battalions of the Durham Light Infantry known as 'Bobs' Durham Bantams. In 1917 and 1918 he commanded a number of voluntary units including artillery and engineers forming part of the Coast Defence group for County Durham. After the War he took a prominent part in the formation of the West Hartlepool Branch of the British Legion due to his great interest in the welfare of ex-servicemen. He was the honoured president of the branch after the death of Colonel Robson in 1936. He was one of the West Hartlepool Town Commissioners and on the incorporation of the borough in 1887 became one of the first members of the Town Council. He was a Justice of the Peace for County Durham. He also had interests in almost every aspect of public work including philanthropic, religous, political, military and industrial.

His public service was recognised when he received a knighthood bestowed on him by the King in June 1936.

William was not only generous with his time but with his money. He made a gift of the Vesper Houses he had built in Queen Street. These consisted of five cottages of Tudor design to be used for the accommodation of aged women from Seaton Carew. Substantial amounts were given to the church schools of St Aidan's and Seaton Carew. Money was given to the public library for books on scientific and technical subjects and he was a generous benefactor to Holy Trinity Church where in 1920 he had a handsome clock with Cambridge chimes erected in the tower along with a peal of bells in thanks for deliverance from the First World War. Gray's Art Gallery and Museum benefited from his generousity from its opening with a collection of 705 pieces of oriental china in 1922 valued at the time at £1,500. Many other items were donated or loaned by him for display over the years.

During his retirement he toured extensively in India collecting figures of Hindu deities and Buddhas. Travelling also to Burma and Aden. On his return in 1929 he wrote articles about his travels which were published in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail. In 1935, at 80 years of age, he toured Central and South America and took a 2,000 mile trip by air visiting New Zealand and the remote Pitcairn Island amongst other destinations. Articles on his travels were again published in the local newspaper. In 1924 William and Hannah were recorded as sailing on the SS Homeric from Southampton to the U.S.A. William is then recorded as sailing on the SS Homeric from Southampton to the U.S.A in June 1926. from Yokohama on the SS Tatsuta Maru and from San Francisco on the SS Santa Paula in 1935.

On his death at the age of 89 his will was proved at £234, 153. (The Treasury gained over £77.000) His huge collection of figures of Hindu dieties and oriental Buddhas was bequeathed to  Gray's Art Gallery and Museum.

A stained glass window in Holy Trinity Church was dedicated on Easter Sunday of 1965 which was a gift from Gladys Wainwright in memory of her parents.


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