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Saturday 10 January 2015

Fact 54. Statue for MP of 32 years.

Charles Henry Wilson was born in Hull 22nd April 1833 into the family of Thomas Wilson who had started in shipping in 1822. That company became Wilson Line in 1840.

Charles attended Kingston College in Hull and along with his older brother David and younger brother Arthur joined the shipping business in 1850 as joint managers. In 1869 their father died and Charles and Arthur took over the running of the company, with David becoming a silent partner.

in 1871 Charles married Florence Jane Helen Wellesley, the daughter of Col William Wellesley, who was nephew of the Duke of Wellington. They had five surviving children, three girls and two boys. (Millicent Florence, Charles Henry Jr., Guy Greville, Enid Edith, Gwladys Alive).

 Under Charles Snr. and Arthur's stewardship Thomas Wilson and Sons became the largest privately owned shipping company in the world by 1903. Even by 1891 they were making fast profits by today's standards with a profit of £2.5 million that would be equivalent to approximately £270 million today! See Fact 4 regarding Wilson Shipping Line.

The saying in Hull was that 'Hull is the Wilson Line and Wilson Line is Hull. This can be illustrated by the fast that the Wilson family were on the boards of all the major undertakings such as the Docks and railway developments. In 1866 Charles Snr. also paid for the building of the Seaman's Mission in Postern Gate that became the seaman's church and now is a pub. Charles Snr. participated in the politcal life of the city and was High Sheriff of Hull for many years and elected to Parliament as Member for Hull in 1874 for the Liberal party. He held this seat until it was abolished in 1885 and was then elected for the constituency of Hull West which he held until 1906 when he stepped down. His son Charles Jnr. was then elected in his place. In 1901 Charles and Wilson Line became further embedded into the life of Hull when they bought the ailing Earles Ship Yard (See Fact. 46) that employed many thousands in the area. Later they amalgamated with the North Eastern Railway to become Wilsons and North East Railway Shipping Company in 1906 which went on to build further docks in Hull.

Charles Henry Wilson (1833–1907), 1st Baron Nunburnholme
Charles Henry Wilson painted 1880 - 1890.

A caricature of Charles Wilson from  about the same time as the painting above. Vanity Fair 1885

In 1878 Charles bought the 14000 acre estate of Warter Priory, just NE of Pocklington and 24 miles NW of Hull, from Lord Muncaster. The estate was well known as a sporting venue and a record bag for one day was recorded as 3824 pheasants. Two fox hunts also used the land for their pursuits. This probably why the painting above pictures him with a shot gun. Charles and Jane did not seek out a high social life and did not attend local race meetings etc like his brother Arthur. Warter Priory was a large country house but when purchased the Wilson's appointed architects Smith and Broderick of Hull to supervise the addition of a great hall, a three story clock tower and a grand marble staircase. The changes gave the house a hundred rooms or which thirty were bedrooms. After Charles's death his wife maintained the house and estate until 1929 when it was sold to the Hon. George Vesty who was part of the large Shipping and business Vesty Empire. On his death in 1968 the estate was sold to the Marquis of Normanby and the Guiness Family Trust. The purchase was made for the shooting estate really as the family home was Musgrave Castle and despite a search no tenant could be found. In May 1972 the entire contents were sold off, and very shortly afterwards the house was demolished and the remains used to fill the lake. Presumably the National Trust or English heritage were not interested at the time.

Warter Priory
Warter Priory.

Warter Priory interior.

Charles and Arthur realised in 1901 that none of their children would be able to take on the business when they retired so they appointed Oswald Sanderson as Managing Director. Sanderson was the son of an American ship builder and was an astute choice as he managed the business well. Charles Snr., despite being a industrialists also saw the plight of his workers and had great sympathy for the need of a Trade Union movement. In 1893 during increased tension with dock workers a strike had be called Charles Snr. contributed to a fund for the wives and children of the strikers as he couldn't bear to see them suffer. As a Liberal MP he was bitterly opposed to the Boer War in 1899 but despite this he lent to Government his companies best ship, the 'Ariosto' for the duration.

Charles was appointed Baron Nunburnholme of Kingston upon Hull in 1906 when he stood down as an MP for Hull west. Nunbornholme is a small hamlet near to Pocklington and Warter Priory. It was at Warter Priory where Charles died unexpectedly in October 1907. There were demands from the general public to recognise his work as an MP for 32 years and the great good he had brought to the City. A public subscription was opened and a statue commissioned. The sculptor was to be Derwent Wood. The statue of Portland Stone was unveiled in 1913. The statue has a good position in front of the Guild Hall entrance in Hull  and is well visiting when wandering around the 'Old Town'.

Statue of Charles Henry Wilson in his Baronial robes outside the Guild Hall, Hull. It is Grade II Listed and the inscription reads;
'Charles Henry Wilson, First Baron Nunburnholme. Born 1833, died 1907. 32 years a Member of Parliament for Hull and a great benefactor to the city. Erected by public subscription'.

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