The Wilkinson Empire - The Heartlands
John Wilkinson's business empire centred on his ironworks at Bersham, Bradley (Staffordshire), Willey (Shropshire), and later at Brymbo.
His businesses included industries vital to his ironworks: collieries, ironstone supplies, limestone quarries and limekilns. He invested wherever money could be made, especially in the metal industries (lead, copper and tin) and canals.
Until 1795 Wilkinson was closely connected with Boulton & Watt in Birmingham supplying cylinders and engine parts for their steam engines. Wilkinson preferred to concentrate on the 'engine' business as he saw it as more profitable in the long term than cannon making.
Wilkinson explored new uses for iron at every opportunity. He was the catalyst for the idea of building an Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale. Along with his friend, Abraham Darby III, he provided the finance for its construction.
The Demands for Guns & Ordnance bring great and pressing and with the Engine Work taking so much time, room and men that would dispatch 10 Tons in Armament for one of the latter... I should consider it a favourable Circumstance at this time if Engine Orders had been more slack. However, I shall continue to sacrifice to the Engine Branch as I have done - considering it a more lasting Trade than the other which the Present War alone occasions.