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Title: William Crosskill
Item Name: Sculpture
Maker: Earle, Thomas


White marble bust of William Crosskill (mayor of Beverley in 1848). On a black plinth with gold lettering. Thomas was a Hull based sculptor.

Year: 1861
Materials: marble
Measurements: H: 89cm W: 53cm
ID_Number: ERYMS (BAG) : 1998.700

Related Exhibitions

William Crosskill - Beverley industrial innovator
William Crosskill was born in Butcher Row, Beverley, in 1799 to a staunch Methodist family. His father, although from a family of bakers and butchers, became a whitesmith (tinsmith), and when he died in 1811 his son William was apprenticed to his mother as a whitesmith to continue the business.

The business prospered and in 1825 he founded the company of William Crosskill, whitesmith, brassfounder and ironfounder, and moved to larger premises on a 7 acre site in Mill Lane, which became known as the Beverley Iron Works. In the early days the workshops probably concentrated on orders for general castings such as the fine example of the iron gates and railings still at the entrance to Coronation Gardens in North Bar Within.

As Crosskill developed his skills as an inventor and designer of agricultural machinery his company started to achieve widespread acclaim, winning the ‘Council Great Medal’ at the Great Exhibition in 1851. He also became known as the ‘father of mechanised farming in East Yorkshire’ with machines and implements bearing the Crosskill name such as clod crushers, threshing machines, drills and wagons, some of which can be seen on local farms to this day.

Crosskill was elected to the influential position of Mayor of Beverley in 1848. At this time also, the rapidly expanding railway network reached the town, running alongside the company’s ironworks, which actually had its own sidings, and presenting considerable advantages to the company in the movement of its products.

In March 1851 the foundry employed 240 men, and additional specialist equipment was being produced, including his portable farm railway to facilitate field work in wet weather. Other products included fixed and mobile steam engines, heavy castings for bridges, and lamp standards supplied to the city of Hamburg.

A far-reaching innovation was the ‘Emigrant’s Implement Box’ designed to contain all farming implements deemed necessary for hardy emigrant families, many from the East Riding, to carve out a living from the Canadian prairies, African veldt and the virgin territory even further afield in New Zealand and Australia.

By the mid-1850s Crosskill was the largest employer in Beverley, with over 800 people working in the manufacture of munitions and construction of over 3,000 carts for military use in the Crimean War.

In spite of this increased business, financial problems beset the company, and in 1855 it was taken over by trustees of the East Riding Bank which had loaned William money for business expansion that he was unable to repay. In 1863 William claimed that the trustees were abusing the terms of the trust, resulting in the sale of the business and creation of a new limited company with Sir Henry Edwards, one of Beverley’s Tory MPs, as its chairman.

In 1864 William’s sons Edmund and Alfred set up their own company of Wm Crosskill and Sons on a site in Eastgate, concentrating on the manufacture of wagons and carts, while the ‘Old Foundry’ continued under the name of ‘The Beverley Iron and Waggon Company’. However, this business suffered heavily in the Great Depression of the mid-1870s, resulting in compulsory winding-up in 1878 with the loss of 200-300 jobs. The land, plant, stock and buildings were sold off by auction, but the important patterns and drawings were bought by the Eastgate Crosskills.

After the death of Alfred Crosskill in 1904 the Eastgate company was taken over by the East Yorkshire Cart and Waggon Company (a local competitor formerly known as Sawney and Company) to form the ‘East Yorkshire and Crosskills Cart and Waggon Company Ltd’. This company survived until 1914 when again it went into voluntary liquidation and, although attempts were made to revive it for a few years as ‘Beverley Waggon Works’, it eventually faded away around 1925. The Eastgate buildings were then acquired by Gordon Armstrong for the manufacture of his shock absorbers.