William Edward Hipkins

William Edward Hipkins was born in Birmingham on 1st January 1857, the son of George Frederick and Rebecca Hipkins. The family founded and owned a brass foundry in Edgbaston known particularly for its corkscrews.  

William attended grammar school in Birmingham and then, like his sister Bertha, travelled through the USA and continent before joining the family firm as an Apprentice engineer in 1875. By 1882 he was the assistant manager and then became the manager from 1886 to 1889.

He moved on in 1890 to manage J & E Wright, manufacturers of steel ropes, until 1895. During this period, he wrote a book entitled “The wire rope and its applications”.

In 1895 William became the final MD of James Watt and Co. Engineering and bought the Soho foundry. He also became MD of WT Avery, weighing machinists, and moved their manufacturing base from West Bromwich to the Soho Foundry.  He was said to have revolutionised working practices including an emphasis on good customer service and providing training schemes for his employees.

Now a successful and influential Birmingham industrialist, William remained a Director of J & E Wright, became a Director of BSA, a Governor of the University of Birmingham and took over the family business when his mother died.

William Hipkins lived in Augustus Road in Edgbaston and had a London base for business purposes. In 1905 he married Lavinia Green in London but sadly she was to die of cancer in 1910. The couple did not have any children.

In 1912 William was due to visit a new Avery’s factory in Milwaukee as they had just been given a large contract to supply weighing machines to the US Navy dockyards.

He arranged to travel first class on the RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton. W. T. Avery had supplied a weighing machine in the Turkish bath on the liner and much of the weighing equipment used at Southampton docks. William occupied cabin C39 and was First Class passenger number 680. The ticket had cost him £50.

William Edward Hipkins died on 15th April 1912 when RMS Titanic sank. His body was never recovered. He was later described in the local press as a “forgotten industrial giant”.

RMS Titanic

The RMS Titanic, a luxury steamship, sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic after sideswiping an iceberg during its maiden voyage. Of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the disaster. One of the passengers who’s body was never found was a local industrialist named William Edward Hipkins.