William Glydon

William Glydon was the very definition of Brummie. Born in Birmingham on the 27th June 1819 (considered to be in the county of Warwickshire at the time), towards the end of the Industrial Revolution – a time in which Birmingham had become the leader in manufacturing and Great Britain was simultaneously, transformed into a global superpower.

One of nine children born to William (Snr) and Sarah Glydon, his father is listed as an engineer and/or blacksmith. It is no surprise then, that William Jnr would go on to have a long career involving machinery and metalwork.

William’s birth must have been such a joyous event for his parents, as the previous children born a couple of years earlier, were a set of twins. The male twin survived (John) but tragically the female (Elizabeth) passed away at only 15 weeks. William would go on to be baptised in the parish of St Martin in Birmingham on the 19th July 1819 (St Martin was the original and only parish until 1715), and nearby St Philips Cathedral, would be the place of William’s wedding at the age of 22, on Feb 21st 1841.

Unfortunately, a truly dreadful event was looming, as a mere 17 months after his marriage, his wife Elizabeth Lister (daughter of an embosser) would pass away at just 22 years old. Undoubtedly, William would have been devastated by such an event. However, he would go on to remarry 6 years later on the 16th April 1848, and his second wife, Amy Amelia Cotterell (daughter of a bootmaker), would produce three healthy children for William. Son William Frederick (born in 1857), and daughters Amelia Pauline (born in 1860) and Sarah Louise (born in 1862).

Eventually setting up his own business, William is listed on every national census as an embosser, chaser or manufacturer. For those unfamiliar with the expressions, ‘chasing’ and ‘embossing’ are metalworking techniques, in which a malleable metal is shaped via hammering. In 1871, William is recorded as employing 90 people and would have been an important employer in his community.  His business, ‘Glydon, Shorthouse and Glydon’ on Eyre Street, Spring Hill is listed as a metal tube manufacturer, as well as a wire and rolling mill.

Unfortunately, Mr Glydon’s success would not last forever, and the death of his trade partner Mr Shorthouse lead to serious financial difficulties for William, and his business was liquidated in 1882, with liabilities amounting to £14,000 (which is approximately 1.5 million pounds today)!

More tragedy would befall the poor man, when in 1891, he is listed as suffering from a ‘severe illness’. However, his friends and colleagues from the Theatre Royal in Birmingham rallied to help William and a complimentary benefit was held on the 6th July to assist with his care. The theatrical performance was well received by amateurs and professionals alike, and The Birmingham Daily Post, paid homage to Mr Glydon’s extensive relationship with the theatre itself, as well as the music society. The fact that William Glydon would go on to live for another nine years, is perhaps assurance (albeit an optimistic one) that the event did indeed extend his life and limit his suffering.

Associated for 40 years with the work completed by George Dawson, an accomplished Shakespearean scholar, an actor, a director of choirs and operatic tenors, and a talented elocutionist and orator, William Glydon certainly made an impact on the theatrical and musical societies of Birmingham.

The city would remain William’s home throughout his life, and although his registered addresses changed over the years, he always remained within the neighbouring districts of Ladywood and Edgbaston, whether that be on Sheepcote Street, Icknield Street West or Sir Harry’s Road.

William Glydon eventually passed away in October 1900 – aged 81 - and is buried amongst his family at Key Hill Cemetery, mere minutes from where he once lived and in the heart of the city he once called home.