Yesterday, in the post about the Pelsall boiler explosion, I mentioned the work being undertaken by top history operative Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler on the nature and extent of the Harrison Empire. Here’s a first instalment of his work on the history of an industrial empire from Peter, and jolly impressive it is, too.
Please join with me in thanking Peter for this wonderful work, and for his continued contributions to the blog, including this utterly astounding comment from yesterday.
Most of the groundwork for an an attempt to trace the beginnings of the Harrisons family’s involvement in the area has been done by Andy, in the (POST Eliza). The first mentions in the post of William Harrison Jnr are in 1825 with his marriage to Mary Bealey Stanley at Walsall. Also the record from British History Online of his involvement in Butts Limeworks in Walsall in 1826. He was then in partnership with George Strongitharm and John Wagstaff, taking a lease of the land from a John Walhouse. It is the name George Strongitharm that may hold the key to unravelling the early years.
Below is the early parts of the trees of the Harrison and Strongitharm families. It could be considered circumstantial, but the name Strongitharm is unusual and there is a lack of suitable alternatives.
Are Sarah and George Strongitharm brother and sister, or at least related? Are William and George cousins? Well at least it could give evidence of a close enough link to forge a future partnership. The later connections around the name Bealey?
Andy had discovered that William Harrison Jnr had been born in Middlewich in Cheshire in around 1798. There exists a Cowdroy’s Directory of Cheshire  dated 1789 with details of Middlewich and surrounding towns, but no mention of the families could be found.
The first mention of George Strongitharm is his marriage to Ann Williams at Rushall in 1800. So what of Ann Williams? Well the is a candidate of similar age to George, whose father was a Benjamin Williams and listed as Church Warden at St Mathew, and elected a Constable of Walsall Borough Foreign around 1775.  Rushall had of course been the site of Limestone extraction for some years, but a description  gives no mention of the families at that time of 1813. However there is a mention of John Walhouse, and also that, at this time, there is more demand for lime than can be supplied!
So did George Strongitharm Snr make his way to old Walsall Town sometime before his marriage in 1800? He may have given the nod to his sister/relation as there is a record of a William Harrison as Church Warden at St Mathew in 1810.
Just before the partnership, in 1825, William Harrison Jnr was married Mary Bealey Stanley. Her father may have been a Joseph Bealey Stanley mentioned as Church Warden in the year around 1810 alongside a William Harrison! 
So it appears that the involvement in limestone started in 1826, and Andy finds that in the 1841 Census Wiiliam Harrison is living in Stafford Street with his family, as a Lime Master at the age of 35. William Bealey Harrison is just 3 years old and has an elder brother by 10 years, John Harrison. (I am puzzled why the the first boy was not called William!)
13, Stafford Street, is one of these stores on the left.
Around 1830 they also possess a Baskerville Wharf in Birmingham. And on the 30th April 1830 their engine house, situated near to Stafford Street, was broken open and quantity of brasses belonging to the engine were stolen…as other robberies had taken place “there can be little doubt that a daring gang of thieves infest the town and neighbourhood, and in too many instances they commit their depredations with impunity.” (Staffs Advertiser).  I have a note, but cannot confirm, that it was 13 Stafford Street and must have been close to the actual Works. It seems that the family home and offices were at the same location.
January 1836: George Rutter between 70 and 80 years old, went one evening to the offices of W Harrison, Lime Master in Stafford Street in Walsall, for the purpose of being paid for some work. He went up a flight of 10 or 12 steps by which the office is approached, to see if Mr Harrison was in; finding he was not he turned, and there being no light, he fell from top to bottom. He died on the following Monday. 
October 1839: On Monday night a ewe lamb, belonging to Mr Harrison, Lime Master, Walsall was feloniously slaughtered in a field adjoining Long Wood Lane, and the carcass taken away. No trace has yet been had of the offenders, but a reward is offered on conviction. 
April 1841: William Harrison, Lime Master, appointed church warden at St Peter’s Church Walsall.
It could be said that the above information is chosen to fit appearances, but for me, and I may be wrong, there are too many coincidences. I believe when the Harrison family hit the streets of Walsall they were not particularly well off, but when William Harrison Jnr died in 1877, Andy found that he left just under £100,000. On the death of WE Harrison in 1937 he left a gross estate of about £1.25m. It would be quite correct to say that, of the Harrison family, ‘they provided way of life and finance to the community from 1849 to 1947, some 98 years’ . I am now intrigued as to how the money was gained!
 Cowdroy’s Directory of Cheshire (1789)
 A Topographical History of Staffordshire, William Pitt (1817)
 History and Directory of Walsall, Thomas Pearce (1813)
 William Harrison Company Limited, CCMHS (2006)
 National Archive Newspap