John SHANKS,

John shanks was my Great Great Great Great Uncle here is an article on him:

Sanitary engineer, b. 1825, Paisley, s. of William Shanks, handloom weaver, and Helen Gowens; m. (1) Isabella Mills; (2) Jessie Tumbull Smith; Founder, Shanks & Co Ltd, Barrhead; d. 18/12/1895, Barrhead; g/v estate: £18,872 17s 6d,

John Shanks was a prime example of the Victorian ‘Self-made man’. Beginning his working life as a plumber, he pioneered what was to become the premier sanitary engineering firm in Britain. He was an astute businessman, a skilled inventor of many sanitary appliances and remained active until the last year of his life when ill-health finally forced him to retire Little is known about the early life of John Shanks. His father, William, was a Paisley handloom weaver and John was apprenticed as a plumber to Wallace and Connell of Glasgow. He worked as a journeyman plumber in the Paisley area until he was 30 years old when he transferred his business to the neighbouring town of Barrhead. While maintaining his plumbing business here, John Shanks began to devise and patent improvements to sanitary ware. He began with cheap portable bath rubs, finally devising fixed domestic appliances. He prided himself on his products being good quality, hard-wearing and of reasonable price. In 1875 he founded Shanks and Co, Sanitary Engineers, with his brother Andrew who had also been a plumber. The firm began on a small site in Main Street, Barrhead, employing eight people. With John as senior partner, the business expanded rapidly. Two decades later, the firm occupied a seven-acre site and employed 600 men, Barrhead’s single largest employer. It was John who was the innovator of the company, taking out some 100 patents by 1894.

All stages of the production of sanitary ware were completed on the Main Street site from iron-moulding to enamelling so that employees were engaged in 20 different trades. Shanks established his own pottery to ensure both uniformity of quality and economy in production. John Shanks always remembered his employees, providing in his will an extra day’s pay to employees who had been with the company for six months on the day of his death.

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5 Responses to John SHANKS,

  1. Sally Adams says:

    I’m currently editing a book written by Alan Adams on the history of Adamsez Ltd Sanitary ware & have a photograph taken in 1922 of the ESWMA gathering at Windermere. The man sitting next to my great Uncle Moses James Adams is named as William Shanks, having read your article I think it must be John Shanks – can you perhaps confirm this for me – maybe you would like a copy of the photo?
    Sally

  2. Sally Adams says:

    Just found the Barrhead Trail site & from the dates it must be William after all! Son of Andrew – or was it Anthony??
    Sally

  3. dacj40 says:

    I would be interested to see the photo. I believe William to be the son of Andrew Shanks. My family diverged from the Sanitary are company long before this. I’m descended from John and Andrew Shanks’s elder brother James who was a mining engineer. He moved to Egremont in Cumbria to manage the iron ore mine. They also farmed and his son Robert eventually moved to Sussex after WW1. I have another blog devoted to the weekly columns, written by James Shank’s daughter Margaret Shanks, in the Scottish farmer. You can find it here: http://gretchensf.wordpress.com/

    • Sally Adams says:

      /Users/dianaspratt/Desktop/Adamsez Bowling Club 3.jpg
      This is the wrong title but the right photo, ‘though it doesn’t look as though you’ll be able to open it. Perhaps you’d email me your personal email address so I can attach the photo & give you the names of a few at the gathering or I can put it on Facebook! I’m on FB as Diana Spratt

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