The Blacklead King

The story of


My interest in William George Nixey (seen above) dates back many years, to the time when my father told me about the Black Lead company that was part of our family. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to know exactly where in our family tree he fitted in. In 1993, as a completely blind person, my ability to use a computer was made possible by the assistance of text-to-speech software. A few years later, as the availability of genealogical records on the Internet became more readily available, I keenly began researching my ancestry. Around the same time, Sue Baker, one of our cousins who lives just outside the city of Bath, sent us copies of two advertising posters, one of Nixey’s Black Lead, the other of Nixey’s Blue, which we framed and proudly hung on our wall.

After a number of years of intense research, I eventually discovered that William George Nixey was much more closely related to me than I’d ever imagined. He was actually the brother of my great great grandfather, Joseph, their father, John, being a wheelwright at Slough in Buckinghamshire and Winkfield in Berkshire. You may be interested to read a separate section on this website detailing the life and family of my great great grandfather, called My Nixey Family – From Buckinghamshire to Somerset . . . and Beyond.

Several years ago, I began collecting together numerous pieces of information regarding my newly found great great great uncle,, but it was never compiled into chronological order, and written in such a way that may have made it of interest to others researching his life, family and business. In fact, after a short while, it was all forgotten about. That was until John Branston, another cousin from Bath, told me about a conversation he’d recently had with Allan James, the verger of St Lawrence’s church in Slough, regarding William George Nixey. It was then that my desire to make available as much information as possible about him, his family and business was well and truly rekindled.

I could never have imagined what a wide and varied story I would encounter along the way. With events including fires, court cases, awards, thefts, and even a suicide – to name just a few, one thing is for sure, whatever your interest, there’s something here for everyone, including Freemasonry, the military, politics, religion and Royalty!

Prior to World War II, Maxwell Fraser, the pen name of Dorothy Phillips, wrote a series of articles in the Slough Observer which were later compiled into the book known as “The History of Slough”. In chapter 11 entitled “Trade and Industry”, she stated:

Very little seems to be known of the origin of Nixey’s once famous blacklead, which was presumably placed on the market before W.G. Nixey bought the Old Vicarage in 1856, and built Springfield House (then popularly known as ‘Blacklead Castle’, and now Upton Towers). The blacklead was advertised as ‘the Servants’ Friend’, and made a fortune for its inventor.

It is my intention to correct this apparent lack of knowledge, and to make known as much as possible about not only “Nixey’s once famous blacklead”, but many other products and inventions such as the ones listed below:

  • Black Lead
  • Blue
  • “Bobby” Blue
  • Boot Cream
  • Boot Polish (Black and Brown)
  • “Cervus” Bag Blue
  • “Cervus” Knife Polish
  • Cycle Lubricant
  • Egg-Shell Enamel “Berlin Black”
  • Emery Cloth
  • Fine Black Varnish
  • Fly-Catchers
  • Furniture Polish
  • Garden Labels
  • “Invicta” Knife Polish
  • Knife Polish
  • “Nixelene” Stove Paste
  • “Pictorial London”
  • Refined Black Lead
  • Revolving Money Till
  • “Silver Moonlight” Stove Polish
  • Soho Square Blue
  • “Solvonian” Boot Creams
  • Washing Crystals

The majority of work carried out on this project was done during 2015, which I felt was very fitting as it marked the 250th anniversary of the Nixey family’s appearance at Slough, Buckinghamshire. What better time could there be to commemorate the life, family and business of William George Nixey, and of course, his son of the same name?

Please note: Inevitably, where newspaper articles have been quoted, names, ages and places are sometimes inaccurate, but the content of the articles used are undoubtedly in connection with specific members of this family. Also, where amounts of money have been included, the online Currency Converter of the National Archives website has been used to give an equivalent value as of 2005.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my deepest and sincerest thanks to Judy Lester of Kerrywood Research, London, who gave so much of her personal time in transcribing numerous newspaper articles, wills and parish records, to Nivard Ovington for his most valuable assistance with military queries and in editing and enhancing some of the images, and to John Branston who has been of great help and encouragement to me throughout the duration of this project. I am eternally grateful to all three of them.

Arthur Ernest Nixey (1927-2015)

On Monday 28th September 2015, my father passed away at the age of eighty-eight.
As he shared my enjoyment in learning about our family history,
I would like to dedicate this website and its content to his memory.

If you have any corrections, contributions, or suggestions regarding any part of this website, or if you would just like to say “hello”, please get in touch through the Contact Form. I would also very much appreciate it if you could find just a few moments to leave a message in my Visitors’ Book. Thanks very much!

Jonathan Nixey – 28th November 2015

Table of Contents

Items that can often be found on the eBay website are Doulton Ware salt glazed stone bottles produced by Doulton & Co. at Lambeth, which are stamped with the wording “W G Nixey 12 Soho Square London”. These cream coloured stoneware bottles are often incorrectly listed as having once contained beer, black lead, or ink. Beer and ink were never sold by the company, while black lead was only sold in solid tablets and not in bottles. There were only two products sold in these bottles, Egg-Shell Enamel “Berlin Black”, which by the turn of the twentieth century was being sold in all five sizes, and Fine Black Varnish, which was only sold in two sizes.

Doulton & Co. was first and foremost a manufacturer of industrial ceramics, including water filters, drainage pipes and sanitary fittings. In the early 1860’s, however, the company began the manufacture of domestic and ornamental salt glazed stoneware that became known as “Doulton Ware.” Their decorative stoneware produced in association with the School of Art at Lambeth had enormous success at International Exhibitions in the 1860’s and 1870’s, culminating in acclaim at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1886 and also at Chicago in 1893. Public interest and production peaked in the late 1890’s when about 370 artists were employed at Lambeth making the salt-glazed ornamental stoneware.


Maxwell Fraser & the History of Slough – Slough History Online

Histories of UK Potters and Pottery Manufacturers – Doulton History 1854-2005


The portrait of William George Nixey appeared in the book “Two centuries of Soho, its institutions, firms, and amusements” by John Henry Cardwell, published 1898 by Truslove and Hanson, London; the image was edited and enhanced by Nivard Ovington.

The photo of the five sizes of stoneware bottles produced by Doulton & Co of Lambeth for W G Nixey of 12 Soho Square appears by kind permission of Andrew Nixey.

This website was last updated on Sunday 24th September 2017
Details of the Most Recent Updates:

  • 24th September 2017: Added some items to the list of products on the home page; added an article from the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette of Saturday 29th January 1842 to chapter 2, and made some changes to surrounding text; added a notice from the South London Chronicle of Saturday 26th January 1901 to chapter 9; updated the surnames index page.
  • 22nd September 2017: Added a newspaper item regarding a theft committed by William Barnes to chapter 4; updated the surname index page including adding the surname Dunham; rearranged and reworded certain sections of the home page.
  • 14th August 2017: Added more details regarding the Stevens family in chapter 6, added the surname Comins to the Surname Index page.

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