If there was ever a man born to do the job he did it was Jacob Wilson. After all his father had been the Town Crier before him and his Grandfather before that. In fact, a Wilson had held the post since 1527, Three hundred years before Jacob himself did.

Portrait of Jacob Wilson (1799-1882) (Birmingham Museums Trust)

Born on October 10TH 1799 to parents Jacob Snr and Mary, he was the youngest of nine children. He married Jane Foster Jesson on 10th October 1820, they themselves had ten Children. It is though for his many years of service as Town Crier, 52 in fact, that Jacob Wilson is most fondly remembered.

Following his Father’s death in 1827, Jacob was formally appointed the new Town Crier. His duties were extremely varied and not just proclaiming the news as one may think. He was also in charge of insuring fairness with the weights and measures at the markets, he was also called upon at times of elections where he would proclaim the name of the successful candidate at the Town Hall. He also did less high-profile work such as announcing lost children, and hot food for sale. Jacob Wilson though was at his best and seen in his most finery when he was opening the Fairs at Whitsuntide and Michaelmas. It was a role which Jacob treated with the utmost respect and professionalism; he was one of the most important people in the land.

This however wasn’t to last, despite being held in extremely high esteem by the people of Birmingham sadly progress was to soon catch up with him. Following the formation of a Town Council and the invention of newspapers Jacob found himself at the sprightly age of 80 no longer relevant as a Town Crier. It was with such affection that the Town Council held Jacob Wilson (Between them he and his Father had held the post of Town Crier for over 100 years) That they retired him with a pension of 15 Shillings a week, a not inconsiderable amount at that time. Although one could only imagine the pain Jacob felt that the bell was not to pass onto his children and grandchildren.

Jacob Wilson was to be Birmingham’s last Town Crier. He died on January 18th, 1882 aged 82 years and is buried in Warstone Lane Cemetery in Section J, Plot 2297.

Long live the Queen, and all the Inhabitants”

Unburied Treasures Audio Tour – Jacob Wilson (written and performed by Dennis Cluley)

Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project


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