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Eliza Tinsley

Businesswomen - Nailmaking

Eliza Tinsley (1813–1882) was born in WolverhamptonStaffordshire. She was the daughter of file maker

Benjamin Butler and Ann Shaw.

The Butler family like the Tinsley’s were very involved with the church and it is thought that Eliza and

Thomas Tinsley, the son of Theophyllis Tinsley must have met at a church function. They married

on 1 January 1839 and had six children, five of whom survived. Thomas Tinsley’s family were successful in

the nail making trade and when in 1851 Eliza was widowed, she appeared to have inherited both the 

nail-making business from her husband which incorporated her deceased father in law’s business also.

She founder the Eliza Tinsley Furniture / Eliza Tinsley & Company, Ltd

In 1871, according to the national census, the company had over 4,000 employees producing nails, chains

rivets and anchors and claimed to be one of the largest Contractors to the Admiralty, manufacturing

specialised nails for ship building.

Eliza, herself travelled the country in search of business and was well respected for her extensive knowledge of products and with a reputation for being fair in bargaining contracts. Eliza was also a humane employer in a time when the trade had a bad reputation for the treatment of its workforce and minimum wages.

Because of her lengthy period of widowhood, she was known locally as ‘The Widow’.

Eliza was known as a generous benefactor in the area and supported many good causes. She eventually sold the business at the age of 58 and retired to ‘The Limes’. A home which she had built on land belonging to her father-in-law.

It is thought that she may have sold the business because of a lack of interest from other family members and her need to retire and enjoy her extended family.

It is interesting that some of her grandsons and other family members served in the army in the southern hemisphere and the name Eliza Tinsley is well known in Australia and New Zealand. Eliza had certainly established an office in Melbourne.

One of her daughters married Capt. Andrew Hamilton Russell, a highly decorated soldier in New Zealand who became Inspector General, New Zealand Forces 1940-41.

Her son George William Tinsley became a sheep farmer in New Zealand but returned to the UK to continue farming in Denbighshire.

Eliza, like so many women of her time, proved that after her husband died, she was capable of running a business and continuing its success.