Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group

The following Obituary was taken from an old newspaper cutting possibly the Times, which became the South Yorkshire Times many years later.

Mr Caleb Kilner Obituary
Death of Conisborough Glass Bottle Chief
A Rugged Captain of Industry
An Inspiring Career

Mr Caleb Kilner J P, of Ivanhoe Lodge, Conisbrough, died very suddenly on Sunday morning.  He had been in indifferent health for a month but was sufficiently well to travel to Doncaster on Saturday with his son Mr George Kilner. On Sunday morning about five o clock he had a heart seizure and died within about half an hour.

Mr Kilner was in his seventy seventh year and was the head of the glass bottle firm of Kilner Brothers Limited.  For over half a century he had been a commanding figure in the Yorkshire glass bottle trade and in the public and religious life of the Conisbrough District.  He was a man of the highest probity and combined business genius with the strictest commercial rectitude.  His was a rugged but attractive personality.  He was a homely soul and his relations with his workpeople had the old fashioned freedom and intimacy of the mid Victorian times.  He conceived the Whitely spirit fifty years before Whitleyism was heard of.  Nowhere in the district is there a happier industrial establishment than the flourishing glass bottle works in Conisbrough.  Mr Kilner will be remembered for many desirable qualities but he will be remembered particularly as an industrial pioneer who made a great deal of money honestly, pleasantly and wholesomely.  His life is an example of the success which waits upon industry, perseverance, patience and intelligence.  

He was born at Castleford in 1843 the son of George and Charlotte Kilner and the grandson of John Kilner of Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, the founder of the firm of Kilner Brothers.  Caleb was educated at the Thornhill Grammar School and entered his grandfathers factory at a  very early age. His first job, for which he was paid two shillings a week, was to prepare clay rolls for the crucible makers.  He learned as a workman every process of bottle manufacture and reached the bottlemakers 'chair' before he was 18 years of age.  His practical education completed, he was given charge of a small department of the Thornhill works and 'making good' there he was sent with his cousin, the late Kilner Bateson to open a branch at Conisborough, the Don Valley district having just been discovered by the glass bottle trade.  That was in 1866.  The Conisborough branch was started with two small pot shops each of eight 'holes' and employed seventy people in all.  Today there are six shops with 64 'holes' employing about five hundred people, many of whom with their families are housed by the firm.  The Conisborough branch flourished from the outset but it involved tremendously hard work.  Many small employers in those days worked side by side with their men encouraging them by their example. Mr Kilner’s oldest employee, Henry Senior who came with him from Thornhill, said on a recent occasion that he had seen Mr Kilner in those early days working up to the waist in water.

The business prospered, both at Conisboro' and Thornhill but notably at Conisborough where it was under the direct influence of Mr Caleb Kilner who was in closest touch with every movement in the trade and was constantly revising methods of manufacture and bringing them up to date. He was enterprising in instinct, was very amenable to suggestion and advice, was very approachable, had many sound commercial ideas of his own and would reject no proposition on the grounds of expense alone.      

He was very solicitous for his workpeople, proud of the excellent output they maintained and always based his relations with them which were rather those of a colleague than of a master, on the principle of a fair days wages for a fair days work. He was deservedly popular with his work people and the leisure of his declining days found him busy with plans for a comfortable recreation club for them.  

He was one of the leading employers in the Yorkshire section of the industry and was for several years President and afterwards Vice President of the Yorkshire Glass Bottle Manufacturers Association.  He also served on the Committee of the National Glass Bottle Manufacturers Association. Outside the three establishments of Kilner Brothers he had a number of commercial interests, including shipping.  He was from 1903 until his death Chairman of the Conisborough Gas Company.  In 1916 the workpeople of Conisborough celebrated the Jubilee of the Conisbrough establishment by presenting to him through his oldest workman,  Mr Henry Senior, referred to above, a handsome silver salver.

Outside business Mr Kilner had two strong enthusiasms one was Wesleyan Methodism and the other Local Government.  He served the public of Conisborough for many years as Way Warden on the old Highway Board and later in 1903 as a member of the Doncaster Rural District Council in conjunction with Mr Frank Ogley and in succession to the late Mr Holmes. he was a member and some time chairman of the Conisborough Burial Board and helped to plan the cemetery in which he was laid to rest this week.  He was a member for eighteen years of the Conisborough School Board and for the last three years was Chairman.  His first public appointment was that of Overseer.   He took a great deal of interest in this work and held the office with great benefit to Conisborough for a number of years. The increasing claims of business caused him gradually to relinquish his public duties some fifteen years ago but his services to the district were very suitably recognised in 1906 by his appointment to the Commission of the Peace for the West Riding.  He sat at Doncaster and was very diligent and conscientious in the discharge of his magisterial functions.

By no one will his death be more keenly felt than by the Wesleyan Methodists of Conisborough and of the Doncaster, Oxford Road, Circuit. He was a devoted Wesleyan and supported that body with the utmost liberality and enthusiasm.  He was particularly helpful when the handsome Wesleyan Church was built at Conisborough at a cost of £4000.  He did not moreover confine his generosity to Methodist causes.  He was a good friend of other denominations and also of non denominational movements of a charitable and uplifting character.  His private benefactions were very considerable. There was in all he did a quiet underlying  of piety and humility.  He was a sterling Christian.

Mr Kilner was twice married first to Miss Sarah Kitson of Thornhill Lees and then to Miss Bates a daughter of Alderman John Bates of Dewsbury, his second wife died in 1911.  Mr Kilner is survived by a son Mr George Kilner who was associated with him in the direction of the firm and two married daughters.  

The remains enclosed in a plain oak coffin were borne into the Church by Messrs T Brooke, J Gentle, W Kelley, J Casey, W Lindley, J Hirst, T Senior and W Hulley all employees at the glass works.  The Cortege was led by his workpeople about four hundred in number who lined the entrance while the body of their beloved employer was carried to its final resting place.