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The mysterious origins of William Bullock

I have found this story. William Bullock was a silversmith and statue maker. He had a brother George who was a cabinet maker. William was in Sheffield in the late 18th century.

William was a collector of unusual objects and curiosities. He acquired Napoleons carriage and had a museum at his home. In the early 1800s he moved to Liverpool and started a museum there and then went on to London and started his museum there. Eventually he sold up everything to go on an expedition to Mexico to find artefacts there.

There are loads of info about the Liverpool and London museums and his expeditions but I can find no info about his parents or his place of birth. He is not registered in the Cutlers records though I assume he and his brothers must have done an apprenticeship somewhere. There is a hint that his family came from Birmingham and were involved in making wax models.

What I'd really like to find out is where he lived in Sheffield. He died in 1849 not sure where. He bought land in USA but don't know if he lived there. I think he had a son called William.
If you google you can find William Bullocks items for sale and indeed others copying his style. You can also find photos of his brothers cabinets.

His life after Sheffield is well documented and fascinating but his life in Sheffield and possibly before is not.

There are plenty of silversmiths past and present in Sheffield so a Birmingham connection doesn't follow.

Its so annoying when people write something without saying why they think there was a Birmingham connection or what connection there was with Waxworks. Bullock is a pretty common name in the Sheffield area but isn't exactly uncommon elsewhere. I've tried trade directories for Sheffield and Apprentice cutlers but I think possibly he would be in a different guild. Logically he should be in an 1841 census but as he was in London by then it wouldn't help as it is only likely to say born out of county.


This is him in London.
Hi DW,

Dont know if you have seen this or not. You think this could be him :confused:

Description Will of William Bullock of Piccadilly , Middlesex
Date 21 May 1849
Catalogue reference PROB 11/2092links to the Catalogue
Dept Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
Series Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers
Piece Volume number: 7 Quire numbers: 301-350
Image contains 1 will of many for the catalogue reference

Not sure if the link will work
As usual im keeping up with my sidetracking :biggrin: Its not the info you were looking for but very interesting all the same. I found more in the Aussie papers than the English ones on him :2fun::2fun:
Its quiet a long article :rolleyes:

South Australian Register
Monday 29 January 1877


'Where is the man of middle age5 be he a native of England, Scotland, or Ireland, who has not seen the Duke of Wellington? From 1815, the year in which he reached the summit of his fame, at an age which permitted him to enjoy for a long period the result of his signal triumphs, until the year 1852, when, at the patriarchal age of eighty-three, he surrendered to the universal conqueror, no man was personally more within the observation of the British pubiic than the great Duke. After the battle of Waterloo through his own instrumentality his peculiar avocation, like that of Othello, was gone. Then might that inflexible countenance be seen frequently in the House of Lords, or at the Horse Guards, or at reviews, levees, funerals, marriages ; walking, riding, driving, or being driven in any part of the metropolis of Britain or of its rural districts ; so frequently indeed that although its presence was never unnoted it at length created no sensation in beholders. For myself, I have heard him speak as a senator, and in other public capacities scores, perhaps hundreds of times, always sensibly, never eloquently. I have seen him reviewing troops ; presiding at his own table on the annual occasion of the Waterloo banquet; accompanying the Monarch, William IY., to the inaugura tion of a reformed London Bridge ; seated at performances in the Italian Opera house ; giving. away a noble bride at the Church of St. George's, Hanover-square ; following the remains of Lord Castlereagh to Westminster Abbey, amid a scene of tumult and incongruity as rare as it is indescribable ; and under a variety of other circumstances. Two occasions I call to remembrance when I looked on the Duke of Wellington with peculiar interest. On the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo — June 18, 1833 — I chanced to be walking near the Turnstile, Holborn, when I saw people running, and heard the word passed that a mob was hooting and hustling the Duke. I was in time to be done of those who collected around an accompanied him to his carriage, which was not far distant. Novel as such treat ment was to him, and affable as was the smile which accompanied his thanks as the coachman drove westward, that in flexibility of countenance was never more obvious than then. In the evening the window of his dining-room was fired into from Hyde Park while the annual Waterloo celebration was proceed ing. With the readiness of resource which had accompanied him through life, he immediately after caused metal blinds on the Venetian principle to be fixed outside the windows, and they were bullet-proof. The other incident occurred when Marshal Soult, one of his most formid able antagonists in the Peninsula, was his guest at Apsley House. The first time I saw Soult was one fine May morning, when he and Wellington, both men in the autumn of life, were walking their horses side by side up Constitution Hill. They were chatting complacently but earnestly on topics whose import none might guess, but knowledge of which if attainable could not have been other than interesting. Never, however, did I feel such interest as on beholding the Duke for the first time at the conclusion of the war. His name had become familiar to my child hood as Sir Arthur Wellesley, and sub-, sequently as Lord Wellington. Hitherto, having been incessantly abroad, he had occupied in the public mind, if I may use the expression, the position of a con temporary historical personage. Now he was about to subside into a distinguished unit of His Majesty's subjects, partaking familiarly of the everyday life of the general 'public. 1 was then a schoolboy at home for the holidays, and chanced one day to be at my father's place of business, which at that time formed portion of the building in Piccadilly, nearly opposite Bond-street, called the Egyptian Hall, Belzoni, an ex traordinary man in his way, was then exhibiting in the hall his celebrated Egyptian tomb. Mr. William Bullock, the naturalist, came hurriedly up to us, exclaiming, ' Look out, Lord Wellington is coming past !' I placed myself on the step of the entrance portico, whence I
could not fau to obtain _a good view 6f_ him as he passed. . His approach, was, indicated by a crowd on the pavemerit separating into two lines, and a general raising of hats. He walked very fast, and kept touching his hat at every step in recognition of the continuous respect paid to him. His appearance was that of a muscular thick-set man, and he looked shorter than in after years when he had become more slender, but his figure by no means justified O'Connell's description of him as 'the stunted corporal.' He wore the coat, a compromise between shooting and indoor attire, whose pattern was at once generally adopted, and on which was conferred his illustrious name. That honour was shared by a low boot over which the trouser fell to the instep, and whick, as general. wear, speedily supplanted - top-boots, hessians, and aE other kinds previously in vogue. I had taken a complete side view of him, when, a3 if struck by a sudden thought, he. made a half-wheel, which brought his face exactly opposite to mine, exalted as I was by the step. 'Oblige me,' he said, 'by telling me where the Egyptian tomb is being exhibited.' 'At the end of this passage, your Grace,' was my reply, as I pointed J the way to the exhibition-room. The j cluster of gazers behind me separated to j left and right, and through the avenue ; thus formed the illustrious warrior, with j a touch of the hat ' and ' Thank you,' j was quickly entombed among mummies from the pyramids. . ; :. When I went back to school at the end of the holidays all the boys had of course a great deal to communicate and a little to discuss. Among other topics the recently-returned General: had con siderable preponderance. One had seen hi3 back as he rode thither ; another had met him full face, particularly regarding his nose, as he walked hither; the father- of one . had actually heard his voice as he conversed on the pavement with another nobleman. I waited until all had finished their narratives, and then with an air of indifference as natural as the little art which I possessed could make it, I observed, 'I saw the Duke of Wellington, too, and conversed with him ;' , of course truly reporting the slender extent of the conversation. Not withstanding that,I acquired distinction sufficient for any schoolboy, and it lasted till bedtime. On another occasion, two of my schoolfellows cast a shade over this triumph. Residing on the sea-coast, they had been taken in one of the numerous boats which put off to the ship containing the captive French Emperor, who was there to implore the British Government to make England the scene of his captivity ; and, lucky dogs, they beheld Napoleon smiling and bowing to his English visitors from tlie deck of the Bellerophon. As I have mentioned in the course of this article two other men each in his own way remarkable, I may as well tell my readers something about them as far as my personal knowledge extends. Both were men who had raised themselves un aided, and eminently succeeded in peculiar pursuits chosen by themselves. Guisenpe Battista Belzoni was a native of Italy, and as noted in England in the very early years of the century for prodigious personal strength as he was subsequently for his researches in Egypt. Some of the feats which he performed, at Astley's A-ixphitheatre and elsewhere, sometimes in the character of Hercules, who can never have had a more competent representative, were witnessed :by thousands, and are almost incredible. At the time, he was exhibiting the tomb at the Egyptian Hall the fact of his being identical with the athlete of former years was often denied or questioned, his deeds of strength being attributed to a. relative ; but I heard him, in answer to a question put by Mr. Bullock, avow the fact, and give several amusing anecdotes connected ?with his herculean career. It was said, and I believe truly, that his chief object in thus exhibiting himself was to' save money enough- to pay the expense of 'his explorations among the pyramids. In height he was several inches over -six feet, proportionately stout, and double jointed. His beard was the most ample and handsome I- ever beheld, descending, I think, a couple of feet from the upper Up. While residing in Europe he wore this beneath his clothing. He forebore to amputate it because on his return 'to Egypt he would require its services. He told me that the extraordinary influence which he exercised over Arabs, on whose labour in aid of his own mechanical skill he chiefly relied, was partly attributable to his beard, although his extreme strength and adoption of their costume contributed much to produce the effect. I once dined at Mr. Bullock's when Belzoni and his wife, a talented little Englishwoman, were present. On that occasion, at the host's request, he assumed the Arab costume, turban and all, and as the beard was favoured with liberty for, the evening, he certainly presented a most majestic ap pearance. . William Bullock from his earliest years had a passion for collecting specimens of natural history, especially live ones. He had at various periods of his life walked over considerable portions of Europe and America, both north and south. He was always accompanied by a small gun, which fitted into a walking-stick, with which he procured many specimens, and which he retained until his final departure from England. These, when they had become numerous, he exhibited in Piccadilly under the designation, I think, of the 'Liverain Museum.' After he built: the Egyptian Hall his then augmented collection occupied: the two larger rooms of that building. The enlarged Museum was a place of great resort ; but, getting tired of inaction, he disposed of his specimens by auction, thereby realizing a large sum, with which he secured a considerable tract of country in North America. :His glowing description of this territory— for he was a man of sanguine tem perament— bordered, as it was \ for many miles with a broad navigable stream of fresh water, excited in:me a desire to accompany him. . He pro mised when the new settlement should become well established to sendfor ime:.. I heard some years after .that he had been eminently successful in his speculation, bat I never received the promised summons. Had I- received it probably I should never have seen Mount Lofty. Mr. Bullock told me that it was his custom to taste the flesh of ?- such animals as he killed, and he described to« me the flavours of sundry feathered bipeds, quad rupeds, and reptiles, whose names' I never saw on any bill of fare. Although he was not then collecting specimens, when -par-: taking of his hospitality I always selected recognised dishes'. It was a foolish prejudice of course, for I know hot why a, boa-constrictor-steak should riot be both as relishing and nutritious as a 'slice of conger. eel. ?. ..? ? ,_.

edited :eek::eek::eek: Its longer than i original thought and 3/4 of it has nothing to do with Bullock:rolleyes:
Duckweed....i did note at some time he aquired a large house in Ludlow Shropshire....not sure if he lived there or it was just another notch on his list of personal belongings.

Maybe a slight chance it could have been in the area of his younger days.
This William fella has me intrigued:rolleyes:

I found this which you may already have.

Ludlow is a city in Kenton County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 4,407 at the 2010 census. Ludlow is a suburb of Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, located on the Ohio River.


In 1790 the land that is now Ludlow was given to Gen. Thomas Sandford by the U.S. military in recognition of his service. Sandford traded the land to Thomas D. Carneal for land in what is now Fort Mitchell. Thomas D. Carneal had Elmwood Hall built in 1818 on the riverfront. Elmwood Hall still stands today (2011) at 244 Forest Avenue and is a private residence. Carneal sold the land to William Bullock, a British showman, entrepreneur and traveller, who planned to build a utopian community named Hygeia (a Greek word meaning health) designed by John Buonarotti Papworth. The speculation was not a success; Bullock sold the land to Israel L. Ludlow in 1830


Also found this

Surname: BULLOCK

Looking for info on William Bullock (?-1849), famous author, lecturer,
traveller and owner of Egyptian Hall museum in London.
Lived in northern Kentucky, 1827-1836, then returned to London where he
died May 1849.


Wonder if we could find him on a census for 1830, might give a wife's name and be able to find a marriage for him and be able to work backwards a bit more maybe.
One source suggests he was from Show people and that his parents had a travelling wax works. They also say he was born in 1773 which would make him very young when he started his collection.

In Liverpool in the early 1800s he said he had been collecting for 17 years.

He had also to have served an apprenticeship somewhere to get his official mark. Apprenticeships usually started from 12 and finished at 21.
So it would be around 1785 and finished 1794. There should be a record of his registered mark but haven't found it yet.

Some source says he came to Sheffield around 1779 and others say he was born in Sheffield, one he was born in Birmingham, and another that he was born in Liverpool.

We do know he had a brother George and a son called William.
This link has William's parents noted as George and Elizabeth.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id...bullocks travelling wax works england&f=false

According to this link below William's son William become a naturalised citizen of Mexico.


I'll do some more digging around today and see what i can find that might help confirm any of it.

Just found this. This one states his father's name is William:rolleyes:
Last edited:
a much earlier exhibition of wax figures was held at the Assembly Rooms. This was as far back as November 1795 and the promoter of this was a Mrs. Bullock.


As well as Mrs. Bullock there were several women at the time who ran travelling wax exhibitions.
Mrs Bullock seemed to have exhibited in Hull regularly and died in Liverpool Museum from a burst blood vessel. This Museum was run by her husband who eventually moved his premises to London

Im not sure if they are referring to William's mother or wife in the above article:confused:

Interestingly there is a James Bullock in 1765 in Bristol master of the waxwork. Wonder if its a relative.

Found this too

George (1782/3–1818), sculptor, designer, and cabinet-maker, was born in 1782 or 1783, the son of Elizabeth Bullock, the owner of a travelling waxworks. His brother William Bullock [q.v.]became an artist, naturalist, explorer, and museum proprietor. Nothing is known of his early life, but by March 1797 ‘Mrs Bullock and Son’ were conducting modelling and drawing lessons at their ‘Modelling and Statuary Warehouse’, 29 Bull Street, Birmingham.
A possible marriage maybe?? See what you think.

Groom's Name: William Bullock
Groom's Birth Date:
Groom's Birthplace:
Groom's Age:
Bride's Name: Elizth Smallwood
Bride's Birth Date:
Bride's Birthplace:
Bride's Age:
Marriage Date: 07 Sep 1769
Marriage Place: All Saints,West Bromwich,Stafford,England
Groom's Father's Name:
Groom's Mother's Name:
Bride's Father's Name:
Bride's Mother's Name:
Groom's Race:
Groom's Marital Status:
Groom's Previous Wife's Name:
Bride's Race:
Bride's Marital Status:
Bride's Previous Husband's Name:
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M01024-2
System Origin: England-ODM
Source Film Number: 421617
Reference Number:
Yes we have a William Smallwood Bullock baptised West Bromwich 21st Sept 1770 parents William and Elizabeth.

Not sure that William survived. There is another William 2 years later.

A George born 24th August 1778

Found also a Charles, Thomas and Edwin but no Joseph or James, and some daughters.

So looks like they were a while in West Bromich anyway.

Maybe they had moved by time of Joseph and James.
Your William doesnt appear to have the name Smallwood in any articles so i think your right about the first William not surviving.

I'll have another dig around tomorrow in the papers and see if anything can be found with the other names.
Yes I've seen something that not only says he married twice but that one marriage he married well but no names.

Have found a Showman William Bullock mentioned in 1720. Wonder if this is same family. This William Bullock ran fairground attractions, freak show sort of things I think. Possibly his grandfather?

And along with this was this William Bullock became an actor and knew Henry Fielding (writer of Tom Jones) which would be interesting if they all joined up. Suggests a group of travelling players as well as freak shows.

There is a suggestion that they had definite showground roots in everything I read. Which may be why they are so difficult to pin down.

Must frustrating thing still is Sheffield connection and his work as a Silversmith/Goldsmith. Have no real clues to where he lived.