Plaque honours one of the town’s influential sons

The Mayor of Alnwick, Alan Symmonds, and Adrian Ions hold the William Davison blue plaque at the unveiling ceremony outside Specsavers, where Davison had his works.
The Mayor of Alnwick, Alan Symmonds, and Adrian Ions hold the William Davison blue plaque at the unveiling ceremony outside Specsavers, where Davison had his works.

A blue plaque has been unveiled to mark the life of one of Alnwick’s most influential sons.

William Davison was a printer, pharmacist and philanthropist, whose concerns to improve life for local people included building a workhouse and bringing gas to the town.

The plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Alnwick, Coun Alan Symmonds, at Specsavers on Bondgate Within, the site of Davison’s business from 1802 to 1858.

It was the result of a request by local historian Adrian Ions, who, in conjunction with the Bailiffgate Museum, asked Alnwick Town Council to apply for a plaque in recognition of Davison’s many achievements.

Coun Symmonds said: “Being a non-conformist and a Liberal, I’m not sure what Davison, with his Liberal views, would have made of a blue plaque being installed in his honour, but I feel it’s a very worthy one.

“No headstone marks his grave so it is fitting that the town now has a permanent reminder of this prominent Alnwick citizen.”

He thanked the organisations who contributed towards the cost of the plaque – Bailiffgate Museum, Barter Books, Inner Wheel, Alnwick Lions and Alnwick Rotary – who were represented at the ceremony.

Davison was born in Alnwick in 1781 and set up business as a pharmacist on Bondgate Within in 1802.

He was probably best known for his printing and, early in his career, started to use stereotyping. He also employed Thomas Bewick, the engraver, to illustrate some of his books and publications.

In 1814, he opened a small foundry to produce the metal stereotypes himself.

In 1851, at the age of 70, Davison produced the first edition of his newspaper, The Alnwick Mercury, forerunner of the Northumberland Gazette.

Davison played a significant part in Alnwick life. He was involved in the building of a workhouse for the poor in 1810; was one of those who founded the Alnwick Mechanics’ Scientific Institution (now the Mechanics Institute) in 1831; and was a pioneer in bringing gas to the town.

The Bailiffgate Museum has a permanent exhibition of his life and work and the plaque will go on show at the museum before it is installed at Specsavers in the New Year.