George Nelson

Chemist and Industrialist

Born Nottingham 1800 - Died Milverton 1850

Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians, Leamingtonians and others by Anthony James Leahy 2009

George Nelson, son of George Nelson/Dorothea, christened 26th June 1800, at St. Mary Gate Independent Chapel, Nottingham.

   Mr. George Nelson, the founder of the firm, was born in Nottingham early in the year 1800, and both his father and uncle, were ruined by the American war.


George Nelson's New Testament Bible of 1802

reproduced by kind permission and the generosity of Edward Montague (Sam) Nelson.

   Of his Younger years little is known but that having shown a disposition to the study of chemistry, he was placed under the care of an eminent chemist at Nottingham, to whom he was afterwards apprenticed.


Nelson and Herring 33 Bath Street Leamington

Reproduced from Moncliffe's Guide 1833  [B LEA MON] by kind permission Leamington Spa library


 (The Building is still being used as a Chemist 2010 and it is also interesting to note that George Nelson began using historical sites within his marketing as Kenilworth Castle as depicted was one of many local monuments used on the later Gelatine Lozenges Tins for Decoration.)


Nelson Godfrey and White Dispensing and Family Chemists

3 Union Parade, Leamington

Reproduced from Meridrew's Guide 1837 by kind permission Leamington Spa library

After he had served his time and fully mastered his business, he removed to Leamington, where he started business on his own account, and later on migrated to the Rock Mills, where he started his gelatine factory. Here he was joined by his friend and cousin Mr. Thomas Bellamy Dale, who became a partner in the great business which is inseparably connected with their names.

George Nelson and Family listed on census 1841 residing at Rock Mill

Photography by Christopher Capewell 1973


   In the year 1837 the firm applied for a patent for their gelatine, which had caught the public taste and was getting in great demand, but it was not until the following year that the patent was granted. It was at this period that Mr. Nelson introduced his "Opaque" gelatine, which immediately "caught on," for it was seen at once that a great step in advance had been made in dietetic economy. Since then great improvements have been made in its manufacture, and we have no hesitation in say that Nelson's gelatine is, in every respect, the purest gelatinous substance in any market in the world.

extract from "Round About Warwick" Alfred Barnard 1899



Rock Mill Leamington Spa

Photography by Hugh Jones

  George Nelson was named after his father, the third child and first son of nine siblings. He married Sarah Philbrick. They lived in the small hamlet of Milverton, situated between Leamington Spa and Warwick. In 1841 George (aged 40) along with his wife and family were listed as living at Rock Mill. Their first son George died within six months of his birth. By 1851 (after the death of George) Sarah and family are listed as being resident at the Lawn in Emscote. George and Sarah are buried in St James churchyard Old Milverton, overlooking Guys Cliff House and The Saxon Mill. In the Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 78 page 877 of 1795 is a record of marriage between G Nelson and a Miss D Dale under the heading of Marriages of Remarkable Persons Nottingham July 1795. Dorothea Dale was probably the Aunt of Thomas Dale. A George Nelson was also recorded as being the Sheriff of Nottingham  covering the years from 1800-01 & 1803-04. It is possible that this was either George's father or Grandfather who were also named George.



"In George Nelson's Own Words"





Mr. Nelson describes his invention as Consisting—1, in applying a caustic alkaline solution, either with or without acids to all such cuttings of hides and skins as glue pieces are commonly made of (taking care, however, to reject such as are in a putrescent state,) and—2, of employing acids alone (sulphurous acid hi a liquid state excepted) for that purpose un-combined with any alkaline solution. By these means he obtains gelatine of two qualities, which he calls first and second.


In manufacturing his first quality of gelatine, Mr. Nelson employs a caustic alkaline solution with sulphurous acid gas in manner following:—


"When the cuttings have been freed from hair, flesh, and fat, and washed clean in cold water, I score the grain side of them to the depth of about an eighth part of an inch, in lines about an inch apart, in order to facilitate the action of the alkali which I use, and to render-such action more uniform. I then macerate them in a caustic solution of water is continually supplied. I continue the cylinders revolving in a current of water, as I have described, until the alkali is sufficiently washed out of the cuttings, and I generally find six or seven days sufficient for this washing, when I use cuttings of ordinary thickness; but when I use cuttings which are thicker than these I continue the washing in proportion to the thickness of such cuttings. When the cuttings have been thus washed I remove them from the washing cylinders and place them in a wooden closet, constructed in the ordinary method to prevent the escape of gas, and there expose them to the direct action of sulphurous acid gas, produced by the combustion of sulphur within the closet. I continue the cuttings thus exposed to the direct action of this gas, until they have a slight excess of acid, and I ascertain whether they have an excess of acid by testing them with litmus paper in the ordinary manner. I then remove them from the closet and press them by any ordinary means to separate as much water as possible; and after they have been thus pressed, I put them into glazed earthenware vessels, or any other vessels which are not acted upon by acid. I call these vessels steam-baths, and I apply steam to them in the manner usually employed for heating steam-baths, but any other convenient means of heating them may be used; I thus bring the cuttings to a temperature of about 150" Fahrenheit, and I keep them at this temperature and by means of a suitable wooden instrument I stir or agitate them until they are almost entirely dissolved. The liquid thus formed is gelatine, and I separate it from the residuum which remains un-dissolved by straining, and put it into vessels which I call settling vessels, and which are constructed in the same manner as the steam-baths. I beat these settling vessels in the manner which I have already pointed out for heating the steam-baths. Whilst this liquid gelatine is in these settling vessels it should be kept at a temperature between 100° and 1205 of Fahrenheit, and I allow it to remain undisturbed in the settling vessels', for the purpose of clearing it, until I consider the impurities which it contains have sufficiently settled or subsided. I generally find nine hours sufficient for this purpose, but if the impurities have not sufficiently settled or subsided in that time, I prefer to clear it by straining it through a woollen cloth. I remove the liquid gelatine from the settling vessels by means of a syphon, but any other suitable means may be used for this purpose, and after it has been sufficiently cleared I pour it upon slabs which I call cooling-slabs to the depth of about half an inch. These slabs may be of stone or marble, but they must have frames of some convenient material, at least half an inch in depth fitted to their edges, and care should be taken to place the slabs in cool situations. I allow this gelatine to remain upon the slabs until it becomes cold and sets into a firm substance, and I then cut it into pieces, and wash these in the washing cylinders and water vessels which I have already described, in the same manner as I have already mentioned for that purpose in respect to the cutting, as I take them from the macerating vessels. This washing must be continued until the excess of acid is entirely or nearly altogether removed from the gelatine, and I generally find that 3 days are sufficient for this purpose; but I ascertain whether the excess of acid has been removed by testing the gelatine with litmus paper in the ordinary manner. After the excess of acid has been thus removed, I take the gelatine from the cylinders and put it into the steam-baths, and then dissolve it by applying heat to the baths in the manner which I have already pointed out for that purpose; but it will be desirable to avoid raising the temperature of the gelatine above 85° of Fahrenheit. When the gelatine has been thus completely dissolved, I poor it again upon the cooling slabs, as before, and I allow it to remain until it becomes again cold, and sets into a firm substance. I then cut it into pieces of any convenient size, and dry it upon nets by exposure to a current of cool dry air, and when it has been thus completely dried, it is fit for use."


The gelatine of the second quality is prepared, without the aid of any alkaline solution, by merely steeping cuttings in a weak solution of sulphuric acid, or subjecting them to the direct action of sulphurous acid gas, until in either case they have imbibed “an excess of acid." After this they are kept in wooden barrels for three weeks, at a temperature of about 70°, and then put into a steam-bath and entirely dissolved.  Liquid gelatine is then obtained, which is treated in the same manner as the liquid gelatine mentioned in the process before described, until it is completely dried and fit for use.

The mechanic's magazine, museum, register, journal and gazette 1840




"Brief History of Management"



George Nelson died 1850, leaving five sons, Charles 1834, George Henry 1837, Frederick 1839, Edward Montague 1841, and William 1843.

At the time of George’s death Thomas Dale (partner) and James Nelson (management but not a partner)

George Nelson was involved in several businesses at the time of his death. At Warwick a timber business which was said to be his main business at that time – timber and building materials, slates and coal and others. He owned an estate at Stockton, which at the time was believed to be a farm which he had bought for the Blue Lias rocks that lay beneath it. It was ultimately developed into a Lime and Cement Works, carried out under the firm of Charles Nelson and Company.

Thomas Dale resided in London during George’s life but moved to Warwick on the death of his partner, taking charge of the Gelatine works at Emscote Mills.

Sarah Nelson looked after her diseased husband’s interests in the other business. Charles, later, being put in with other staff, to assist in the management of them. Those businesses were transferred into Charles’s name when he came of age.

Charles had nothing to do with the Gelatine manufactory at that time, which remained entirely in the management of Thomas Dale. Sarah Nelson though, had two thirds of the partnership but took no part in its management. The leases to the Properties at Emscote belonged to Sarah Nelson inherited by way of her husband George Nelson’s will.

George Henry left school in 1851 and went into the gelatine business working under Thomas Dale. He became a partner to his mother Sarah and Mr Dale in 1860. On the 1st January that year Edward Montague went into the business, based in London where he became of age in 1862 and was admitted as a partner with an annual salary of £400 and a 5% share of the profits. At the same time Thomas Dale’s Nephew Mr Morris became a partner in the business also based in London. Mr Morris Taking the senior management position that had been occupied by Mr Dale prior to his relocation to Warwick to head the business after George Nelson’s death in 1850.

Sarah Nelson died in 1865. The Gelatine business passed to George Henry and Edward Montague and Charles continued with the business at Stockton. Charles Nelson became a partner in the gelatine business four years later on 1st July 1869. The circumstances of the partnership between the three brothers was later challenged in a case by the children of Charles Nelson “Smith v Nelson” at the Royal Courts of Justice held at the end of 1904 with regards to Trusts for which Sir Edward Montague and the late (1904) George Henry Nelson were trustees.

Charles Nelson died in 1877 halfway through a ten year partnership articles 1872 -82.

In 1882 George Henry and Edward Montague along with Mr Morris purchased the freeholds of the leaseholds that they held. They were consolidated into one freehold at a cost of £7500. The brothers also purchased 20 acres of freehold land on the other side (north) of the canal for the sum of £5400. Mr Dale was soon to leave the partnership so was not involved in the acquisition.

In 1887 George Nelson, Dale and Co became a Limited Company. The Children of Charles Nelson were allocated preferential shares in the business.

George Henry Died on 5th March 1898 after devoting his life exclusively to the Gelatine business, for the most part living in Warwick, up to 1889, he later resided at various places among them Roysham Park near Oxford. George Henry entered the business in 1851 under the guidance of Thomas Dale. George became a partner in the firm nine years later in 1860. He was a manufacturer and superintended that aspect of the business. He was reputed as being skilful in conducting the management and knowledgeable of the process and business.

Edward Montague (later to become Sir) was involved in the commercial aspects of the business, based in London but frequently visited Warwick. His business acumen was undeniable, though his technical ability was said to have been limited. He had some knowledge of chemistry after studying the subject for a short period. He resigned in December 1902 which was accepted in April 1903 he was living at the Lawn in Emscote.

Mr Dale studied as a chemist and was said to have been involved in the business from its beginnings in 1837  and remained until 1882, managing the business from Warwick from 1850.

Mr Morris had no involvement in Warwick being employed within the business in London from 1851 until his death.

Charles Nelson's involvement with Gelatine at Emscote Mills was over a period of just eight years, having not studied the process to the same degree as his younger brother George Henry. He kept the books during his time and was considered a good engineer, drawing plans for some of the buildings.

Taken from Edward Montague Nelson sworn testimony Smith v Nelson Tuesday December 13th 1904 (May 2010)

The deed box of Sarah Nelson date 1865


Probate of the Will of George Nelson - Dated 14th October 1850

Photography by ajl - from CR2999 - by kind permission of Warwickshire County Records Office




Probate Document Housed -Warwick Records Office

Photography by ajl - from CR2999 - by kind permission of Warwickshire County Records Office.





extract from "Glimpses of our Local Past John Charles Manning 1895"

“About the first name in my early recollection that seemed most prominent in establishing commercial relations between the newly wedded towns of Leamington and Warwick was that of Nelson. I have a very clear recollection of Nelson and White, chemists and Druggists, of No 3, Lower Parade. It was here that the famous physician, Dr. Henry Jephson in cobbling, to which I have already referred. I have also an equally clear recollection of Nelson and Herring, of No 33, Bath-Street. It was here in a laboratory, in Regent-Place, that Leamington Salts were first manufactured by evaporation from the celebrated saline waters and first placed on the market as an article of commerce. But the event which, of all Nelsonian recollections, went to unite more distinctly the commercial and trading relations between  Leamington and Warwick, was the foundation of Nelson’s Gelatine Works, at Emscote, a sort of halfway trading centre that brought the two in to combination. I claim to have taken no insignificant part in starting those now famous works on their prosperous mission nearly sixty years ago. That is to say I printed the first circular by which the gelatine was made known to mankind as well as the first label that was gummed at the end of the first packet on the market. It would be difficult to tell how many circulars and how many end labels I helped to print after the first. All I know is that Nelson’s Gelatine Works at Emscote kept one press at the printing office in Leamington pretty well employed from one year’s end to another, that the craving for Nelson’s gelatine on the part of the British public  and the public of all nations was insatiable, that no signature was better known to humanity than that of George Nelson, which was to be found on each packet of gelatine in whatever form it might assume, and that, without such a signature, no gelatine throughout the whole habitable globe could be found worth having. Those were the primitive days of press-work by hand, often with a blistered hand, long before labour-saving machinery came into operation at Leamington. Hundreds of thousands of labels had to be printed by the most laborious methods when this historic gelatine was first launched upon the markets of the world, those hundreds and thousands I and another had to print in our boyhood, and I verily believe that, somewhat after the manner of marking things with hot iron, I have still an unobliterated outline of the ancient legend, “Nelson’s Opaque Patent Gelatine,” stamped upon my brain, still the notable signature, “George Nelson,” imprinted upon my heart, with the unalterable conviction strongly engrafted in my mind, that without that particular signature no gelatine in the world could possibly be genuine, and, finally, that it would be utterly useless to look for directions anywhere else but at “this end of the packet!” Not very long since, I remember, one of Nelson’s employes, Ann Hart, was pleasantly reminded of her jubilee of continuous work under the firm, by some kindly acts of consideration on the part of her employers and fellow-workers. Fifty years in the same employment is a fair indication of generous treatment on the one hand and faithful servitude on the other. It is pleasant to recall these instances of trading enterprise and long industrial servitude, these relations of unbroken trust between capital and labour, extending over so wide a range of years. It is the best answer that can be given to the spirit of anarchy that is abroad, and such results, as we find them emphasised by experience, prove by what means individual success can alone be reached, and the only way in which, communities can safely and securely be built up.”



St James Church Old Milverton



George Nelson's Grave at Milverton

Overlooking Warwickshire Countryside towards The Saxon mill & Guys Cliffe House



Lovers Walkway from the Saxon Mill to Old Milverton


Bridge at Saxon Mill and view to Guys Cliffe House


Walk to the riverbank opposite Guys Cliffe House and Walkway to Saxon Mill


Visiting the area is best accessed from The Saxon Mill Coventry road Warwick

Photography by Anthony James Leahy unless otherwise stated (exception G Nelson image)




The Nelsons


A Brief History of The Nelsons Of Warwick




Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy


Rediscovering the Gelatine Factory



The Gelatine Factory

A comprehensive account 1899

from Round About Warwick


George Nelson



Nelson's Emscote Mills 2009



T B Dale


Charles Nelson's

Cement Works at Stockton


The Nelson Brothers


William Nelson


George H Nelson


Sir E Montague Nelson

E M (Sam) Nelson


A Visit to

Messrs. G. Nelson, Dale & Co. 1880



Nelson Works

Tomoana New Zealand


Guy Montague Nelson

Nelson Village

Charles St, Warwick


The Lawn at Emscote


Nelson's Lozenges

 packaging & adds

Nelson's Club

Isinglass Wars

Swinborne v Nelson


Nelson's 1950's

Warwick Advertiser account 1953



Descendants of George Nelson


George Wyatt A city trade jubilee



Nelson's Heritage Walk


Gelatine and its uses


Davis Gelatine


Sir E Montague Nelson's Scrapbook Circa 1882

Nelson Gym

Nelson Patents


The Nelsons of Warwick Timeline





Walter Nelson




Home Comforts


Mary Hooper



Mary Hooper Letters

 Mary Hooper Book Collection


Nelson's Home Comforts

Mary Hooper


Wives and Housewives

Mary Hooper


Little Dinners

Mary Hooper


Cookery for Invalids

Mary Hooper


Every Day Meals

Mary Hooper


Hints on Cookery

Mary Hooper

Good Plain Cookery

Mary Hooper


Handbook for the

Breakfast Table

Mary Hooper


Weekly Telegraph

Cookery Book

Mary Hooper

Our Dog Prin

Mary Hooper

Ways & Tricks of Animals

Mary Hooper


Lily's Letters from the Farm

Mary Hooper

Charles Wentworth Wass

Round About Warwick

Mary Hooper Books Wanted

Fleur De Lys

The Pie Factory at Emscote

Nelson Story

In Brief


Nelsons Story


Nelson's Home Comforts

From Beginning To End


Cookery & Home Comforts

Mrs Wigley

Rock's Royal Cabinet

Leamington & Warwick 1880



Anthony Leahy



Anthony Leahy


Art & Photography

Anthony Leahy


A Major Arcana

Kathleen Forrest


The Drumroom

Anthony Leahy










Book Wanted Handbook For The Breakfast Table

Book Wanted Wives and Housewives A Story For The Times


3 The Butts


Sky Blue Heaven