A History of Wilson Gunn - Overview

In 1864, when Queen Victoria was on the throne and Abraham Lincoln was President of the U.S.A., the founder of our firm, John Guy Wilson, opened his office at No. 109 Market Street, Manchester, where he practised as Patent Agent, Practical and Mechanical Engineer, and Draughtsman, under the title of John G. Wilson & Co. John G. Wilson built up the business until his death in the 1890s. An extract from a Manchester trade journal of the time is shown below.

Mr. John G. Wilson, Practical Mechanical Engineer, Draughtsman, and Patent Agent, 55 Market Street – To the inventor and man of genius labouring to bring out some important creation of his own ingenuity, there is no more important institution than the Patent Office and Registry of Designs, where he can protect and make secure the results of his labours. At the offices of Mr. John G. Wilson is established the British and Foreign Patent Office, Trade Marks and Designs Registry. Mr. Wilson, having had twenty-five years' experience in this business, is able to decide or advise upon the practical utility or otherwise of any invention, thus saving intending patentees an immense amount of time and money. As a practical mechanical engineer, Mr. John G. Wilson enjoys a high reputation in this city, and has a large practice. The business of his firm in connection with British and foreign patents extends to all parts of the world. He has had a long and honourable connection with this city, and possesses the esteem and confidence of a very extensive and valuable connection.

Offices of John G Wilson

Offices of John G. Wilson & Co.*

The firm was subsequently taken over by Mr. John James Royle, a prolific inventor and the owner of a significant engineering business in Manchester.

In fact one of the oldest surviving exhibits of articles patented by our firm is Mr Royle's self-pouring teapot (Patent no. 6327 of 1886). On the retirement of John J. Royle in 1901 Walter Gunn took over the expanding practice and the firm was subsequently renamed Wilson Gunn.


Offices in Birmingham and London were not added until 1998 and 2001, respectively. However, these offices have histories of their own. Prior to becoming part of Wilson Gunn the Birmingham office had been owned by three generations of the Skerrett family, since being founded by Henry Skerrett in 1884.

The London office was founded by H.T.P. Gee and dates back to the early 1900s. His firm, trading under the name Gee & Co., later moved to Chancery House, Chancery Lane, in the heart of the London legal district. The London Office is located in the former Patent Office building, shown below.

London Patent Office

The firm has acquired a number of other patent agencies over the years, the oldest of these being Newton & Co. of Cross Street, Manchester, which dates back to 1836, twenty eight years before John G. Wilson set up his business. During the year 1836 the battle of the Alamo took place and Charles Darwin returned to England on HMS Beagle after a five year journey collecting biological data, which he would later use to develop his theory of evolution.

Old Market Street

Over the years we have protected a wide variety of ground breaking inventions and have secured protection for numerous household names. Our firm has a long history. Indeed two of the UK's ten oldest active trade mark registrations were managed by our firm. Some of our papers sank with the Titanic in 1912. As it so happens we patented the lifeboat-men's whistles used on that ship. Through us, our clients have protected everything from machine gun belts to fire retardant foams and from microprocessors to biochemical inventions involving DNA sequences. Our offices were severely bombed in 1996 and yet we are still here today – an indication of the strength of the firm. In fact, as far as we are aware, we have the only modern day bomb tested records system in the UK!


Whilst we are able to draw on over 150 years of history, Wilson Gunn has always been, and remains today, a progressive forward thinking firm. For instance, we were one of the first firms of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys to establish a presence on the Internet in 1995. This approach has ensured that we have always kept pace with our clients' changing needs.

Although the trading style may have changed over the years, our commitment to the highest professional standards remains the same. We now have 52 staff members across our various offices, linked by the latest technology. As we reflect on our past history, celebrating our 150th anniversary this year, we look forward to our future with confidence.

* Wilson Gunn would like to thank the Manchester Evening News for providing this photograph.