Review of The Blacketts: A Northern Dynasty's Rise, Crisis and Redemption by Greg Finch


The Blacketts: A Northern Dynasty’s Rise, Crisis and Redemption

by Greg Finch


In 1621 William Blackett was born, the third son of a relatively modest and unexceptional County Durham family. By the time of his death fifty-nine years later he had amassed an immense fortune, had achieved public office as Mayor of Newcastle, and then later as Member of Parliament, and had been created a baronet by King Charles II. The story of how Sir William Blackett built his vast business empire and of how it fared through the three following generations is recounted in The Blacketts by Greg Finch.

In his opening chapter Finch describes the work as a multi-generational biography substantiated with numbers, a business history centred on people. It does indeed fit that description and focuses tightly on the business empire of the first Sir William Blackett and the three succeeding generations. And yet to describe it as such does not really do it justice. This book is far more than that. 

The Blacketts draws on a vast array of original documents including several hundred letters (buried for centuries in Cambridge University Library) from the first Sir William’s sons that open up a window into the mercantile environment of late 17th century north-east England and the Blacketts’ involvement in that. But we are not just invited to peer through that window; we are actually drawn into the room as Finch skilfully blends an astonishing amount of forensic detail of the changing economic, political and technological environment with the crucial business decisions made by the Blacketts at the time. We do not merely learn what the Blacketts did, but frequently gain an insight into why they did it. And in so doing we see how the differing personalities of Sir William Blackett and of the Blacketts who came after him influenced the key decisions they made, together with the outcome of those decisions.

For any student of the making of the Blackett mercantile fortune, or of the history of the development of north-east England in the late 17th/early 18th century, this book is a must.


Allan Kirtley 

December 2021


The Blacketts: A Northern Dynasty’s Rise, Crisis and Redemption  by Greg Finch is now available in hardback from Tyne Bridge Publishing.