Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kilburn, William

KILBURN, WILLIAM (1745–1818), artist and calico-printer, born in Capel Street, Dublin, in 1745, was only son of Samuel Kilburn, architect, of Dublin, and Sarah Johnston his wife. He showed an early taste for drawing, and was apprenticed to John Lisson, an English calico-printer at Leixlip, near Dublin, but devoted much of his spare time to drawing and engraving. The family was in embarrassed circumstances at the father's death, and Kilburn came to London, where he obtained a good sale for his calico designs. He also became acquainted with William Curtis [q. v.] the botanist, and executed the exquisite plates of flowers, drawn and engraved from nature, for Curtis's ‘Flora Londinensis.’ He was able to return to Ireland and fetch his mother and sister, settling with them in Page's Walk, Bermondsey. Soon afterwards he accepted the management of Newton's calico-printing factory at Wallington, Surrey; after seven years he purchased the business. The beauty of his designs established him as one of the most eminent calico-printers in Europe, and he acquired great wealth. He induced Edmund Burke to introduce a bill into parliament to secure to calico-printers the copyright of original designs. He died at Wallington on 23 Dec. 1818, aged 73. Kilburn married the eldest daughter of Thomas Brown, an East India director, by whom he left a large family.

[Gent. Mag. 1818, cii. 222; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography.]

L. C.