Born at 'Neston Villa' 132 St Pauls Road Kings Norton Birmingham moving to 23 Fernley Road Sparkhill by 1901. Went to the Central school of art at the age of 12 on a scholarship. Once there he was outstandingly successful and continued his training on the strength of 2 more scholarships, the Kendrick and the Louisa Anne Ryland. Practical silver smithing and jewellery he learned at the Vittoria Street School, and his remarkable talent can be judged by his prize winning necklace on display in Birmingham Museum. After art school he worked for a time at the Westerham studio of John Paul Cooper and from there was selected by the Berlin Court goldsmith Emil Lettre to go to Berlin for further training in his prestigious workshops in Unter-den-Linden.
This was a great opportunity to mix with other great silversmiths such as Henry George Murphy:
His apprenticeship completed, Murphy stayed on with Wilson, gradually assuming the role of assistant rather than pupil, a 'harmonious and symbiotic relationship' that continued on a formal basis until 1912, and informally until Wilson's death in 1934. Murphy's years with Wilson were followed by a short, influential, but unsatisfactory time with Emil Lettre in Berlin, where another of Wilson's proteges, Bernard Instone, was working. This gave him insight into continental workshop practice, introduced him to modern German design, and formed the basis for a friendship with Lettre, renewed when Murphy exhibited in Berlin in the 1938 International Exhibition of Handicrafts.
While he was there he made an important amethyst brooch for the King of Baveria. His brother Lewis was already working there as a silversmith but died in a tragic diving accident; on a day trip out to Zernsdorf with his family he dived off a rock into the lake and never surfaced. This tragic accident brought Bernard home where he was employed at Vittoria Street, taken on in October 1913, at the age of 22, it states his qualification as an Ex-teacher. He was employed to assist with the manual training classes on Tues/Wed and Thurday afternoons and during this time also made pieces for the Gaskins, Bernard Cuzner and other staff of the school it was at this stage in his career he started to do his own commissions. He was still in this post in October 1914 until his career was interrupted by service in WWI.
In 1920 he founded Langstone (a combination of his mother and fathers names) silver works initially Digbeth and then in 1954 they relocated to Lode Lane Solihull. Here he was principally concerned with design and administration attempting to translate into commercial terms the qualities of his own work. Throughout his career he played an important part in the local trade associations, being President of the Birmingham Jewellers Association in 1937 and organizing a number of trade exhibitions for them. A liveryman of the worshipful Company of Goldsmiths he was also very much involved in the preparation of the Art in Industry Exhibition at Burlington House.
He set up the Spec-Clip company, as a side line with Harry Morris, which never really took off.
He married Barbara Margrett 7 February 1922 at St Agnes Church Mosley when he was 30 and she was just 18 having made her engagement ring himself and presented it to her when she was 16 years old. They lived initially with his parents for 2 years at 19 Adria Rd and then moved into their first home by Autumn 1925: 'Charlton', 340 Blossomfield Road followed by 'Charlton' 91, Widney Lane, Solihull (named after the Margretts roots in Charlton Kings) had 3 children Paul, John and Judith and had a quite one sided marriage. Bernard loved her deeply calling her a ‘wonderful woman’ but Barbara gave the impression she was very disappointed with her lot and told her granddaughter with great bitternes that the day after their marriage he went to Germany with his secretary, whether the implication here is correct we will never know! He was a keen gardener and took great enjoyment out of cross pollinating his Begonias. When his 2 sons were of age they both went to work in Langstone John as a salesman Paul as a manager although he initially refused to pay them a salary prefring to buy them things when they wanted them instead. He acquired 2 shops down in Devon 1 in Salcombe and one in Looe (which he was left in the owners will, this however was contested by his daughter and escallating court costs forced Bernard to stop the court case and the property reverted to the daughter) both selling paintings and jewellery and offered the Salcombe one to John when he and Paul fell out in the mid 60's.
He was a very steely character smoking cigars and ruling the boys with a rod of iron challenging them to duels if he disagreed with them and doing headstands on the lawn well into his 70’s and felt passionately about a few issues such as purchase tax, Winston Churchill and in latter years Margrett Thatcher. In his 80’s because of the logistics of negotiating the stairs and his failing sight (from cataracts) he stopped coming downstairs and spent the days in a chair in the bedroom at Maugesbury Park House in Stow-onthe-Wold Gloucestershire and never came back down until he broke his hip and was taken into hospital. He died on 10 December1987 from bronchopneumonia at Cheltenham Hospital and was cremated at Wellesborne crematorium.
He anecdotally co founded Moor Green Football Club with his brother Alec and a man called George Fisher but the timing makes it impossible