Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barry, Ostlere and Shepherd

Linoleum flooring has been with us for a century and a half. It was invented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1860. The flooring is made from solidified linseed oil, pulverized limestone, wood flour and cork dust; backings are made from burlap, hemp or other fibers. Linoleum is considered "green" because of its natural makeup and its durability. Over the years linoleum has moved in and out of popularity, with a recent revival starting in the mid 2000s.

In 1863, an Englishman - Frederick Walton - applied successfully for a patent for the exclusive manufacture of a new floor covering material, which he called 'linoleum', his company, Walton's Linoleum Manufacturing Company, was founded during 1864 to start production of this product.

After 1877, when Walton's patent expired, production became more widespread in Britain and abroad, spreading in particular to Scotland and to the town of Kirkcaldy in West Fife.

By 1877, Kirkcaldy had established itself as the world's largest centre for the manufacture of wax floor-cloth, and was in an ideal position to exploit a rapidly growing national and international market for linoleum. Within a few decades over a dozen linoleum manufacturing companies had taken root and flourished, helping to transform Kirkcaldy into the Linoleum Capital of the world.

The first producer in Kirkcaldy was the Scottish Linoleum Company which was registered on 29th September 1899, taking over the businesses of floorcloth and linoleum manufacturers John Barry, Ostlere and Co., the Kirkcaldy Linoleum Co., and Messrs. Shepherd and Beveridge.

In February 1930 a company called Linoleum Manufacturing Co Ltd with works at Staines, Middlesex, and offices at 6 Old Bailey, London EC4, (which had been registered 3rd June 1864), changed its name to Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd.

In December 1930, Barry, Ostlere & Shepherd Ltd converted into a private company and Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd then acquired all its assets. Although Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd was the parent company, the two companies continued to trade under their original names, at its height, they employed around 350 people in Staines, making it the towns largest employer, churning out by 1956 3,200 sq. yards of 'Staines Lino' each week.

Sadly, during 1963/4 the flooring company Barry, Ostlere and Shepherd succumbed to a downturn in the linoleum business and folded, causing the loss of around 1,500 jobs.

By Paul Green

Bank of British West Africa

Bank of British West Africa was a British Overseas bank that was important in introducing modern banking into the countries that emerged from the UK's West African colonies.

1891 Elder Dempster shipping magnate Alfred Lewis Jones (born in Carmarthen, Wales in 1845) and George William Neville ( born at Richmond, near London in 1852), the local agent of Elder Dempster & Co. of Liverpool, attempted to develop a banking operation along the Guinea coast.

1892 African Banking Corporation acquired Elder Dempster’s banking operations in Lagos, Nigeria. Within a year they wished to close it down. Instead, they sold the operation to A.L. Jones and Elder Dempster.

1893 Elder Dempster helped form Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) which took over the ex-ABC operation in Lagos. Eventually, BBWA established branches in Liverpool, London, and Manchester.

1896 BBWA established a branch in Accra, Ghana. Its main business then was the distribution of silver coins, of which it was the sole supplier. As the only bank in the country at the time, it came to play a unique role in the economy, acting as the Central Bank. In 1902, it opened another branch in Sekondi. It opened an agency in Obuasi in 1905, which it raised to the status of a branch in 1909. In 1906 it opened a branch in Kumasi. British Bank of West Africa expanded its network to cover most of the main business centre’s in the Gold Coast and went on to dominate commercial banking in Ghana.

1919 Lloyds Bank and three other banks became shareholders in BBWA.
In 1957 it changed its name to Bank of West Africa, and in 1965 was acquired by Standard Bank.

By Paul Green

Colthurst & Harding

Originally dating back to 1850 adjacent to the River Avon, Phoenix Wharf, as it was known, was a paint and varnish factory built by Bristol Paintmakers, Colthurst & Harding one of the numerous paint makers based in Bristol at that time. Extended and altered over the next 100 years it was taken over by Courtaulds and fell into decline as paint production became centralized elsewhere. In all 12 acres had been assembled by the 1930s.

As buildings were vacated from paint making they were let out to other users. Eventually all paint manufacture ceased and the site became known as Central Trading Estate. Over the next few years the site became run down and neglected.

Permission was granted during 2004 to redevelop the area as a centre for creative industries.

By Paul Green

Mappin & Webb

Founded in 1774 by Jonathan Mappin, Mappin & Webb is one of the UK's leading retailers of fine jewelery and silverware. Today, it is renowned for combining timeless craftsmanship with superior quality and contemporary design to produce exquisite jewelery, elegant silverware, watches and glassware.

Jonathan Mappin opened his first small silversmith workshop in Sheffield in 1774 and the following year the Mappin mark was entered at the assay office. Over the next fifteen years Jonathan Mappin's reputation for producing high quality silver spread throughout Sheffield. From these humble beginnings the business grew steadily and soon the next generation were expanding the business further

The first store to be opened in London was in 1849 at 17 Fore Street and was soon followed by stores in Moorgate and King William Street. In 1858, following rapid expansion of the Sheffield factory, John Newton Mappin invited his brother-in-law, George Webb to join him in the business. The first association of Mappin & Webb was forged.

Mappin & Webb's reputation spread as the business became a leading name within its field. A testament to its success came in 1897 with the granting of Royal Warrants. Today Mappin & Webb is silversmith to Her Majesty the Queen and to His Royal Highness Prince of Wales.

Mappin & Webb takes great pride in its rich heritage and outstanding reputation, successfully combining all the positive qualities from its past with an innovative approach to design and craftsmanship today.

By Paul Green

Thomas De La Rue & Company Ltd.

The Company was founded by Thomas de la Rue who moved to London in 1821 and set up in business as a stationer and printer. In 1831 his business secured a Royal Warrant to produce playing cards, in 1855 it started printing postage stamps and in 1860 it began printing banknotes. In 1896, the family partnership was converted to a private company.

In 1921, the de la Rue family sold their interests. It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1947. The Company, then called Thomas De La Rue & Company, Limited, changed its name in 1958 to The De La Rue Company Limited. A takeover bid for De La Rue was made by the Rank Organization Plc in 1968 but this was rejected by the Monopolies commission as being against the public interest. In 1991 the company’s name was changed again--this time to De La Rue Plc.

In 1997 De La Rue acquired Harrison and Sons, the stamp and banknote printers, based in High Wycombe. Harrisons had made significant inroads into De La Rue's banknote printing operations.

In 2003 the Company acquired the Debden based banknote printing operations of the Bank of England.

By Paul Green

Indo-European Telegraph Company

Indo-European Telegraph Company (IETC) , was a telegraph company that controlled telegraph wires between Tehran and the Russian border and onward through Russia and Germany to London. Unlike the Indo-European Telegraph Department (IETD) operated by the British Indian government and the native Iranian system, the Indo-European Telegraph Company was privately owned and operated by the Siemens Company.

On 11 January 1868, Nasáer-al-Din Shah granted the Siemens brothers a concession to build and operate a telegraph from Tehran to the Russian frontier at Jolfa. The agreement stipulated that, after 25 years, the entire line would default to the Iranian government unless overridden by a subsequent agreement.

In January 1891, the IETC extended their concession with Persia through 1925. The Persian government had previously built a rudimentary telegraph connecting Tehran and Tabriz, but used the Siemens concession to upgrade the link at no cost to itself. Robert Murdoch Smith, director of the IETD Persian section, wrote in an 1868 letter, "The Tabreez line has been very bad of late of course, the Iranians will do nothing to it in anticipation of Siemens taking it over".

Contemporaries frequently confused the IETC and IETD, leading Frederic Goldsmid, IETD director from 1865-71, to pen a clarification letter to The Times of London published 7 February 1870. The British government initially welcomed the IETC for the communications security an additional Indo-European telegraph route would provide. However, the IETC line fell under the protection of Russian authorities, even if most of its directors were English.

The IETC 480-mile double wire line opened in August 1869 for both Iranian and foreign traffic, although the IETC did not complete the route via Tiflis, Odessa, Warsaw, Thorn, Berlin, Emden, and Lowestoft to London until January 1870. The commencement of IETC operations shortened Indo-European communications from 12 days to just over six minutes. Increased traffic to Tehran via the IETC route spurred growth on the IETD system in the rest of Iran so as to accommodate traffic onward from Iran to India.

Beginning in 1912, the IETC sought to transform its Iranian operations into a wireless company, though this was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, which cut off IETC service; it did not resume until August 1923.

In 1929, Imperial and International Communications, a predecessor to Cable and Wireless, acquired the IETC. In 1931, Imperial and International Communications ceased its operations in Iran, liquidating the landline the following year.

By Paul Green

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Liverpool Gas Company

In 1816 The Liverpool Gas Light Company was created by Jonathan Varty, a local coach builder, and an engineer by the name of John Hargreaves. The company started to supply gas after getting a Charter of Incorporation by Act of Parliament in 1818. One of the company's responsibilities was lighting the Town Hall with gas.

In 1823 the rival Liverpool Oil Gas Company was created by an Act of Parliament to produce gas from oil only. In 1834 this restriction was lifted and the company was allowed to make gas from coal as well.

The next 25 years saw a bitter rivalry between these two gas companies. In 1848, following a campaign to lower gas prices, an Act of Parliament resulted in the amalgamation of the two companies to form The Liverpool United Gas Company.

Liverpool United Gas Company showroom, opened at Duke Street in 1872.

In 1914 The Liverpool United Gas Company changed its name to The Liverpool Gas Company. The company's area of supply was extended and it expanded by taking over several local gas companies.

When the UK gas industry was nationalised in 1949, The Liverpool Gas Company became part of the North West Gas Board.

By Mark Matlach

In addition to the overprint shown here, there are reports that there is a second version in which the text runs in the opposite direction.

Lloyd, Attree & Smith

Lloyd, Attree & Smith is a manufacturer and wholesaler of quality men's clothing. The company was established at Shacklewell Lane, Dalston in London in 1857. The company's wide range of menswear products includes shirts, collars, pyjamas, braces, handkerchiefs, jackets, blazers, waistcoats, and ties.

Over recent years Lloyd, Attree & Smith expanded into new specialisations such as luggage and leather goods and men's wedding attire.

Since 1987 Lloyd, Attree & Smith has been part of The Roberto Group Limited, one of the UK's leading menswear and corporate clothing suppliers.

By Mark Matlach

Despite the company's long history, I can confirm their use of commercial overprints only from SG465 to SG506.

Samuel Montagu & Company

Montagu Stanley was born in 1832 in Liverpool. While he was still a young child, his parents reversed his names, for reasons best known to themselves, and he became Samuel Montagu.

At the age of 15 Samuel Montagu moved to London and began his business career in the City, one which would span more than six decades. His first position was with his brother-in-law's money exchange business, where he learned the intricacies of the profession. Montagu left three years later to become the manager of the London branch of a French bank called Monteaux. However Montagu was determined to go into business for himself and he did not stay at the bank for long. In 1852, at the age of 20, Montagu borrowed £5000 from his father to finance an international bullion, money exchange, and bill collection service that he formed with his elder brother, Edwin Samuel. The new company was called Samuel & Montagu though the name was changed to Samuel Montagu & Company in 1877.

For the next twenty years, Samuel Montagu & Company was the undisputed leader in the silver bullion trade. It was one of the four firms which participated in the daily fixing of the silver price. By the 1870s the company was financing loans for European governments and was instrumental in making London the centre of the international money market.

Samuel Montagu was also very active in politics (he was created Baron Swaythling in 1862), and a philanthropic member of the Jewish community until his death in 1911.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, January 16, 2011

General Electric Company Limited

The General Electric Company (GEC) was a major British company involved in consumer and defence electronics, communications, and engineering.

GEC traces its origins to G. Binswanger & Co., an electrical goods wholesaler established in London during the 1880s by a German immigrant named Gustav Binswanger. In 1886 Binswanger was joined by fellow immigrant Hugo Hirst and the company name was changed to The General Electric Apparatus Company. The firm established a factory in Salford and began manufacturing telephones, electric bells, ceiling roses, and switches.

Hugo Hirst

In 1889 the business became General Electric Company Limited. The firm was expanding rapidly, opening new branches and factories and trading in "Everything Electrical", a phrase that was to become synonymous with GEC. In 1893 GEC decided to invest in lamp manufacture. The company led the way in lamp design and the burgeoning demand for electric lighting was to make GEC's fortune. In 1902 GEC's first purpose-built factory, the Witton Engineering Works, was opened near Birmingham.

The outbreak of The First World War transformed GEC into a major player in the electronics industry. The company was heavily involved in the war effort, with products such as radios and signal lamps. During The Second World War, GEC was a major supplier to the military of electrical and engineering products. GEC continued to expand after the War and by 1983 the company had become Britain's largest private employer, with about 250,000 employees.

GEC was renamed Marconi Corporation Limited in 1999 after its defense arm was sold to British Aerospace. In 2005 Ericsson purchased the bulk of Marconi and the remaining businesses were renamed Telent.

By Mark Matlach

There were at least three different General Electric overprints spanning the years from SG 421 to SG 518. The center stamp above is a rare combination of a commercial overprint and a perfin.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Times

The Times is a daily national newspaper in the UK. It is generally regarded as a serious publication with high standards of journalism. The paper is the originator of the ubiquitous Times Roman typeface, originally developed for its legibility in low-tech printing. The Times currently has a daily circulation of 502,000 copies.

The Times was founded by John Walter on 1st January 1785 as the Daily Universal Register, with Walter in the role of editor. Walter changed the title after 940 editions on 1st January 1788 to The Times. The newspaper was to remain in the hands of John Walter's family for the next 120 years. The Times used contributions from significant figures in the fields of politics, science, literature and the arts, to build up its reputation. For much of its early life, the profits of The Times were very large and the competition minimal, so it could pay far better than its rivals for information or writers.

In 1817 Thomas Barnes became general editor. Under his stewardship and that of his successor, J.T. Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. The Times was the first newspaper to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W.H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War, was immensely influential with his dispatches back to England.

Since 1981 The Times has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International. Murdoch quickly introduced new technology and efficiency measures. The Linotype printing process which had been used to print The Times since the 19th Century, was phased out and replaced by computer-input and photo-composition. This allowed the printing staff to be reduced by half. The Times had been printed in broadsheet format for 219 years but switched to tabloid size in 2004 partly in an attempt to appeal to younger readers and partly to appeal to commuters using public transport.

By Mark Matlach

The Times used commercial overprints from at least SG 421 to SG 543bd. There are three patterns over that period, which have small differences in font and spacing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Frederick Braby & Co. Ltd.

Frederick Braby & Co. was a manufacturer of a vast range of products made from tin, zinc, lead and iron. The firm was established at Euston Road, London in 1839 and became a limited company in 1865.

As the company expanded factories were established in Deptford (1866), Liverpool (1871), Glasgow (1875), Bristol (1896), and Falkirk (1899).

Photograph of Braby's Eclipse Works Glasgow circa 1910
The man in the centre of the foreground is a foreman. The "hard-hats" as they were called, were not popular among the working men, and the bowler hat was not only a symbol of the foreman's position but protected him from rivets and other objects "accidentally" dropped by workers from above.

The depression following The First World War resulted in the closure of the Glasgow Works, and Frederick Braby & Co. Limited moved to Crayford. In 1959 Braby's acquired Auto Diesels Limited ( manufacturers of generating sets ) and moved to Uxbridge with the new company name of Braby Auto Diesels. Products being manufactured at this time included wire netting, aluminium roofing, galvanised tanks, cisterns, steel pipes, oil tanks, wheel barrows and metal furniture.

Braby Auto Diesels was acquired by the Economic Group, who were manufacturers of gas appliances, in 1970. The company closed down in 1986 and the Uxbridge premises were demolished. The site is now a business park.

By Mark Matlach

The image above shows an early version of the Braby overprint and an example of the overprint from the top of the article which is rotated 180°.

Carters Tested Seeds Limited

Carters Tested Seeds was a company of seed and grain merchants, established in 1804 in High Holborn, London, with the initial trading name of James Carter, Dunnet & Beale. In 1879 the company registered its first trademark "Trocadero - Carters Grass Seeds", for agricultural and horticultural seeds.

In 1910 the business was moved from High Holborn to Raynes Park in South West London. Magnificent new headquarters were built, along with glass houses, seed trial gardens and packing and mailing premises. Carters established a nursery at nearby Perry Hill, which grew into one of the first bedding-plant nurseries of the day. The nursery had six span-roofed houses, each 150 feet long and 20 feet wide, in each of which 100,000 bedding-plants could be arranged in different stages of growth. Over 100 staff were employed to maintain the nursery. In 1930 the business went public with the trading name of Carters Tested Seeds Limited.

In 2008 Carters Tested Seeds Limited was taken over by Vilmorin, an international company which is the largest packet seed distributor in the world.

By Mark Matlach

It is likely (but not certain) that the first of the three overprints above is from the company that would come to be known as Carters Tested Seeds. The third overprint is on SG573.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Catesbys Limited

In 1865 Edward Catesby opened a carpet and linoleum shop in Marylebone, London. Twenty years later he relocated to a large new store built at Tottenham Court Road in the West End. The new store was completed in 1904. It was designed by the architect Henry A. Whitburn in a flamboyant Renaissance style.

In addition to carpets and linos, Catesbys began to sell linens, hardware and pottery. By the 1930s Catesbys was regarded as having the best stock of linoleum in London. The store closed down in 1958.

Former Catesbys Carpet Shop, Tottenham Court Road

By Mark Matlach

Catesbys used commercial overprints into the 1950s.

Imperial Ottoman Bank

The Imperial Ottoman Bank was founded in 1856 in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul. It was a joint venture between British interests, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas of France, and the Ottoman government. The opening capital of the bank consisted of 135,000 shares, 80,000 of which were bought by the British group, 50,000 by the French group and 5000 shares were allocated to the Ottomans.

The Imperial Ottoman Bank carried out the functions of a state bank. In 1875 the Bank was authorised to control the budget and the expenditures and incomes of the state. The bank was also involved in financial support for public works and railways, such as the Beirut Port and the Beirut to Damascus railway line.

The First World War was very damaging for the Imperial Ottoman Bank. It lost credibility with the Ottoman government because of its British and French shareholders, and on the other hand, the British and French governments considered it as an institution belonging to the enemy. After the War most of the Bank's branches had to be closed, while new branches were established in the Near East between 1920 - 1930 to serve British interests.

After the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the Imperial Ottoman Bank became the Ottoman Bank. The Bank's role as a state bank remained until 1933 when it became a commercial bank and finally in 1952 it turned into a private institution.

In June 1996, the Ottoman Bank was sold to the Dogus Group, from which point its banking activities were centered primarily in Turkey. In 2001 the Ottoman Bank became part of the Garanti Bank.

By Mark Matlach