Sunday, April 24, 2011

North Central Finance Ltd.

North Central was a hire purchase company that was established in 1861 in Rotherham as North Central Wagon Company, by a group of investors who wanted to lease wagons to railway companies.

After the nationalisation of the railway companies in Britain in 1948, North Central Wagon Company became involved in the business of motor car hire purchase, changing its name to North Central Wagon & Finance Company Ltd.

In 1958 National Provincial Bank, North Central's own banker, bought the company's entire share capital. In 1961 the company changed its name to North Central Finance Ltd. In 1968 National Provincial announced its merger with Westminster Bank, and North Central Finance Ltd consequently became part of the newly-formed National Westminster Bank Ltd. in 1970. In 1971 North Central merged with Lombard Banking, which National Westminster Bank had bought in 1970, to form Lombard North Central Ltd.

North Central overprints can be found on the Wilding and Machin stamps. Unusually, the overprints are much more common on the 6d than the 2d denominations (the duty on hire purchase agreements and insurance policies was 6d).

By Mark Matlach


Lewis's was a large department store in Liverpool city centre. It was formerly the flagship of a group of department stores under the Lewis's name, ( not to be confused with the John Lewis department stores ), that operated from 1856 to 1991.

The first Lewis's was opened in 1856 in Liverpool by entrepreneur David Lewis, as a men's and boys' clothing store, mostly manufacturing his own stock. In the 1870s the store expanded and added departments, including shoes in 1874 and tobacco in 1879.

Lewis's Department Store, Liverpool

The first Lewis's outside Liverpool opened in Manchester in 1877. The store included a full scale ballroom on the fifth floor, which was also used for exhibitions. More new stores were opened in Birmingham (1885), Glasgow (1929), Leeds (1932), Stoke-on-Trent (1934) and Leicester (1936). Lewis's were generally the largest department stores in their localities.

As a result of problems such as the then recession and failure to compete effectively, Lewis's went into administration in 1991. Owen Owen acquired several branches of Lewis's, although the Lewis's brand name on the purchased stores was retained. Other branches, including the Manchester and Birmingham stores, closed down. The last store to trade as Lewis's was the Liverpool original, which finally ceased trading on 29th May 2010.

By Mark Matlach

H. H. & S. Budgett & Co. Limited

H. H. & S. Budgett was a leading wholesale grocer that covered South-West England, South Wales, and the London area.

The company was begun c1820 when Samuel Budgett became a partner of his half-brother Henry Hill Budgett, in the latter's small shop in Kingswood, Bristol. Samuel had a passion for trading. He introduced the practice of buying in bulk and delivering to other small shops like his own. He trained a group of traveling salesmen who would visit potential clients outside the Bristol area. The business grew rapidly and in time reached as far as Birmingham and Penzance. A warehouse and new houses for Budgett employees were built in Kingswood.

In 1842 Henry retired, leaving Samuel in sole charge of the company. Soon afterwards, Samuel set up an additional business as a tea wholesaler in London. When he died in 1851, Samuel's son took control of of both the tea trade in London and the original business in Bristol under the original name of H. H. & S Budgett & Co.

Samuel died in 1851, leaving a strong and vigorous business in the hands of an excellent workforce and a family willing and able to continue along the same lines as before.

In 1875, the firm was reorganised. James Budgett and his son Richard continued the London business under the name "James Budgett and Son". William and Samuel (son of the founder) continued the tea trade in London and the whole business in Bristol under the original name "H.H. and S. Budgett".

On 21 July 1898, the company became a limited company. H. H. and S. Budgett (Limited), with a share capital of £150,000, divided into 15,000 5% Cumulative Preference shares and 15,000 Ordinary Shares of £5 each had been formed to take over the old firm--Messrs. H. H. and S. Budgett and Co. Wholesale grocers and drysalters of Nelson Street, Bristol--under the existing management.

At the 1920 AGM, the chairman (W. E. Budgett) said they had been acquiring other companies that fitted well and they now covered the country from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Lands End. Turnover had multiplied many times but much of the benefit had been taken by the Government in Excess Profits Tax.

Budgetts were taken over in 1961 by Scribbans-Kemp. They continued, still with family members on the board but gradually declined as a business under the relentless pressure of the supermarkets. Although they changed to some extent: opening Cash & Carry Warehouses for retailers and buying retail shops themselves, they had failed to seize a strong position in the supermarket trade at an early stage and consequently were perhaps bound to fail in the long run.

In 1968 the firm was acquired by Lyons & Co.

By 1977 Budgetts, together with Oakeshotts, had been sold for "almost £5m" but it is not clear to whom.

Budgetts began as a small shop in 1820, lost its autonomy 140 years later in 1961 and probably disappeared completely in 1977 after 157 years, a long record by any standard.

By Mark Matlach and Paul Green

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China

The Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China (C.B.I.) was founded in London in 1853 by Scotsman James Wilson, following the grant of a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria. The first branches were opened in Calcutta and Bombay in 1858. The bank was keen to capitalize on the huge expansion of trade and to earn the large profits to be made from financing the movement of goods from Europe to the East.

In 1859, C.B.I. opened a branch in Hong Kong and two years later in Singapore. In 1862 the bank was authorized to issue banknotes in Hong Kong, a privilege it continues to exercise to this day. The bank's expansion continued into the 20th century, leading it to open branches across Asia. The traditional business of C.B.I. was in cotton from Bombay, indigo, and tea from Calcutta; rice from Burma; sugar from Java; tobacco from Sumatra; hemp from Manila; opium from Shanghai; and silk from Yokohama.

In 1957, C.B.I. acquired the Eastern Bank, giving it a network of branches in Aden, Bahrain, Beirut, Lebanon, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China merged with the Standard Bank of South Africa in 1969, and the combined bank became the Standard Chartered Bank.

There is an interesting variety in the security endorsements used by C.B.I., from handstamps in several colours, to overprints with differences in style and printing.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, April 10, 2011

J. W. Benson Limited

J.W Benson Ltd. made clocks and watches and also dealt in jewelery, diamonds, silver, and gold.

The business began as a partnership between Samuel Suckley Benson and James William Benson. From about 1840, they were selling watches under the name SS & JW Benson, Cornhill, London. In 1855 the partnership was dissolved, and from 1855 to 1897 the company traded as J.W. Benson and moved their premises to Ludgate Hill. The firm held royal warrants during the second half of the 19th Century, starting in 1876, for Queen Victoria, the Prince if Wales, the King of Siam, and the King of Denmark.

In 1889, Bensons opened a factory in Bell Sauvage Yard, Ludgate Hill, where watch finishing operations were carried out. Bensons made most types of clocks and watches, including office dial clocks, tower clocks, mantel clocks, pocket watches, chronometers, and wristwatches. The factory continued in operation until 1914, when it was bombed and 12,000 watches were destroyed. Following this disaster, J.W. Benson never made their own watches again. The company brought in all their watches and had the company name engraved on them, Bensons operating solely as a retail jeweler.

Advertisement 1896

There is very little recorded about the company from this time onwards, but it would seem that the original company sold the name to Garrards around 1973. By 1994 the name was part of the Mappin & Webb company and J.W. Benson acted as distributors for Ebel, International Watch Company, and Jaegar. In 1998, the J.W. Benson name was bought by International Watch Company and is now marketed by the watch and jewelery manufacturer, Chopard Ltd.

By Mark Matlach

Brighton & Hove General Gas Company (B. & H. G. G. Co.)

The first gas supplier in Brighton was the Brighton Gas Light and Coke Company, which was established in 1819. In 1825, a rival concern named the Brighton & Hove General Gas Company established a works adjacent to St. Andrew's Church, Hove. The company continued manufacturing gas there until 1871, when a large, new works was opened on the southern arm of Shoreham Harbour at Portslade-by-Sea.

On January 1st 1882, the Brighton & Hove General Gas Company absorbed its older rival and in 1885 all manufacture was transferred to the Portslade works. As the demand for gas continued to grow yearly, the Portslade works were rebuilt and enlarged in the 1920s.

In 1931, the company absorbed the Worthing Gas Company to become the Brighton, Hove & Worthing Gas Company.

The gas industry was nationalised on 1st May 1949 and the Brighton, Hove & Worthing Gas Company became part of the South Eastern Gas Board.

Both the Brighton & Hove General Gas Company and the Brighton, Hove & Worthing Gas company overprinted their stamps.

By Mark Matlach

Benetfink & Co.

Benetfink & Co. was a large retail business located at 89-90 Cheapside, London, from c1845 to 1907. The firm described themselves as "furnishing ironmongers" and sold a huge range of metalware products for the home. An advertisement from 1852 claimed that Benetfink would furnish an eight-roomed house for £5.

The store also housed an optical department where chandeliers, lamps, optical lanterns, and cameras were for sale. A sports department offered a wide choice of bicycles and sportswear. By the turn of the century Benetfink was selling Kerry and Enfield motorcycles and a range of motor accessories such as jacks, motor watches, and headlights.

In 1907, Benetfink & Co. was taken over by the A. W. Gamage department store.

By Mark Matlach

Monday, April 4, 2011

Union of London & Smiths Bank Ltd.

The Union Bank of London was established at 8 Moorgate Street, London in 1839; the bank assumed limited liability in 1882. Five years later, a new head office was erected in Princes Street. By 1902 the bank had 24 branches in London and its suburbs.

In 1902, Union Bank of London Ltd. merged with Smith, Payne & Smiths. The new bank was called Union of London & Smiths Bank Ltd. The bank expanded steadily and in 1917 there were 231 branches in operation.

In 1918 Union of London & Smiths Bank Ltd. amalgamated with National Provincial Bank of England Ltd. to form National Provincial & Union Bank of England Ltd. The new bank continued to grow until its merger with Westminster Bank in 1968 and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Symbol Biscuits Limited

In 1938, Lyons & Co., a British company that controlled the largest food empire in Britain at this time, purchased the Bee Bee Biscuit Company, which manufactured biscuits from its factory in Blackpool. Bee Bee Biscuits had originated in 1922 as the Blackpool Biscuit Company. Six years later, Lyons changed Bee Bee Biscuit's name to Symbol Biscuits and began selling biscuits under the Symbol and Lyons brand names.

Symbol manufactured approximately 40 different types of sweet, dry, and savory biscuits packed and sold under the Symbol and Lyons brands, its logo being an elephant's head. The introduction of Maryland Cookies in 1956 brought a significant increase in revenues.

In 1990 Lyons changed Symbol Biscuit's name to Lyons Biscuits Limited. The company continued to trade profitably until December 1994, when the business was sold to a subsidiary of Hillsdown Holidays Plc. for around £20 million. At the time, 780 people worked at the Blackpool factory. Since then, the company has been acquired by a U.S. Investment house and is currently part of Burton's Foods Limited, the second largest biscuit company in the UK.

By Mark Matlach

Peek Brothers & Co. / Peek Brothers & Winch Ltd.

In 1823, three brothers, named Richard, William, and James Peek, set up a business as tea merchants in London, which was the headquarters of the tea auctions at this time. The company offered grocers reduced prices if accounts were settled in cash within one month of delivery. This meant a quick turnover and sure profits and helped the business to prosper and expand.

At this time, the East India Company had a monopoly of the tea trade in Liverpool. Once the monopoly was abolished in 1835, Peek Brothers & Co. and other London tea brokers were able to set up branches in Liverpool. Richard Peek retired in this year and the company was continued by his two brothers.

Peek House, Eastcheap

By the end of the 19th century, Peek Bros. & Co. was a large and successful company. In 1865 alone it imported over 5 million pounds of tea. The company also traded in coffee, sugar, spices, and tinned goods. In 1870, large new premises were built for the firm at 20 Eastcheap in London. The building had a circular corner tower with a carving of three camels and their loads being led along by an Arab. It was meant to represent the three varieties of merchandise that Peek Bros. dealt with--tea, coffee, and spices--and became the trademark of the company.

Peek Brothers & Co. later became known as Peek Brothers & Winch, and traded under this name until 1958.

By Mark Matlach

J. R. Tennent

Hugh and Robert Tennent founded H. & R. Tennent in 1740 at Drygate Bridge, Glasgow, although the Tennent family had been associated with brewing in Glasgow since the mid 16th century.

Hugh Tennent's sons, John and Robert, continued the family business, trading as J. & R. Tennent from at least 1769. In the 1790s the business expanded by absorbing an adjacent brewhouse and the Drygate Brewery was renamed Wellpark Brewery. The company originally brewed stout and strong export ales. By the mid-19th century, J. & R. Tennent was the world's largest bottled beer exporter.

J. & R. Tennent became a limited liability company in 1901. The firm produced the first draught lager in 1924 and the first canned lager in 1935. The business became a public company in 1953. J. & R. Tennent Ltd. was taken over by Charrington United Breweries Ltd. in 1963, and in 1966 formally merged with Caledonian Breweries Ltd., Charrington's other Scottish holding, to form Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd. The new company continues to brew at Wellpark Brewery and claims to have the largest sales of all beers sold in Scotland.

Tennent's Wellpark brewery early 20th century

By Mark Matlach

Hancocks & Company

Hancocks & Co. is a retail jeweller and one of London's oldest specialist dealers, buying and selling rare and collectable jewels.

The company was founded on 1st January 1849 by Charles Frederick Hancock, who opened a shop on the corner of Bruton Street and New Bond Street in the West End of London. The business also had its own foundry and workshops where craftsmen worked to produce fine jewellery and silver. After only eight months in business, Hancocks received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria, who became a regular patron. Hancocks exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London; this was followed by exhibitions in Paris and Vienna in 1867 and 1873, where Hancocks were awarded many prestigious medals of excellence.

The rapid expansion and growing reputation of Hancocks led to the company being entrusted with the design and production of the Victoria Cross on the inception of the award in 1856. This medal is the highest award for gallantry and is still made exclusively by Hancocks today.

Hancocks & Co. moved to Vigo Street in 1917, then to Burlington Street in 1970, and in 1998 to their current home in Burlington Arcade.

By Mark Matlach

Carreras Limited

Carreras Ltd. was a tobacco business that was established in London in the 19th century by Don José Carreras Ferrer, a nobleman from Spain.

During the early years of the 19th century, Carreras began trading in London at a time when cigars were increasing in popularity, and Don José became a pioneer in his field. However, although the business prospered, it did not become a major concern until his son, Don José Joaquin, began to specialise in the blending of tobaccos and snuff. By 1852 Don José Joaquin Carreras had established himself near Leicester Square, and in 1853 was granted a warrant as the sole supplier of cigars and tobacco to the Spanish Legation in London. His fame as a skilled tobacco blender soon spread, and he produced special blends to suit the individual tastes of the highest members of society, with fashionable and distinguished customers visiting his showroom to select their own tobaccos. Some of Don José's tobacco brands, such as Craven Mixture and Guard's Mixture, became world famous. Over 1000 brands of cigar could be bought from Carreras, together with snuffs, cigarettes, and pipes.

The business continued to expand and in 1903 Carreras became a public company. In 1904 Carreras introduced the Black Cat cigarettes, which were one of the first machine-made cigarettes to be manufactured in Britain, and went on to become Carreras' best selling brand.

Carreras Ltd. continued as an independent company until November 1958 when it merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall. Carreras Rothmans Ltd. was formed in 1972, when Carreras Ltd. was used as the vehicle for the merger of various European tobacco interests to form Rothmans International.

By Mark Matlach

Carreras overprints appears on issues from at least SG421 to SG543. There are font differences between the first three stamps shown below.