Sunday, June 26, 2011

John Walsh Ltd.

John Walsh Ltd., department store retailers, was founded in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, in 1875 by John Walsh, and initially traded under the name John Walsh. By 1888, the company had expanded its existing premises at 39 High Street, Sheffield, through the acquisition of a number of short and long term leases on adjacent and neighboring premises, which were situated on the north and south side of the High Street, Sheffield. In 1902 , the year following John Walsh's retirement from active management, the company was incorporated as a private limited company. Five directors were drawn from the Walsh family; John Walsh became the chairman of the board of directors, while his two sons and two sons-in-law constituted the remainder of the board.

The company traded in the sale of silks, dresses, millinery, ribbons, laces, flowers, feathers, toys, stationery, patent medicine and other goods, as well as maintaining restaurant and writing rooms. The company also made furniture and carried out household removals, so that in 1906 a new cabinet factory, warehouse, and furniture depository was built in Pinford Street, Sheffield. A residential property was acquired at Glossop Road, The Mount, Sheffield. In 1920, the company was incorporated as a public limited company, John Walsh Ltd.

During the 1939-1945 World War, the premises on High Street were destroyed due to an air-raid bombing, and subsequently a temporary war-time store was opened at The Mount. By the end of 1941, the company resided in premises at 41-45 Fargate, Sheffield, (previously used as assistants' accommodation), and at Church Street, Sheffield. The Pinfold Street factory was made into a separate company, John Walsh Manufacturing Company Ltd., for administrative reasons in 1944 . This offshoot company operated until its closure in 1957 .

A new store was built on the site of the High Street premises in 1953. This was funded through financial resources derived from Harrods Ltd, department store retailers, London, England, who acquired the entire share capital of John Walsh Ltd in 1946. In 1959, John Walsh Ltd. came under the control of House of Fraser Ltd., department store retailer, Glasgow, Scotland, when Harrods was taken over by House of Fraser Ltd. From 1987, the store was renamed House of Fraser, Sheffield after it had undergone a 3 year program of refurbishment costing £2,000,000. As of 2003, House of Fraser Ltd. now operates its Sheffield store from 1 Park Lane, Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield.

by Paul Green

Spottiswoode & Sons

The Company which eventually became known as Spottiswoode Ballantyne was founded in 1739 in London by a Scotsman, William Strahan (1715-85). Strahan forged for his business a national and even transatlantic reputation with a distinguished list of clients and correspondents. In 1755 the firm printed Dr Johnson's English Dictionary. Strahan's correspondents included the Wesley brothers and the American statesman, Benjamin Franklin. In 1770, with Charles Eyre, Strahan purchased the patent of King's Printer (subsequently renewed by his successors) to run for 30 years. This separate business was known as Eyre and Strahan, afterwards Eyre and Spottiswoode, well-known for printing parliamentary publications such as the Statutes at Large series.

The Spottiswoodes, Andrew and Robert, nephews of Andrew Strahan, the son and successor of the founder William Strahan, entered the partnership in 1819 on their uncle's retirement. Trading as Spottiswoode & Co. (it was formed into a limited company in 1900) the firm expanded greatly in and around its London site in the 19th century. In 1900 it acquired the Eton College Press. In 1908 another printing works was opened in Hawkins Road, the Hythe, Colchester on the site it still occupies today. In 1915 the Scottish Printers Ballantyne Hanson & Co. transferred their printing business to Spottiswoode & Co., and the new firm became known as the Ballantyne Press, Spottiswoode Ballantyne & Co. Ltd., London, Colchester and Eton. This added another dimension to the firm's history, its Scottish acquisition having been the printers of the children's books of R.M. Ballantyne and some of the works of Sir Walter Scott.

The firm's printing business was moved totally from London to Colchester in the 1930s. The association with the Eton College Press ended in 1946. In 1955 Spottiswoode Ballantyne was taken over by the McCorquodale Group and W.B. Clowes became managing director-William Clowes & Sons was the book printing division of the McCorquodale Group.

In 1984 all composition work was transferred to a new site at Severalls Lane, Colchester, and the new company, since sold to Ician Communications, was named SB Datagraphics. In 1987 the McCorquodale Group was taken over by Norton Opax PLC and in 1989 Spottiswoode Ballantyne was acquired by the Serif Cowell Group PLC.

by Paul Green

The Automobile Association

The Motor Car Act 1903, which came into force in 1904, had introduced new penalties for breaking the speed limit and for reckless driving; it also required vehicles to display a vehicle registration plate and for drivers to hold a driving license. Fines were introduced for speeding, repeat offenders could be jailed, and driving offenses would be listed on the driver's license as 'endorsements'.

On 29 June 1905, a group of motoring enthusiasts met at the Trocadero restaurant in the West End of London. This was the inauguration of the Automobile Association, formed to help motorists avoid police speed traps.

By 1906 the AA took a stand on road safety issues, and erected thousands of roadside warning signs.

In 1907 the first AA patrols go on duty (using bicycles) in order to warn motorists of police speed traps ahead.

In 1908 the AA published the AA Members' Special Handbook, a list of nationwide agents and mechanics. The following year saw the introduction of the AA's free legal system.

In 1910 in legal test case ('Betts -v- Stevens') involving an AA patrolman and a potentially speeding motorist, the Chief Justice, Lord Alverston, ruled that where a patrolman signals to a speeding driver to slow down and thereby avoid a speed-trap, then that person would have committed the offense of 'obstructing an officer in the course of his duty' under the Prevention of Crimes Amendment Act 1885. Subsequently the organization developed a coded warning system, which was used until the 1960s, whereby a patrolman would always salute the driver of a passing car which showed a visible AA Badge unless there was a speed trap nearby, on the understanding that their officers could not be prosecuted for failing to salute.

In 1910 the organization introduced AA Routes and in 1912 began inspecting hotels and restaurants, issuing AA Star Classification to those deemed to be of sufficient quality. By 1914, the AA had grown to 83,000 members.

The Road Traffic Act 1930 removed the 20 mph speed limit which had been on statute since the Locomotives on Highways Act 1896. One reason given for the change was because the Automobile Association (and also the Royal Automobile Club) were frequently successful in defending their members against evidence from primitive speed traps. A speed limit of 30 mph in urban areas was re-introduced by the Road Traffic Act 1934 although speedometers were not made compulsory until 1937.

By 1939 the AA's membership had grown to 725,000, a number equivalent to 35% of all cars in the United Kingdom. When World War II, ended the AA began to protest about wartime petrol rationing. The campaign was successful and rationing was repealed in 1950. This was the first of many campaigns that were aimed at championing the rights of British motorists.

1949 saw the launch of a night-time breakdown and recovery service. Initially available in only London and the surrounding districts, it has been extended to cover most of the UK.

The AA Insurance brokerage service started in 1967. AA Insurance is the UK's largest motor insurance company. The service was extended to cover home and life insurance and also includes pet, travel and business insurance.

In 1973 AA Roadwatch began broadcasting traffic reports on UK commercial radio stations. It grew to become the largest broadcaster of traffic information in Europe. AA Relay was also introduced in 1973, a service that will deliver a broken-down vehicle, its driver and passengers, luggage and trailer to anywhere in Britain.

by Paul Green

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spirella Corset Company

"Pa" Beaman invented the flexible corset stay in 1904. The potential of this invention was recognised by American enrepreneur William Wallace Kincaid, who launched a corset company in the United States the same year, named after the spiral wound device that Beaman had engineered. Thus the Spirella Corset Company was established.

In 1909, Kincaid sailed to Britain, recognising a potential market for the company. On 27th May 1910 the Spirella Corset Company of Great Britain was formed and, according to the sales pitch of the time, "English womanhood was born again". The company set up its head office in Letchworth and called it Spirella House.

Spirella House, Oxford Street in the early 1950s

Although times were hard for the business during the First World War, Spirella survived, and in the 1920s expanded its manufacturing base to Malmo, Copenhagen and Berlin. After the Second World War, Spirella opened a showroom in Oxford Circus, London. One of the features of the Spirella Corset Company was that their products were made-to-measure and never sold in shops. Instead, female staff called corsetiers were sent out to potential customers' homes.

As corsets declined in popularity from the 1960s, Spirella experienced a rapid fall in customers. The business was eventually taken over in 1985 by rival company, Spencers of Banbury, and finally closed down in 1989.

By Mark Matlach

Samuel Hanson & Son Limited

Samuel Hanson & Son Ltd. was a wholesale grocery business established at 14 Eastcheap, London. The company had a large canning factory in Toddington, Gloucestershire. Hansons bought a chicory factory near Lakenheath, Suffolk after the Second World War.

The factory produced powdered milk and was also used to make the first instant coffee. There was a large specially lined cylinder, which was heated to a very high temperature. Chicory and coffee were fused into an essence, and by means of a large compressor, the essence was forced through spray nozzles into a hot chamber where it was turned into powder. This powder was then sucked up and packed in jars and sold under the name of Cup-Cof. Although not marketed nationally, it was sold over quite a large area.

By Mark Matlach

Portals Limited (Aldgate House, London E.1)

Portals was a paper manufacturer which traces its origins to 1712, when Henry Portal, a French Huguenot who had fled to England to escape religious persecution, began making stationery paper at a mill in Whitchurch, Hampshire. The quality of his paper became so renowned that he was asked to make paper for the Bank of England. Deals with other banks followed, including the Bank of Ireland and the General Bank of India. After banknote forgery emerged as a major problem in the early 19th century, the company began making paper with elaborate watermarks. In 1855 Portals made the paper for the first Bank of England note containing a shaded watermark. In 1880 Portals supplied paper for the first UK Postal Orders, and five years later began making paper for the Bank of Scotland.

During the early 20th century, Portals rapidly expanded its base of international customers. In 1915 the company began making paper for the Indian Rupee, then in 1921 started making banknote paper for Chile. By 1929 Portals was making paper for 41 banknote issues around the world. Building security features into its paper became a speciality of Portals. In 1940 the company pioneered the weaving of a fine security thread of special composition into its paper, a procedure that became standard industry practice.

In 1995 Portals was acquired by De La Rue, the world's largest commercial security printer and paper maker, in a deal worth £682 million.

Portals used their address “Aldgate House, London E.1” as the overprint on their stamps. At least three other companies who resided in the Aldgate House office building also used this overprint. The companies (also paper makers) were F. Keay & Co. Ltd.; Wiggins, Teape & Alex. Pirie Ltd.; and Allied Paper Merchants Ltd.

The overprints are most common on the George VI 2d stamps but are also known on SG 573. There are varieties in the style and font of the overprint.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welch, Margetson & Co.

Welch, Margetson & Co. was a menswear clothing manufacturer and wholesaler from 1824 to 1963.

The company was established in London in 1824 by Joseph Welch who became regarded as a pioneer in shirt making. The business grew to have a total of eight department stores in the UK. The London store specialised in high quality menswear, especially shirts and ties, and whole departments were given over to items such as sock suspenders and umbrella handles.

Through its London warehouse, Welch Margetson distributed shirts all over the world. The company had a huge factory in Derry, Northern Ireland (est. 1876) which employed a workforce of 1000 people, while work was also sent out to outworkers, giving employment to 3000 girls in their homes.

Welch, Margetson & Co was taken over by CoatsPatons Ltd. in 1963, however, to this day it is still possible to buy ties in Welch Margetson basket-weave on the internet.

By Mark Matlach

H. Millward & Sons

The needle industry in Britain began in the 16th century when it was introduced by Flemish refugees. A chartered guild of master needle makers was formed, called The Worshipful Company of Needle Makers. The manufacture of needles was originally a cottage industry and by the late 17th century it had reached the small town of Redditch in Worcestershire.

In 1730 Henry Millward & Sons was founded in Redditch by Symon Millward. Symon's son Henry took over the business in 1770 and by the end of the 18th century the company was the largest manufacturer in the whole district. By the end of the next century Henry Millward & Sons had the largest factory in England for the production of needles. The quality and excellence of Millward's needles received international acclaim.

Henry Millward & Sons played an active part in the amalgamation of the needle industry in Redditch. It absorbed several local companies and became The English Needle & Fishing Tackle Company in 1932. This company became Needle Industries Ltd. in May 1946 and in 1961, following further mergers, it became Needle Industries Group Ltd. In 1973 the Scottish textile company Coats Paton took over the structure. In 1984 Coats Paton acquired another needle making company, Aero Needles Group Ltd., forming the largest needle company in the world, which at its peak employed 15,000 people.

By Mark Matlach

County Perfumery Company Ltd.

County Perfumery Company Ltd. was a firm that made and sold perfumes and toiletries. The business was based at Honeypot Lane in Stanmore, Middlesex and was best known for manufacturing Brylcreem.

Brylcreem is a brand of hair styling products for men. The first Brylcreem product was a pomade created in 1928 by County Chemicals Company at the Chemical Works in Birmingham. The pomade is an emulsion of water and mineral oil stabilised with beeswax. The purpose of the product was to keep combed hair in place whilst giving a high, glossy shine. Brylcreem was popular with men during and after the Second World War. Brylcreem hairstyles were influenced by American movie idols and were very popular with Royal Air Force pilots who became known as the Brylcreem Boys.

In 1939 County Perfumery Company Ltd. was acquired by the pharmaceutical company Beecham Group, which is now part of GlaxoSmithKline.

1940s Advertisement

By Mark Matlach