Sunday, December 16, 2012

G. King and Son

The firm of G. King and Son established themselves as glaziers in the Cathedral Close, Norwich in 1927. The firm’s founder, Dennis King, initially worked alone, until he was joined by his father, George King, who had worked with a firm of decorative plasterers and mosaic-workers. He had specialized in gilding and the leading of windows, after training with William Weyer.

Much of the firm’s early work was on pubs and cinemas, but by the 1930s, working from larger premises in King’s Lane Norwich, they had started restoring ecclesiastical glass. Under Dennis’s direction, the business became the leading stained glass conservation firm in Britain.

King and Son worked on many of the parish churches of East Anglia, and also on many other key sites for surviving stained glass nationally, including Great Malvern Priory, Wells Cathedral, Highcliffe Castle and many Oxbridge colleges. Internationally, they worked on commissions as far afield as Athens, South Africa and Canada. Dennis King also acted as a consultant to conservation workshops at York and Canterbury, and he advised on the creation of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely. No other British studio has handled so much conservation work in connection with historic stained glass.

Dennis King was made a freeman of the City of Norwich in 1933, and of the City of London in 1969; he became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1959; and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 for services to the conservation of stained glass. He was also a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, a member of the International Technical Committee of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi and was awarded the honorary degree of Master of Arts at the University of East Anglia in 1994. He continued to work as an adviser to his son, Michael, into his eighties and died after a short illness in March 1995.

In late 2003, the business was wound up on the retirement of Michael King, Dennis King’s son.

by Paul Green

D.E.R. Ltd. (Domestic Electric Rentals Ltd.)

 D. E. R. Ltd. was a TV rental company that was established in 1938 as a single shop in Twickenham, Middlesex.

Radios and the earliest type of television receivers were rented throughout Greater London. Rental charges were competitive and covered full maintenance, service and renewals. The unreliability of television at this time gave D.E.R. Ltd. the opportunity to make significant profits and the company quickly expanded outside of London, establishing regional offices and shops in the Home Counties, Scotland, Wales and southern England.

Eventually the rental market started to tail off as the reliability of television sets improved. Around 1968, D.E.R. Ltd. merged with rival company Radio Rentals and became part of Thorn Television Rentals, which became part of the merged Thorn-EMI in 1980.

D.E.R. Ltd. overprints are common on  2d Wildings and 2d Machins, although there are minor varieties in the thickness of the font.

by Paul Green and
Mark Matlach

W. B. Fordham & Sons Ltd.

W. B. Fordham of 36-40 York Road, Kings Cross, London was established in 1825. On the 7th December 1885 the company was registered, to take over the business of the firm of this name as hardware factors, manufacturers, and contractors.

In 1932, the company closed:

W. B. FORDHAM & SONS Ltd. (In Voluntary Liquidation.)
The Companies Act, 1929.
Notice is hereby given that General Meetings of the shareholders and creditors of the above named Company will be held at the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Moorgate Place, London, E.C.2, on Monday, the 31st day of October, 1932, at 11 o'clock and 11.30 o'clock in the forenoon respectively, to receive the account of the Liquidator, showing how the winding-up of the Company has been conducted and its property disposed of, and to hear any explanation that may be furnished by the Liquidator, and to pass a Resolution as to the disposal of the books, accounts, and documents of the Company.
—Dated this 23rd day of September, 1932.
    GEORGE C. JARVIS, Liquidator.

by Paul Green

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bullard King & Co. Ltd.

Bullard King & Company, Limited, was founded in 1850 with a fleet of small sailing ships trading from the Thames to the Mediterranean.

In 1879 they built their first steamer and introduced the Natal Direct Line to carry passengers directly to Durban and later to East African ports. In 1889 they commenced sailing from India to South Africa to carry field laborers for the sugar plantations.

In 1911 immigration from India was stopped and in 1919 Bullard King & Company, Limited, was taken over by the Union-Castle Line, although keeping its independent identity and colors.

Their last ships were merged into the Springbok Line in 1960.

by Paul Green

Huntley & Palmers Ltd.

Huntley & Palmers was founded in 1822 by Joseph Huntley as J. Huntley & Son.

Initially the business was a small biscuit baker and confectioner shop at number 119 London Street. At this time London Street was the main stage coach route from London to Bristol, Bath and the West Country. One of the main calling points of the stage coaches was the Crown Inn, opposite Joseph Huntley's shop and he started selling his biscuits to the travelers on the coaches. Because the biscuits were vulnerable to breakage on the coach journey, he started putting them in metal tins. Out of this innovation grew two businesses: Joseph's biscuit shop that was to become Huntley & Palmers, and Huntley, and Bourne and Stevens, a firm of biscuit tin manufacturers founded by his younger son, also called Joseph.

In 1838 Joseph Huntley was forced by ill-health to retire, handing control of the business to his older son Thomas. In 1841, Thomas took as a business partner George Palmer, a distant cousin and member of the Society of Friends. George Palmer soon became the chief force behind its success, establishing sales agents across the country. The company soon outgrew its original shop and moved to a factory on King’s Road in 1846, near the Great Western Railway. The factory had an internal railway system with its own steam locomotives; one of these has been preserved near Bradford.

Thomas Huntley died in 1857, but George Palmer continued to direct the firm successfully aided by his brothers, William Isaac Palmer and Samuel Palmer, and subsequently by his sons, as heads of the company. They became biscuit makers to the British Royal Family and in 1865 expanded into the European continent, and received Royal Warrants from Napoleon III and Léopold II of Belgium. At their height they employed over 5,000 people and in 1900 were the world's largest biscuit firm. The origins of the firm's success lay in a number of areas. They provided a wide variety of popular products, producing 400 different varieties by 1903, and mass production enabled them to price their products keenly.

Palmers sent biscuits all over the world, perfectly preserved in locally produced, elaborately decorated, and highly collectable biscuit tins. The tins proved to be a powerful marketing tool, and under their easily recognizable image Huntley & Palmer's biscuits came to symbolize the commercial power and reach of the British Empire in the same way that Coca Cola did for the United States. The tins found their way as far abroad as the heart of Africa and the mountains of Tibet; the company even provided biscuits to Captain Scott during his expedition to the South Pole. During the First World War they produced biscuits for the war effort and devoted their tin-making resources to making cases for artillery shells.

In 1921, Huntley and Palmers entered into an amalgamation agreement with rival biscuit firm Peek Frean, resulting in the creation of a holding company, Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd. Both biscuit firms retained their own brands and premises.

In 1960 Jacob's joined Associated Biscuit Manufacturers, and in 1969 ABM was reorganized as Associated Biscuits.
Manufacturing in Reading ceased in 1976. In 1982 Nabisco acquired Associated Biscuits. Production continued at Huyton until 1983. After the closure of the Peek Frean factory at Bermondsey in 1989, Nabisco sold the Associated Biscuit brands (Huntley and Palmers, Peek Frean, and Jacobs) to Danone.

In 2006, Huntley & Palmers resumed operations from Sudbury in Suffolk. The management team included a former marketing director of Jacobs Bakery, which once owned the company, and a founder of Vibrandt, a successful packaging design company. They targeted the speciality and fine-food sector. Since 2008, Huntley and Palmers has been owned by the Freeman family, with three generations in the biscuit business. Their aim is to bring the name of Huntley and Palmers back into the mainstream, with several product ranges focusing on different market sectors, and including once again, biscuit tins.

by Paul Green

Crescens Robinson & Co.

Robinson was a member of an entrepreneurial family that had interests in paper-making and printing in Bristol and London and in a wide range of goods in Singapore.

The family company of E. S. & A. Robinson owned a large printing and paper-bag manufacturing site at Bedminster in Bristol.

Crescens Robinson's unusual name was a family name: his uncle Crescens had a firm called "Crescens Robinson & Co." in Islington, London, that acted as an agent for his uncle Philip who was the founder of Robinson & Co. in Singapore. That firm later became a lithographic printing company specializing in fine printing of posters, with London Transport among its customers:

by Paul Green

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brentnall & Cleland Ltd.

In 1883, Gervase Stanley Brentnall moved from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire to London. Together with his cousin John Henry Cleland, they bought the business of A Howard and Company at Kew Bridge, thus founding the company Brentnall and Clelands.

Brentnall and Cleland goods train passing through Berkhamsted

At its peak, the Company traded coal throughout the country, with local branches at Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Kings Langley. G S Brentnall settled at Roughdown House, Boxmoor, and played an active role in the community as President of Hemel Hempstead District Swimming and Life Saving Society. He died on 15 April 1937.

 The London Gazette published the following announcement on the 24th October 1977:
BRENTNALL & CLELAND LIMITED Notice is hereby given (pursuant to sections 290 and 341 (1) (b) of the Companies Act 1948) that a General Meeting of the Members of the above named Company will be held at the offices of Mordant Latham & Co., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HZ, on Tuesday the 6th December 1977, at 12 noon, for the purpose of having an account laid before them showing the manner in which the winding up has been conducted and the property of the Company disposed of, and of hearing any explanation that may be given by the Liquidator, and also of determining by Extraordinary Resolution the manner in which the books, accounts and documents of the Company and of the Liquidator thereof shall be disposed of. A Member entitled to attend and vote is entitled to appoint a proxy to attend and vote instead of him. A proxy need not also be a Member of the Company.
   —Dated 24th October 1977. G. A. Wale, Liquidator

by Paul Green

David Bumsted & Co.

The 1846 London Directory lists David Bumsted & Co., trading at 86 Lower Thames Street, 35 Bridge Wharf, City Road Basin & 338 Wapping High Street Droitwich, as a salt merchant.

The London Gazette had the following announcement dated 30th November 1887
NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, David Bumsted and John Campbell Bumsted, carrying on business at 36, King William-street, in the city of London, as Salt Merchants, is dissolved as and from this date; and that the business will be continued to be carried on by the said John Campbell Bumsted alone, under the style or firm of D. Bumsted and Company, by whom all the credits and outgoings of the late firm will be received and all debts due will be paid.
—Dated this 30th day of November, 1887.
    D. Bumsted.
   John C. Bumsted.

by Paul Green

F.N.C.B (First National City Bank)

Founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, ownership and management of the bank was taken over by Moses Taylor, a protégé of John Jacob Astor and one of the giants of the business world in the 19th century. During Taylor's ascendancy, the bank functioned largely as a treasury and finance center for Taylor's own extensive business empire. The first president of City Bank was Col. Samuel Osgood, born in North Andover, Massachusetts.

In 1863, the bank joined the U.S.'s new national banking system and became The National City Bank of New York. By 1868, it was considered one of the largest banks in the United States, and in 1897, it became the first major U.S. bank to establish a foreign department.

National City became the first U.S. national bank to open an overseas banking office when its branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was opened in 1914. Many of Citi's present international offices are older; offices in London, Shanghai, Calcutta, and elsewhere were opened in 1901 and 1902 by the International Banking Corporation (IBC), a company chartered to conduct banking business outside the U.S., at that time an activity forbidden to U.S. national banks. In 1918, IBC became a wholly owned subsidiary and was subsequently merged into the bank. By 1919, the bank had become the first U.S. bank to have $1 billion in assets.

Charles E. Mitchell was elected president in 1921 and in 1929 was made chairman, a position he held until 1933. Under Mitchell the bank expanded rapidly and by 1930 had 100 branches in 23 countries outside the United States. The policies pursued by the bank under Mitchell's leadership are seen by historical economists as one of the prime causes of the stock market crash of 1929, which led ultimately to the Great Depression. In 1933 a Senate committee, the Pecora Commission, investigated Mitchell for his part in tens of millions dollars in losses, excessive pay, and tax avoidance. Senator Carter Glass said of him: "Mitchell, more than any 50 men, is responsible for this stock crash."

Following its merger with the First National Bank in 1955, the bank changed its name to The First National City Bank of New York, then shortened it to First National City Bank in 1962.

Later to become part of MasterCard, the bank introduced its First National City Charge Service credit card – popularly known as the "Everything Card" – in 1967.

In 1976, under the leadership of CEO Walter B. Wriston, First National City Bank (and its holding company First National City Corporation) was renamed Citibank, N.A. (and Citicorp, respectively).

John S. Reed was selected CEO in 1984, and City became a founding member of the CHAPS clearing house in London. Under his leadership, the next 14 years would see Citibank become the largest bank in the United States, the largest issuer of credit cards and charge cards in the world, and expand its global reach to over 90 countries.

by Paul Green

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Welch & Sons

Welch & Sons was a straw hat manufacturing company established in the early 1800s. The company had a hat factory in the Bedfordshire town of Luton and a warehouse in London.

Historically Luton and the surrounding area was the center of the straw hat trade in England, producing a large share of all the womens' hats manufactured and worn in the country. In 1895 Welch & Sons was one of the most prominent hat manufacturers in Luton. The local trade directory of this year describes the company as a “manufacturer of straw hats, straw plaits and bonnets”. Most of the work in the hat industry was undertaken by women and girls. Luton gained a reputation as a place where men were kept by the women, the Luton Chamber of Commerce going so far as to produce a booklet in 1900, aimed at attracting new industry to the town by advertising the advantage of being able to pay men at low rates as the female members of the family were already employed.

by Mark Matlach

The London Joint Stock Bank Ltd.

Joint stock banking effectively started in 1826. Private banks had been the major force in English banking throughout the 18th Century and for the first decades of the 19th Century. By the 1820’s there was considerable discussion about the perceived limitations o f the private banks and whether joint stock banks should be permitted, similar to banking developments in Scotland. Up to this period all the private banks, of which there were now 700 or so, were restricted to a simple partnership structure with a maximum of 6 partners. This limited the size of their resources and consequently their ability to withstand periods of financial crisis. In December 1925 there was a widespread financial crisis as a result of which over 100 private banks closed. Whilst some did re-open, about 80 private banks actually failed.

This crisis finally stimulated the authorities to action. In 1826 legislation was passed which allowed banks to be created on joint stock principles (for example, not limited to six partners) provided that they were not situated within 65 miles of London. This 65-mile restriction was to protect the Bank of England from direct competition. At the same time the Bank of England was specifically authorised to open branches anywhere in England & Wales.

All the early joint stock banks were of necessity provincial banks as none were permitted to locate themselves within 65 miles of London. However in 1833 further legislation removed this restriction and allowed joint stock banks in London provided they did not issue their own banknotes. This restriction on banknote issues within 65 miles of London was, once again, intended to protect the Bank of England.

During the next decade just five London joint stock banks were established. Some of these new banks began to develop the branch networks that were one of the major benefits of the joint stock banking structure.

The London Joint Stock Bank, established in 1836, was one of the early joint stock pioneers in London.  The first branch was opened in Coleman Street in the City of London but in 1837 the Bank moved to nearby Princess Street. The London Joint Stock Bank had influential City support and deposits rose from £600,000 in 1837 to £2.25 million by 1845. This was serious money at the time. In 1840 a “Western Branch” was established by the purchase of a private bank (Wright & Co) in Covent Garden. This “Western Branch” quickly moved to 69, Pall Mall and the picture above  shows an early London Joint Stock Bank cheque from this location.

In 1917 the London Joint Stock Bank became a part of the Midland Bank. This amalgamation created the largest bank in the country, known as HSBC on the High Street today.

by Paul Green

Swiss Bank Corporation

Swiss Bank Corporation was a large integrated financial services company located in Switzerland. Prior to its merger, the bank was the third largest in Switzerland with over 300 billion CHF of assets and 11.7 billion CHF of equity.

During 1854, six private banking firms in Basel, Switzerland, pooled their resources to form the Bankverein, a consortium that acted as an underwriting syndicate for its member banks. Among the original member banks were Bischoff zu St Alban, Ehinger & Cie., J. Merian-Forcart, Passavant & Cie., J. Riggenbach and von Speyr & Cie.

Basler Bankverein later combined with Zürcher Bankverein in 1895 to become the Basler & Zürcher Bankverein. The next year, Basler Depositenbank and Schweizerische Unionbank were acquired. After the take-over of the Basler Depositenbank, the bank changes its name to Schweizerischer Bankverein (Swiss Bank). The English name of the bank was changed to Swiss Bank Corporation in 1917.

SBC continued to grow in the early decades of the 20th century, acquiring weaker rivals, but the onset of World War I put a hold on much of the bank's development. Although SBC survived the war intact, it suffered the loss of its investments in a number of large industrial companies. Nevertheless, the bank surpassed 1 billion CHF for the first time at the end of 1918 and grew to 2,000 employees by 1920. In 1937 , SBC adopted its three keys logo symbolizing confidence, security and discretion. The logo was designed by a Swiss artist and illustrator, Warja Honegger-Lavater.

Swiss Bank Corporation found itself in relatively strong financial condition at the end of World War II, with 1.8 billion CHF of assets, by 1947 SBC was shifting its focus back to its traditional business of lending money principally to private companies as part of the postwar rebuilding of Europe.

The following years were marked by a constant process of expansion supported by a number of aggressive acquisitions, this placed the bank in second place to UBS in the Swiss banking market. 

Swiss Bank began the 1990s as the weakest of the "Big Three" Swiss banks but by the end of 1997 would be the driving force behind the merger with Union Bank of Switzerland. SBC had been impacted by losses on its real estate investments and a series of minor controversies, despite the bank's historically conservative posture.

On December 8, 1997, Union Bank of Switzerland and SBC announced an all stock merger creating a new entity UBS AG also referred to as the “New UBS” to distinguish itself from the original Union Bank of Switzerland. At the time of the merger, Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation were the second and third largest banks in Switzerland, respectively, both trailing Credit Suisse. Discussions between the two banks had begun several months earlier, less than a year after rebuffing Credit Suisse's merger overtures.

UBS, the successor of the Union Bank of Switzerland, is among the largest diversified financial institutions in the world. As of 2010, UBS operated in all of the major financial centers worldwide with offices in over 50 countries and 64,000 employees globally.

The bank would grow considerably in the 2000s, building a large investment banking franchise to compete with the major U.S. and European bulge bracket firms. UBS suffered among the largest losses of any European bank during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 ~ 2009 and the bank was required to raise large amounts of outside capital from the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, the Swiss government and through a series of equity offerings in 2008 and 2009.

by Paul Green

C. C. Wakefield and Co.

Founded on 19 March 1899 by Charles Cheers Wakefield in London, and originally named the Wakefield Oil Company.

In 1909, the company began production of a new automotive lubricant named Castrol (a contraction of Castor oil, from which it was made). The company developed specific oil applications for various applications of the new internal combustion engine, including automobiles, motorcycles, and aircraft.

It was in 1917 that the company was first advertised as C. C. Wakefield and Co., a registered company.

In the following years Castrol oil products were to be found in all aspects of the transport industry, in particular working with pioneering aviators and motorists, such as:
  • Helping flight pioneers Alcock and Brown for their first non-stop flight across the Atlantic.
  • In 1925, M. Campbell sets a new World Land Speed record.
  • W. Handley becomes the first rider to win two Isle of Man TT races in one week.
  • Bentley win Le Mans in 1928 at an average speed of 69 mph.
Castrol was also used as a product of choice by F1 teams, World rally teams, Thrust SSC world land speed record, Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner etc.

During 1960 C. C. Wakefield and Co changed the name of the group to Castrol Ltd. At this time the head office was moved into a new building ‘Castrol House’, in the Marylebone Road, London

In 1966, Castrol Ltd was acquired by British oil company Burmah, which was renamed Burmah-Castrol in 1967.

In 2000, Burmah-Castrol was acquired by the then BP Amoco plc (now renamed BP plc). Castrol branded lubricants continue to be sold around the world and are, in many countries, market leaders.

by Paul Green

Sunday, November 18, 2012

T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd.

T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd. was a glass, lead, paint and sanitary ware manufacturing company in Westminster, London.

In the 1840s, two brothers named Thomas and William Farmiloe, set up a business as window glass cutters at Rochester Row, Westminster. A trade directory from 1859 describes the company as “window glass and lead merchants.” In the 19th century lead was a popular material in the construction of sanitary systems. (The word “plumber” is derived from “plumbus” the Latin word for lead.)

In 1885  T. & W. Farmiloe took over a lead works in Limehouse called the Island Lead Mills. The lead was used to make glazing bars, water cisterns and pipes. The company also had a large warehouse at Rochester Row, a brass foundry at Horseferry Road, a varnish works in Mitcham and another large warehouse at 88 Nine Elms Lane, Battersea. As lead became more problematic as a plumbing material, the company turned to other metals. The T. & W. Farmiloe 1886 catalogue lists an enormous variety of plumbing ware in lead, brass, copper, zinc and steel.

Exterior of the Farmiloe warehouse in Nine Elms Lane. Barrels of lead can be seen in the foreground.

By the end of the 19th century T. & W. Farmiloe had become a limited company. As the new century progressed, the manufacture of paint and sanitary ware began to dominate the business. “Nine Elms” white lead paint became a brand leader in the south east  of England by the 1920s. Other Farmiloe paint brands included “Father Thomas” and “Blackfriars”. The company also had a patent for a new mix of white paint which was used for road markings.

In the 1960s and 1970s, T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd. appear to have ventured into new markets, with several patents taken out for new types of sealant. Perhaps this new direction was not successful for the company as it was dissolved in 1988.

The Farmiloe overprints seem to be very scarce. The stamp shown in the scan (SG 488) is the only stamp issue I have seen overprinted by this company.

by Mark Matlach

R. Whytock & Co.

R. Whytock & Co. was a carpet manufacturing company established by Richard Whytock in 1807 at 9/11 George Street, Edinburgh. The original business of the company was making upholstery and decorative fringes for furniture. In the 1830s Richard Whytock became interested in the process of carpet manufacture which led him to invent and patent the Tapestry Carpet Loom in 1832. This was basically a new, mechanised method of weaving carpets with an unlimited number of colours possible. The carpets made using Whytock's invention were much more affordable to the general public and became known as Tapestry or Tapestry Brussels carpets.

In 1834 R. Whytock & Co. purchased a disused distillery in Lasswade and converted it into a carpet factory employing 100 people. It was here that the company produced Persian and Turkish style hand-knotted carpets. In 1838 Whytock received his first Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria and in the mid-1840s the factory was producing 10,000 yards of carpet per day.

In 1846 Richard Whytock retired from the business in order to concentrate on the development of fabrics, leaving the company to his son Alexander. In 1876 Alexander Whytock became partners with John Reid, a successful upholsterer and cabinet maker, and the company became Whytock, Reid & Co. Alexander died six years later and was succeeded by his son William. However, William Whytock had no interest in the business and sold his grandfather's carpet weaving invention for around £7 million. Whytock, Reid & Co. continued to trade until 2004 as a furniture manufacturer and later as an antiques restoration business.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 11, 2012

P. Phipps & Co. Limited

The brewing company of P. Phipps & Co. was established by Pickering Phipps in the West Northamptonshire town of Towcester in 1801. A second brewery was opened in Bridge Street, Northampton in 1817. Pickering Phipps clearly prospered as he became mayor of Northampton in 1821. His two sons, Richard and Thomas, inherited the business on his death in 1830. All beer production was moved to Northampton in 1900 following a fire that destroyed the original brewery.

P. Phipps & Co. continued to expand under the stewardship of various family members. By the end of the 19th century the company had grown to become the largest brewer in the Midlands. It continued to expand in the first half of the 20th century, absorbing a number of other regional brewers.

In 1957, P. Phipps & Co. Ltd. merged with neighbours Northampton Brewery Co. Ltd. to become Phipps Northampton Brewery Co. Ltd. The newly merged company now owned a total of 1131 tied houses. In 1960, London based brewer Watney Mann launched a successful bid for the business. The new owners' key bitter “Red Bitter” was soon brewed in Northampton alongside the local beers. By 1968 all traditional draught bitters were axed and the company was renamed Watney Mann (Midland).
A 19th century poster for Phipps India Pale Ale showing the Northampton Brewery in Bridge Street, now the site of Carlsberg UK.

by Mark Matlach

London and India Docks Joint Committee, Port of London Authority

The London and India Docks Joint Committee was a dock company formed in 1888 by the merger of the East and West India Co. with the London and Katherine's Co. The merger enabled the company to take control of all the north bank docks in the Port of London. The docks at this time were not under one authority; there were four competing dock companies and over 150 wharves and granaries, all in the Port of London.

By 1900 the Port of London had a substantial surfeit of dock space, a significant portion of which was unsuitable for the steamships that were becoming larger by the year. In 1900 the Government set up a Royal Commission to look into the problems of the port such as poor facilities, high charges, poor land communications and delays. The Royal Commission's main recommendation was for the creation of a new port authority, the first major act of 20th century nationalisation in the UK. In 1908 the Port of London Authority was established to maintain and supervise the Port of London. The new authority spent the years up to the First World War improving the efficiency of the docks. However, it soon built itself an impressively grand headquarters suggesting that the principle of economy was not always uppermost in its strategies. The Authority originally operated all the enclosed dock systems on the River Thames, but all these have since been closed to commercial traffic, with the exception of the Port of Tilbury which was privatised in 1992. Today, the Port of London Authority is responsible for river traffic control, security, navigational safety and conservation of the River Thames.

Former Port of London Authority Building, built in 1912

by Mark Matlach

F. Ry. Co. (Furness Railway Company)

 The Furness Railway Company was an independent railway operating between 1846 and 1923. Originally conceived as a mineral railway, it later played a major role in the development of the Lancashire town of Barrow-in-Furness, and in the development of the Lake District tourist industry. The Furness area was traditionally very isolated. The local landowners wanted to get their high quality slate and iron ore to their markets and they looked to build a railway down the coast, using ships for the onward journey.

The railway opened in 1846 – first to goods trains and then later in the year to passenger trains. In its early years the line slowly expanded, extending north from Kirkby to the market town of Broughton-in-Furness in 1848. An extension to Ulverston was completed in 1854. The Furness Railway Co. bought out the Ulverston & Lancaster Railway Co. in 1862. For the first time the people of Furness had easy access to the rest of the country. The Furness Railway Co. also owned the slate and iron ore mines in the area. The company built a steelworks in Barrow to process the local ore and built a shipyard that used the steel from the steelworks.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century the Furness Railway Co. consolidated its position and expanded. However, by the early years of the 20th century railway traffic was falling and under new management the Furness Railway was transformed into a tourist line.

The Railway Act 1921 signaled the end of the plethora of interlinking independent railway companies in Britain. Four massive companies were to be created, and the Furness Railway was absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway on 1st January 1923. London Midland & Scottish operated the network through to the nationalisation of the railways in 1948. The Furness Railway main line survives to this day as part of the national network.

Image of “Coppernob", the nickname given to Furness Railway Number 3, which hauled the first passenger train on the Furness Railway. It is now a valued exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 4, 2012

D. Hulett & Co.

 D. Hulett & Co. was a lamp manufacturing company in London from at least 1874 until at least 1914. The company had show rooms at 55 and 56 High Holborn and a factory at Harpur Mews that produced lights, hall lamps, chandeliers, street gas lamps and gas-meters.

Gas hall lamps seem to have been a specialty of the firm. These types of lamps with metal frames supporting colored and beveled glass were typically used in entrance halls of homes in the last two decades of the 19th century.

As far as I am aware, D. Hullet overprints can be found only on the two stamp issues shown.

by Mark Matlach

Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company

Prior to the mid-19th century, drinking milk was considered a health risk. Milk straight from the cow was loaded with bacteria. Milk not consumed within a matter of hours in the summer soon spoiled in the heat. Illness allegedly derived from contaminated milk consumption was referred to as “milksick”, milk poison” and the “milk evil”. The idea for a portable canned milk product that would not spoil came from an American called Gail Borden in 1852. His company began production of condensed milk in the United States in 1856.

The Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company was founded in 1866 by Charles Page, the American Consul in Zurich, who had witnessed the success of Gail Borden's condensed milk business in his homeland. The company established the first European condensed milk factory in Cham, Switzerland, where large supplies of milk existed, although the bulk of the product was intended for England. Anglo-Swiss broadened its product line in the mid-1870s to include cheese and infant formulas. In 1881 the company opened a factory in New York and was soon competing successfully with Gail Borden in the United States.

In 1905 Anglo-Swiss merged with Nestlé, its fiercest competitor in Europe at this time. The new company was called Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. The company's current name of Nestlé S.A. was adopted in 1977. Today, Nestlé is a multinational nutritional and health-related consumer goods company and is the largest food company in the world measured by revenues.

The Anglo-Swiss overprint appears on the Queen Victoria 1d Inland Revenue stamp (type of 1868) and the 1d Lilac stamp (1881).

by Mark Matlach

Agra Bank Limited

The Agra & United Services Bank was an Indian-based British overseas bank established in London in 1833. The bank was originally formed to cater to military personnel and government employees. The popularity of the bank increased steadily throughout India with branches opened in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Agra, Cawnpore, Delhi, Simla, Benares and Dacca.

In 1862 the Agra & United Services Bank merged with Masterman & Co. to form the Agra & Masterman's Bank. The bank became heavily involved in the financing of railway construction in Australia, however it collapsed following the banking crisis of 1866.

In 1867 the bank was resuscitated under the name Agra Bank Limited and continued for the next twenty years before going into liquidation in 1887.

The Agra Bank Limited overprint can be found on the Queen Victoria Inland Revenue 1d stamp (shown on receipt) and the 1d Lilac stamp.

The Agra Bank building in Calcutta, now called the Currency Building and  occupied by the Indian Government's Currency Department

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Swan & Edgar

Swan & Edgar Ltd., a department store located at Piccadilly Circus, London, was established in the early 19th century. The premises were rebuilt and integrated in 1910-20 to a design by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

On November 21, 1911 the shop-front was one of the West End businesses targeted by the Suffragettes in their window-breaking spree; 6 years later the store was hit by the last Zeppelin raid on London in 1917.

The business was taken over by the Drapery Trust in 1927 and later by the Debenham Group, which closed it in 1982 due to excessive remodernization costs.

The building lay empty for a few years until it became the flagship UK store for Tower Records. It was bought by Richard Branson of the Virgin Group in 2003 and became a Virgin Megastore. The Virgin name disappeared in 2007 and was replaced by Zavvi; Zavvi went into receivership in 2009. The Sting, a fashion department store with branches in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, opened in the building in July 2010.

by Paul Green

Daimler Hire Limited

Daimler Hire Limited was a service begun in 1907 to provide a luxury chauffeur-driven Daimler Limousine hire service from Knightsbridge in London. It was a wholly-owned operation and later a subsidiary of the Daimler Motor Company Ltd., which was an independent British motor vehicle manufacturer based in Coventry.

The operation began as a reserve pool of cars and a staff of drivers to provide support for the mews at Buckingham Palace and for other Daimler owners when their cars needed servicing. The services soon extended to prosperous London residents who did not wish to have the trouble of keeping their own car and driver. In 1919, 250 new Daimler limousines were added to the fleet and a luxury aircraft hire service was established called Daimler Airway Limited.

In 1949 Daimler Hire Limited was acquired by Thomas Tilling Limited, which operated a similar London car hire business. At the beginning of 1958, the company was purchased by Hertz of America as their first inroad into the British car hire business, although Daimler Hire retained its separate trading identity until 1976.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, October 14, 2012

County Fire Office

The County Fire Office was founded in London in 1807 to conduct fire insurance business in county areas, specifically country house and farming risks. It was originally established by "an association of noblemen and gentlemen" from the counties of Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Yorkshire. Each county was allocated 250 shares at £100 each. No individual was allowed to hold more than ten shares. Five people were elected in each county as directors from holders of not less than five shares each.

A unique feature of the company was that each person who continued a policy for seven years was entitled to share in the profits of the concern without being liable to any losses. Business was conducted through agents, and offices were gradually opened in major towns and cities throughout the UK. The County Fire Office was registered as a limited company in 1905 and the business was acquired by Alliance Assurance in 1906, though the name County Fire Office was retained until 1970.

County Fire Office, Regent Street, London, first half of 19th century

by Mark Matlach