Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thomas Townend & Co.

Thomas Townend & Co. was a hat manufacturer and retailer. The company had a factory in Atherstone, Warwickshire and three shops in central London: at 16 Lime Street, 14 Fenchurch Street, and 110 Oxford Street. Thomas Townend & Co. also sold caps, umbrellas, leather bags, and overland trunks.

by Mark Matlach

Willows, Francis, Butler & Thompson Ltd.

Burgess, Willows & Co. was established in 1751 at 101 High Holborn, London, as a wholesale druggist, manufacturing chemist, distiller, and oil presser. During the 19th century, the company acquired a number of long-established London drug firms. By 1888 the firm was trading as Willows, Francis & Butler and describing itself as a wholesale and export druggist and manufacturer of pharmaceutical and veterinary preparations. At the end of the century, the company was appointed wholesale druggist to the Royal Veterinary College in London. In c1904 the business was incorporated as a limited liability company, Willows, Francis, Butler & Thompson Ltd. and relocated to 40 Aldersgate Street, London.

By the 1930s, the company had moved to Dalston and was manufacturing and supplying human and veterinary preparations and surgical instruments. In 1949 Willows, Francis, Butler & Thompson Ltd. merged with Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Co. Ltd. to form Willows Francis Ltd, which went on to become a major manufacturer of ethical drugs and anaesthetics and exporter of anaesthetics, veterinary and medical specialties and pharmaceutical chemicals. These were produced at the Dalston factory and at a second plant in Epsom, Surrey.

Willows Francis Ltd. was acquired by Guinness Peat in 1979. In 1990 the company was sold on to American Home Products Corporation Inc. and relocated to Crawley where it worked closely with another subsidiary, Fort Dodge Laboratories, the second largest veterinary company in the United States. The Willows Francis trading name was finally abolished in the late 1990s.

by Mark Matlach

Dent, Allcroft & Co.

The Dent, Allcroft & Co. was previously described in Volume 2 Issue 5 of the old COSGB site (scroll down the page for the article). During 1935 the firm received overprints with a misspelling of the company name—"Oent" rather than "Dent". At least two examples are known, so check your duplicates!

by Harvey Russell & Michael Behm

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Price's Patent Candles Company Ltd. (P. P. C. Co., Ltd.)

Price's Patent Candles is a manufacturer and retailer of candles. The company has its headquarters in Bedford and is currently the largest manufacturer of candles in the UK.

The business was founded in 1830 as Edward Price & Co., by a merchant called William Wilson and his partner Benjamin Lancaster. The two men deliberately avoided using their real names as at this time there was an unwillingness among the middle classes to be associated with the candle trade, which was perceived as a very low-class activity, involving dead animals and unpleasant smells. The company began with a candle factory at Vauxhall, London and a crushing mill at Battersea. Limited dockside facilities at Battersea meant that the factory was later moved to Liverpool.

Price's are credited with bringing light to the working classes of Victorian Britain, making cheap nightlights and stearine "composite" candles for people who had previously been unable to afford artificial light. By the end of the 19th century, Price's were the largest manufacturer of candles in the world.

As well as the manufacture of candles, Price's were the first to introduce and produce "Cloth Oil" which was used in the machinery of the wool spinning industry. As gas engines began to be developed, the company introduced "Price's Gas Engine Oil" in 1877, which was still in use in the 1930s. For the petrol engine, "Price's Motorine" was produced in 1905 for Rolls-Royce, amongst others.

In 2001, due to the rising costs of raw materials and increased competition, Price's Patent Candles Company filed for administration. The business was acquired by an Italian company called Cereria Sgarbi, who were themselves acquired two years later by SER Wax Industry in 2003.

by Mark Matlach

John Hall & Sons

John Hall & Sons was a paint manufacturing company in Broadmead, Bristol. The business was established in 1788 by John Hall, a glazier from Dorset, and originally traded as a glazing and glass bending firm. The company excelled in the cutting and etching of glass and soon became the major importer, processor, and supplier of glass throughout the west of England. During the course of the 19th century, the company diversified and is listed in city directories as glass stainers; looking-glass manufacturers; and glass, oil, and white lead merchants.

In the 1920s, John Hall & Sons turned to paint manufacturing. Originally most paint companies sold to professional painters and coach makers etc., who often made up their own colors by mixing paints, oils, and lacquers. John Hall & Sons was the first paint manufacturing company to offer the general public decorative paints made to a professional quality. In 1922 the Brolac brand of enamel paints for home decorating was introduced, followed by the Murac brand of emulsion paints. In 1928 John Hall & Sons opened another factory in Bristol at Hengrove. The company began producing paints for motor cars and became a major supplier of paints to the aircraft industry.

John Hall Factory at Hengrove c. 1985

John Hall & Sons was acquired by Jenson & Nicholson in 1948, who merged with Berger & Sons in 1960. The Berger Group is currently one of the largest paint companies in the world, although John Hall's two Bristol factories were closed down in 1988.

by Mark Matlach

Frederick Lawrence Ltd.

Frederick Lawrence Ltd. was a large furniture store that by 1923 occupied 47-49 Westbourne Grove in West London. The store later expanded, taking over eleven shops belonging to William Whiteley Ltd.

In 1964, Lawrence's also had four showrooms on the opposite side of Westbourne Grove. In 1975 Frederick Lawrence Ltd. was described as the new king of Westbourne Grove, in succession to the William Whiteley's department store.

Advertisement 1947

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dalton, Barton & Co. Ltd.

Dalton, Barton & Co. was a textile manufacturing company established in 1851 at Mason Road, Foleshill near Coventry by two ribbon weavers named Dalton and Barton. The company produced silks, velvets, trimmings, cloths and carpets. Daltons also manufactured a material called moquette that was used for the upholstery in railway carriages and ships' cabins. Dalton, Barton & Co. became a limited company in 1872.

After the First World War, Daltons began to specialize in the manufacturing of military uniform accoutrements such as medal ribbons, sergeants' stripes and sashes, and rank braid.

In 1962, Dalton, Barton & Co. Ltd. became the Wydean Weaving Company Ltd. and continued to specialize in uniform accoutrements. The company's current product range covers almost every item of textile uniform accoutrement, worn by defense and police forces worldwide. Wydean Weaving Co. Ltd. has also provided uniform accoutrements for royalty (Prince Andrew and Princess Anne), and costumes for a number of Hollywood movie actors. One of the company's more unusual products has been false eyebrows made for camels of the Jordan Army Cavalry, the purpose of which was to repel mosquitoes.

by Mark Matlach

Chamberlins Ltd.

Chamberlins was a department store in Norwich. The store was begun by Scotsman Henry Chamberlin, who came to Norwich from Edinburgh in 1814 and established a drapery shop on the corner of Dove Street and Guildhall Hill a year later. Henry's son, Robert, joined him as partner in 1823 and it was Robert who was responsible for the development of the company's growth in the following years. The shop expanded along the whole length of Dove Street until the premises covered an area of 42,000 square feet. By the end of the 19th century, Chamberlins had departments for millinery, carpets and furnishing, dresses, and ladies' underclothing and employed a staff of 120.

Chamberlins also had a factory at Botolph Street, Norwich. The factory had 800 employees and manufactured clothes. During the First World War, the company produced waterproof clothing for the armed forces. Chamberlins was also contracted to manufacture clothing for the G.P.O. and for workers in munitions factories. At the request of the Government, large quantities of suits were made for discharged soldiers. The war work of Chamberlins totalled close to one million garments and the company received official recognition of the value of its services to the country.

Chamberlins store decorated for the Silver Jubilee in 1935

In the 1930s, Chamberlins' factory in Botolph Street was re-equipped with modern machinery and began to manufacture speciality men's sports clothing under the "Sartella" brand. The company continued to make waterproof clothing and the Government remained the largest customer.

Chamberlins Ltd. was taken over by Marshall & Snelgrove in the 1950s; the site of the store is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket.

Chamberlins overprints can be found on George V and George VI postage stamps.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Startin & Co.

Records from the early 1800s show three brothers - John, Samuel and James Startin trading as Startin & Co. Merchants, Birmingham. This partnership dissolved, first in 1807, leaving John and James to carry on trading, then again in 1814; the business was eventually carried on by James Startin.

JAMES STARTIN (Birmingham 1773 -1846) married Sarah Thrupp (London 1782-1866) in Bishopsgate, London in January 1805. Amongst the many children were GEORGE STARTIN (b. 1809) and John Startin (b. 1815). Also James Startin, a famous surgeon and founder of the London Skin Hospital, who treated Charles Darwin’s eczema.

George Startin & Co.

Founder member: GEORGE STARTIN, (Harbourne, Staffs 1809 -1885), Married 1844 to Sarah Walton Williams, Islington, London. The couple had 15 children.

Trading as a Colonial Sugar Merchant at 150 & 151 Fenchurch Street, London EC from as early as 1846 (source Post Office Trade Directories).

Thanks to Queen Victoria’s vast British Empire and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, travel around the globe became more and more possible and the ability to trade easier. It would seem that many of the Startin family were directly involved in the business, acting as agents and merchants. The fleets would bring the produce directly from the Americas into the UK ports.

On 31st December 1880 – The partnership between GEORGE STARTIN , his son CHARLES WILLIAMS STARTIN, Horace Mason and Robert Alexander was dissolved. George Startin Senior retired to Torquay, Devon and the three remaining partners carried on trading in the same style under the name of George Startin & C.o as Sugar Merchants and Wholesale Grocers. Listed in the Post Office Business Directory 1884 to 1899 T A "Startin".

This left CHARLES WILLIAMS STARTIN as sole trader under the name of George Startin & Co. In April 1900, he had moved to Rood Lane, London trading as a wholesale dealer in Sugar and Fruit. Due to several bad debts and the sudden drop in the price of dried fruit in the previous year, CHARLES WILLIAMS STARTIN was declared bankrupt in 1901 and George Startin & Co. ceased trading in its original form. (Source, London Gazette, The Times and Richard Trounson, Great Grandson of Charles Startin).

Startin & Co. Ltd.

Once GEORGE STARTIN & CO., had been wound up, BAKER & STARTIN were free to adopt the T A "Startin". They were listed in the Post Office Commercial Directory 1900 - 1915 as Mica and Mineral Brokers and Manganese Merchants. This company, along with Howard’s own Mica Supply Co. Ltd., traded worldwide. Mica was mined in several countries including Brazil, South Africa, and India. It is unclear when Baker & Startin parted company but for another 15 plus years HOWARD STARTIN carried on trading as a Mica broker; however, in 1932, at the age of 70 and as Chairman he announced the voluntary liquidation of STARTIN & CO.LTD. It is known that Howard had a son, George, (born 1891) who worked as a clerk for the company but there is no further documentary evidence to suggest that any member of the Startin family continued with the business.

STARTIN & CO. as mica and produce brokers reformed with brothers OLIVER GEORGE IRONS AND WILFRID JOHN IRONS once again trading in the City at 112-113 Fenchurch Street, London EC. Oliver retired in 1947, thus leaving John to continue the business. On his retirement, the company was transferred to Mr Cooke.

STARTIN & CO was one of only five commodity brokers in the City. Importers were prohibited from selling direct to any company, therefore all deals had to be passed through the broker, who would not make any profit but take a ‘brokerage’, normally 2% of the sale. During both World Wars, members of the Board of Trade for Mica held government stocks for sale to the trade and auctions were held. After WW2, the excess mica was dumped in the sea but later reclaimed and sold through the brokers. Following this the government changed the law and mica, along with all other commodities, could be freely traded, which meant the broker was permitted to import and sell for his own account.

In 1965, the business was bought by JOSEPH BOWYER (b.1921 - ) and for some years the offices remained at 110 Fenchurch Street. Startin & Co became a limited company once again in 1970, with Joe taking the title of Managing Director and his wife Doris (1923-1986) Company Secretary. Joe has been in the mica business all his working life and has considerable knowledge of the trade. He was given the honour of becoming a Freeman of the City of London in October 1982, and also spent some time as Head of the Mica Section at the London Chamber of Commerce, when he was introduced to HM The Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh at the Guildhall. Startin & Co.Ltd is the last known remaining Mica Broker in the UK, although it has been some years since the company has been asked to act in this capacity.

The company in 2011 is still a family run business, importing mica and other related products direct from its excellent connections in India. It supplies quality mica and processed parts to the trade in the UK, Europe and Worldwide. Joe is still an active Managing Director, working alongside his daughter Carol (1953 - ) and cousin Margaret Andrews (1946- )

by Paul Green

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.

Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was a British chemical company, taken over by Akzo Nobel, a Dutch conglomerate, one of the largest chemical producers in the world. In its heyday, ICI was the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire, and commonly regarded as a "bellwether of the British economy." It produced paints and specialty products (including ingredients for foods, specialty polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavors). It employed around 29,000 people and had a turnover of just over £4.8 billion in 2006. The company was independent from 1926 to 2008, headquartered for most of that time in Millbank, London, and was a constituent of the FT30 Index and FTSE 100 Index. After the January 2008 change of ownership, AkzoNobel fully integrated ICI's operations.

The Company was founded in December 1926 by way of the merger of four companies – Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, the United Alkali Company, and British Dyestuffs Corporation. It established its Head Office at Millbank in London in 1928.

Competing with DuPont and IG Farben, the new company produced chemicals, explosives, fertilizers, insecticides, dyestuffs, non-ferrous metals, and paints. In its first year turnover was £27 million.

In the 1920s and '30s the company played a key role in the development of new chemical products.

In the 1940s and '50s the Company established its pharmaceutical business and developed a number of key products including Paludrine (1940s, an anti-malarial drug), halothane (1951, an anaesthetic agent) etc. ICI formed ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1957.

During the 1980s (from 1982 to 1987), the Company was led by the charismatic John Harvey Jones. Under his leadership the Company acquired the Beatrice Chemical Division in 1985 and Glidden Coatings & Resins, a leading paints business in 1986.

In 1991, the company successfully fought off a hostile takeover bid from the Hanson plc conglomerate. It also divested its Soda Ash Products arm to Brunner Mond, ending an association with the trade which had existed from the company's inception (inherited from the original Brunner, Mond & Co. Ltd.).

In 1993 the company demerged its pharmaceutical bioscience businesses: pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, specialties, seeds and biological products were all transferred into a new and independent company called Zeneca Group (which subsequently merged with Astra AB to form AstraZeneca PLC).

In 2000 ICI sold its petroleum business at Teesside and Tioxide, its titanium dioxide subsidiary, to Huntsman Corporation for £1.7 billion. It also sold the last of its industrial chemicals businesses to Ineos for £0.3 billion.

In 2006 the Company sold Quest International, its flavors and Fragrances business, to Givaudan, for £1.2 billion and Uniqema, its skincare business, to Croda International, for £410 million.

Having sold off much of its historically profitable commodities businesses, and many of the new specialty businesses, which it had failed to integrate, the company consisted mainly of the Dulux paints business, which quickly found itself the subject of a takeover by Akzo Nobel.

Dutch firm Akzo Nobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion for ICI in June 2007. An area of concern about a potential deal was ICI's British pension fund, which had future liabilities of more than £9 billion at the time. Regulatory issues in the UK and other markets where Dulux and Crown Paints brands each have significant market share were also a cause for concern for the boards of ICI and Akzo Nobel. In the UK, any combined operation without divestments would have seen Akzo Nobel have a 54% market share in the paint market. The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board and the majority of shareholders. However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion was accepted by ICI in August 2007, pending approval by regulators.

As of 8.00am on 2 January 2008 ICI PLC became a subsidiary of Akzo Nobel NV.

by Paul Green

Smith, Sons & Laughland Ltd.

Smith, Sons & Laughland was a textiles manufacturer based at 75-87 Mitchell Street, Glasgow. The warehouse in Glasgow stored hosiery, tweeds, flannels, linens, cottons, and ready-made clothing. The company was formerly known as George Smith & Sons who separated their textiles business to go into shipping in the 1860s. I have been unable to find out the exact dates when Laughland was in operation, though I am not aware of any overprinted stamps beyond the Edward VII 1d issue.

by Mark Matlach