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

John Heywood Ltd.

John Heywood Ltd. was a publishing company established in Manchester in the 1830s by John's father, Abel Heywood. Abel Heywood was a radical strongly associated with the Chartist movement. He was passionate about increasing educational opportunities for working-class people and his company published educational, self-teaching, and self-improvement books. In 1866 Heywood noticed that working-class people were just beginning to use trains to travel for pleasure. Seeing no affordable travel guides, he began to publish a series of "Penny Guides", short travel guides that covered such places as Buxton, Southport, Bath, and the Isle of Wight.

When Abel Heywood retired, his son John took control of the firm. John continued the tradition of publishing educational and travel books and, by 1910, John Heywood Ltd. had over 100 titles in publication. The company expanded after the First World War becoming manufacturing stationers, office suppliers and advertising contractors in addition to the   publishing business. John Heywood Ltd. continued trading into the 1970s.

by Mark Matlach