Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rivington & Co.

Rivington & Co. was a London-based publishing company founded by Charles Rivington in 1736 and continued by his sons and grandsons until at least 1897.

In 1736 Charles Rivington and a partner called Bettesworth established a company of booksellers called The New Conger, rivaling an older firm called The Conger, which dated from about 1700. From selling books, Rivington moved on to the business of publishing books. In 1741 he published the first volume of Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which is widely considered to be the first ever novel in English. Pamela was the bestseller of its time and was read by countless buyers of the novel. It was also integrated into sermons as an exemplar. It was even an early “multimedia” event, producing Pamela-themed cultural artifacts such as prints, paintings, waxworks, a fan and a set of playing cards decorated with lines from Richardson's works.

After his death in 1742, Charles Rivington was succeeded by two of his thirteen sons, John and James. John later emigrated to the United States while John carried on the business of Rivington & Co. on the lines marked out by his father and went on to become the great Church of England publisher of his day. In 1760 he was appointed publisher to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the company kept up this relationship for over 70 years. Rivington & Co. went on to publish standard editions of the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, and other English classics. Following the death of John Rivington in 1792, the company remained in the hands of successive generations of the Rivington family until at least 1897, all the while maintaining its reputation for religious and educational works.

Charles Rivington (1688 – 1742)

by Mark Matlach

Unwin Brothers

Unwin Brothers is one of the longest established printing companies in the UK. The firm was established by Jacob Unwin in 1826 in Ludgate Hill, London. When Jacob died his sons George and Edward took control of the business which became styled as Unwin Brothers. The company grew significantly under the stewardship of the brothers.  When the printing works in Ludgate Hill was badly damaged in a fire in 1894 Unwin Brothers was forced to search for alternative premises. The company purchased an old paper mill in Woking, Surrey which was converted into the Saint Martha Printing Works.

In 1901 the company became Unwin Brothers Limited. At this time the  firm was engaged in most aspects of the printing industry, being described as old style, modern and music type printers, lithographers, engravers, stereotypers, bookbinders, account book manufacturers and general and export stationers.

Unwin Brothers Ltd. remained at Saint Martha's until 2007, when the firm merged with another printing company and operations were moved to Chessington.

Unwin Brothers Ltd., Saint Martha Printing Works, Woking

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pryce Jones

Pryce Jones was a Welsh entrepreneur who created the world's first-ever mail order business. The enterprise began as a drapery shop on Broad Street in Newton, Wales, in 1856. Newton had always had a wool industry and it was the local Welsh flannel which formed the mainstay of Pryce Jones' company.

Post Office reforms and the arrival of the railways in Newton helped turn the small rural concern into a global company. Pryce Jones hit upon a unique method for selling his wares. People would choose what they wanted from leaflets he sent out and the goods would then be dispatched by post and train. It was an ideal way of meeting the needs of customers in isolated rural locations who were either too busy or unable to get into Newton to shop. It was the world's first mail order business and it was to change the nature of retailing throughout the world.

The further expansion of the railways in the years that followed allowed Pryce Jones to take orders from further afield and his company grew rapidly. Large new premises, called the Royal Welsh Warehouse, were built in 1878 to house the expanding business. Pryce Jones was given a knighthood in 1887 for his services to commerce and changed his name to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones. The Royal Warehouse acquired its own printing press and in 1890 produced its first illustrated catalogue to replace the simple price lists that had been sent out previously.

Pryce-Jones' involvement in the business gradually diminished as his health began to fail and his son Edward took control of the company in 1906. Pryce-Jones died in 1920, his son Edward in 1926. However, the Pryce-Jones family continued to be involved in the running of the company until 1938 when it was taken over by Lewis' department store.

Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones

by Mark Matlach

W.-O. LTD. (Waygood–Otis Ltd.)

Waygood-Otis Ltd. was formed in 1906 following the merger of two lift manufacturing companies called the Otis Lift Co. and R. Waygood & Co.

The Otis Lift Co. was established in New York in 1853 by Elisha Otis. The company pioneered the development of the “safety elevator”, invented by Otis in 1852, which used a special mechanism to lock the elevator car in place should the hoisting ropes fail. This revolutionary design enabled the use of lifts for passengers. On March 23rd 1857, the world's first passenger safety elevator went into service at Broadway and Broome Street in New York. The elevator was powered by steam through a series of shafts and belts.

R. Waygood & Co. was established in London in 1833 by Richard Waygood. The company manufactured water-powered lifts.

Following the merger of the two lift makers, the headquarters of Waygood-Otis in the UK was established in Leicester. The company continued to make advances in lift technology. The “tram car” lift was developed. This was the first lift to have push buttons – at the time most lifts were manually controlled using a handle. In the 1930s the first lifts to have automatic doors were produced. After the Second World War, "Waygood" was dropped from the company name.

In 1976 Otis Ltd. was acquired by United Technologies and is a wholly owned subsidiary. Today, Otis is the world's largest manufacturer of vertical transportation systems, principally focusing on lifts and escalators. 

The tram car lift—so called as the windows at the side made it look like a tram car.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Provincial Insurance Company

The Provincial Insurance Company was founded in 1903 by a wealthy cotton merchant called James Scott. His main objective in forming the company was to create a vehicle that would transmit his wealth to later generations of his family. This intention was fulfilled. The company remained almost entirely in the hands of his descendants and during its first 50 years of operation its gross assets grew more than 150 fold from a substantial initial base.

Until his death in 1913, James Scott controlled his company while his sons served an apprenticeship in the business. Subsequently his elder son Samuel succeeded him as chairman and his younger son Francis succeeded his brother in 1946. Francis Scott's son, Peter, joined the company's management in 1946 and succeeded his father as chairman in 1957. He, in turn was followed in this office in 1977 by Charles Shakerley, a great grandson of the founder.

Initially the Provincial dealt exclusively in fire insurance. Before the First World War the company undertook accident insurance and ventured tentatively into foreign markets. During the War it opened marine insurance and motor insurance departments. After 1920 the Provincial grew rapidly and by 1938 it accepted all forms of insurance (except for life assurance) and was well established in a number of foreign markets. By the outbreak of the Second World War, the Scott family's initial involvement of £75,000 had been converted into a company with an estimated value of over £2 million.

In 1994 the Provincial Insurance Company was acquired by Union des Assurances De Paris (UAP), the largest insurance company in France. Two years later UAP was taken over by a French global insurance group called AXA.

by Mark Matlach

Language Tuition Centre

In 1950, the 11th Duke of Devonshire decided to move out of his family home--an 18th century mansion in Eastbourne, Sussex, called Compton House. In 1954 the Duke allowed a Mr. Schwartz to open a residential language school / finishing school for ladies at Compton House.

The Language Tuition Centre or LTC  Ladies' College of English was highly successful and two more schools were opened in London and Norwich. Over time, fewer and fewer girls dreamed of becoming a “lady”, and demand for LTC's courses declined.

In 1983 LTC admitted its first male students and became a more conventional language school.

In 2010 LTC Eastbourne became the headquarters of the Language Teaching Centres group of schools, which has schools in London and Brighton as well as an affiliated school in Paris.

Compton Park, Eastbourne

by Mark Matlach