Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gundry & Sons

Gundry & Sons was a boot and shoe maker in London from at least 1820 until c.1953. The business was established at 1 Soho Square in central London as a "ladies shoemaker". The company gained a reputation for fine shoe making through  its participation at international exhibitions and by obtaining Royal Warrants. Gundry & Sons made the shoes for Queen Victoria for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. The business was taken over by John Lobb Ltd. some time after 1953.

Queen Victoria wore these Gundry & Son satin, slip-on shoes on her wedding day. The shoes are trimmed with six bands of ribbon and a small bow, with a leather sole and no heel. This style was very fashionable at the time. The shoes were much too small for the Queen to fit comfortably – she had 9 inch feet and the shoes were a size 3. It was not the done thing for ladies to show their feet and so they often wore shoes that were too small to make their feet as inconspicuous as possible.  

by Mark Matlach

E. A. Gibson

E. A. Gibson & Co. is a shipbroking company founded by Edward Aisbett Gibson in London in 1893. The company quickly established itself in the London broking scene and was actively engaged in the short sea trades around Europe, in timber, coal, coal tar products, and general cargo.

Gibson died in 1913 and  business virtually ground to a halt. Reconstruction of the E. A. Gibson company came in the form of Bill Green who became managing director in 1916. His first achievement was to corner the creosote market. Green then built up oil business for the company, specializing in the handling of crude oil. In a very short time the company became recognized throughout Europe as the principal brokers for crude sales.

During the 1930s, Gibson's tanker chartering operations were widened and the company expanded by opening offices in Paris and Morocco. After the Second World War, an aviation department was established.

In 1961 E. A. Gibson & Co. merged with dry cargo brokers Ferguson Wild to become E. A. Gibson Ferguson Wild. Today, Gibson's shipbroking service is international with a leading presence in London and offices in Houston, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Edward Aisbett Gibson

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bridgewater Trustees

Bridgewater Trustees
Earl of Ellesmere
Bridgewater Estates Limited

The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater owned extensive estates in Worsley, Greater Manchester. The Industrial Revolution was underway in mid-18th century  Britain and the Duke quickly set about exploiting the rich open coal seams on his land. There was great demand for increased and better transport to service the coal mines at Worsley and convey the coal to expanding markets. The Duke undertook the building of a canal which would eventually link Manchester with the Mersey Estuary. The Bridgewater canal was completed in 1776 and it is said to be the first true canal in Britain and the modern world.

The Duke died unmarried in 1803 and the Dukedom died with him. On his death, the Duke's estates, the canal and coal mines were placed in trust for the benefit of his nephew, Earl George Gower. By the terms of the will, control was vested in a body of three Trustees. With a continually changing personnel, this arrangement lasted for a 100 years.

In 1903 the terms of the Duke's will expired and all the remaining Bridgewater interests passed into the absolute ownership of Francis Charles Egerton, the 3rd Earl of Ellesmere. On the death of the 3rd Earl in 1914, his son John Francis Egerton succeeded him as the 4th Earl of Ellesmere and inherited all his estates and financial interests.

In 1923 the 4th Earl of Ellesmere sold off his estates to a syndicate of Lancashire businessmen who formed a new company called Bridgewater Estates Ltd. Following the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1942, Bridgewater Estates Ltd. surrendered its mine leases to the Coal Commission.  In the 1960s the company owned approximately 7,000 acres of land. Bridgewater Estates made further land purchases during the 1970s, including the Thornley Estate, at Longbridge near Preston. In 1984 the company was acquired by Peel Holdings Ltd. and its name was changed to Peel Estates Ltd. In 1990 the company name was changed to Peel Investments (North) Ltd. after amalgamation with other companies in the Peel Group.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A. H. LTD. (Alfred Herbert Ltd.)

Alfred Herbert Ltd. was one of the world's largest machine tool manufacturing businesses, and at one time it was the largest machine tool builder in Britain.

The company was founded in 1888 when Alfred Herbert and William Hubbard purchased a small engineering business in Coventry. The firm began making drilling machines, hand lathes, sorting machines and machines for the bicycle trade. After a time the partnership ended and Hubbard was bought out. The company became known as Herbert Machine Tools before becoming Alfred Herbert Ltd. in 1894. The number of employees rose from 180 in 1897 to 1,400 by 1908. In 1899 a foundry was built at Edgwick where most of the company's operations were subsequently based. By 1914, Alfred Herbert Ltd. was one of the largest machine tool manufacturers in the world. The company specialized in making lathes, automatic turning and screw machines, milling machines and ball bearing drilling machines.

In 1944 Alfred Herbert Ltd. became a public company. By this time the firm had a large number of overseas subsidiaries and agencies. By the early 1970s the workforce had grown to around 12,000, but an escalation of machine tool imports into the UK signaled the start of the company's decline. In 1980 Tooling Investments took over the business, but three years later debts of £17 million led to the company's collapse.

Alfred Herbert Works at Edgwick in 1957, one of four in Coventry.
The inset shows the original works in 1889.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chas. Goodall & Son Ltd.

Charles Goodall established a company in Soho, London in 1820 to print playing cards and message cards. One of his sons joined the business in 1845 which  became styled Charles Goodall & Son. By the 1850s, the company, along with its competitor  De La Rue & Co., were producing two-thirds of all playing cards made in England.

As demand began outstripping production, new premises were secured in Camden in 1855. The reduction of tax on playing cards in 1862 from one shilling to three pence boosted the playing card industry to almost treble the output. In the 1860s Goodall diversified, launching a range of high quality stationery, as well as games, toys, fountain pens and even toilet paper. New presses in 1879 enabled the company to begin the production of multi-colored calendars, Christmas cards and almanacs. Over the next 30 years the company produced a substantial range of ornate and colorful cards, mainly by chromolithography. By 1900 Charles Goodall & Son was leading the market with annual production of over 2 million packs of playing cards.  

In 1906 Charles Goodall & Son began the production of linen grade playing cards. They soon became popular for their good shuffling and dealing qualities. The range of playing card designs increased enormously in the 1880s. Some pictorial designs were very elaborate with printing in up to 12 separate colors. Advertising back designs started appearing towards the end of the 19th century. They rapidly became very popular and by 1890 were being produced in large quantities. Shipping companies, whiskey distillers, breweries and tobacco companies were the main advertisers, often with a new design each year.

In the 1920s Charles Goodall & Son was taken over by De La Rue & Co., though the Goodall brand names were still used much later. The factory in Camden was kept open until 1929. In the end it was purchased by the Post Office and partially demolished in the 1970s.

Advertising back designs from playing cards by Chas Goodall & Son.
Today, such playing cards are a popular collectable.

by Mark Matlach

Wilson, Matheson & Co.

Wilson, Matheson & Co. was a clothing manufacturer and wholesaler in Glasgow. The company was at its peak in the 1870s when it specialized in producing clothing and travel accessories for customers traveling to the British colonies. This was a time when the British Empire was expanding rapidly and the African and Asian colonies attracted tens of thousands of Scottish administrators, engineers and merchants.

The company had a huge five-story warehouse at 44 Glassford Street in Glasgow that stocked everything for the would-be traveler. There was a wide range of portmanteaus, trunks, and luggage accessories. Furniture items included portable desks and dressing cases, and air beds. Clothing items included tropical helmets, waterproof coats, walking boots and "hats made from every imaginable sort of material, and suitable for all climates."

Merino and fancy hats made by Wilson, Matheson & Co.
illustrated in the company's wholesale and export trade list of 1872.


by Mark Matlach