Sunday, March 30, 2014

Charles Bayer & Co. Ltd.

Charles Bayer & Co. Ltd. was a corset manufacturing company, established in the late 19th century in Bath by a German immigrant named Charles Bayer.

In 1892 large four-story premises were established in the city. The red brick building was England's first corset factory, and the first factory in Bath to be built with an integrated electric light supply. The top floor of the building housed a workshop for making suspenders and the printing department. The cutting room was on the third floor; cloth was cut into pieces by a 22ft long cutting machine and girls on either side of the cutter used sewing machines to stick and join the pieces together. The second floor housed the finishing rooms where the products were pressed and ironed. The lower floors contained the stock room, general office and dispatch department – the corsets were shipped all over the world.

As the business grew, Bayer established additional corset factories in Bristol, Portsmouth, Gloucester and London. Bayer's advertisements boasted that his “superfine British corsets for British wearers” were made with the “daintiest French fabrics” and were “as easy fitting as a perfectly cut kid glove, with a complete absence of pressure upon the respiratory organs.”

Bayer's business was all but wiped out in the 1930s, but corset production continued under new owners who, in the 1970s, added lingerie to its lines. The large factory in Bath closed down in 1982, although the building still stands today.

Charles Bayer corset

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bradford & Sons

William Bradford was a coal merchant in Pibsbury, Somerset from the 1780s. Bradford would transport coal mined in Wales by canal to Bridgwater. The coal would then be moved on by horse and cart to Yeovil and distributed to towns and villages in Dorset, Devon and Somerset.

In the 1850s the company begun by William Bradford became known as Bradford & Sons. As the railway system spread across Britain between 1850 and 1870, it became the new means of transport for heavy goods, and the company expanded along the railway lines with a number of branches and coal depots established.

At the beginning of the 20th century Bradford & Sons entered into the timber business and the building trade. The company continued to expand and following the Second World War it entered into the cereal seed trade and became the first company in the West Country to operate an aircraft crop spraying service.  

In 1963 Bradford & Sons Ltd. made a substantial investment in an animal feeds compounding mill and seed cleaning plant at Crewkerne, Somerset. This was subsequently expanded but, owing to the escalating administrative and technical requirements of the cereal trade, the company ceased processing its own seeds in 1972. In 1977 the company's animal feeds manufacturing business was sold to BOCMS and the rest of the company was restructured. Three separate trading companies were formed: Bradford's Agriculture Ltd., Bradford's Building Supplies Ltd., and Bradford's Coal Ltd. The latter two companies are still active today.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, March 9, 2014

J. H. Sankey & Son Ld.

J. H. Sankey & Son was a brick manufacuring company established in 1857 in Canning Town, London. The company made Sankey's Pure Silica fire bricks, Gannister cupola bricks, and arch blocks.

By the early 1900s the firm was described as a builder's merchant and manufacturer of cement, slates, bricks, tiles and fireclay goods. In the 1920s the company was advertising Sankey's Pyruma putty, which was used for sealing or joining fire bricks, and Tiluma cement, which was used for fixing tiles to fireplace surrounds.

J. H. Sankey traded until at least 1956.

A J. H. Sankey brick

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Elkington & Co.

Elkington & Co. was a silverware company which produced fine silverware and silver plate. The business was founded in Birmingham in 1815 by the uncle of George Richard Elkington. On his uncle's death in 1836, George became the sole proprietor and took in his brother Henry as  partner.

In 1838 Elkington & Co. discovered and patented a new method of electroplating one metal onto the surface of another. By 1840 production was already underway with silver electroplated wares. The greater durability of electroplate together with its affordability meant that it steadily ousted pure silverware, especially for more functional items such as tea and coffee services.

The company received financial backing from Josiah Mason in 1842 (the firm was renamed Elkington, Mason & Co. between 1842 and 1861) and began a period of huge success and rapid expansion. The company received awards at the great international exhibitions from the 1850s onwards for its excellence in artistic quality and fine design and held Royal Warrants from British Royalty including Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George VI. The firm supplied plated wares to the luxury dining sections on board the Titanic and other ships in the White Star Line fleet. By 1880 the company employed over 1000 workers at the Elkington Silver Electroplating Works in Birmingham, and had a further six works established elsewhere.

Elkington & Co. traded until 1963 when the business was taken over by British Silverware Ltd. In 1971 British Silverware Ltd. became a subsidiary of Delta Metal Co. Ltd. The original works in Birmingham became the Birmingham Science Museum in 1951, until its closure in 1997.

One of Elkington's most famous pieces was the electrotype copy of the Jerningham wine cooler in 1884. The original is in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg; the electrotype is in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

by Mark Matlach