Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hooper & Co.

Hooper & Co. was a coachbuilding company in Haymarket, London, originally founded in 1805 as Adam & Hooper. Following the death of George Adams, one of the founding partners, the business became Hooper & Co. in 1896. The company specialized in the very top end of the market, building coaches and later the most luxurious cars possible without consideration of cost. At one time or another, Hooper & Co. had Royal Warrants granted by virtually every one of the crowned heads of Europe.

The company built top class horse drawn carriages for Queen Victoria and later King Edward VII. In the early 1900s Hooper & Co. began to build custom bodies for automobiles, using mostly British chassis, particularly Daimler and Rolls-Royce. The first royal car, a Hooper body on a Daimler chassis, was delivered to Sandringham on 28th March 1900. It was painted chocolate brown with red lines; a livery which continued for the Royal Family well into the 20th century. By 1904 the company had opened its famous showrooms in Piccadilly, which became a popular London attraction with its fine displays of automobiles and carriages.

During the First World War, Hooper & Co. turned to aircraft manufacture, eventually producing Sopwith Camels at the rate of three a day. After the War a new factory was built in Acton in west London. In the peak year of 1936 over 300 car bodies were made in the factory.
In the late 1930s another factory was opened in Park Royal which made fuselage sections for De Havilland Mosquito bombers, Airspeed Oxfords and gliders. In 1940 Hooper & Co. was taken over by B. S. A. (Birmingham Small Arms). With the advent of the unibody, special coachbuilding diminished and the firm closed in 1959, although B. S. A. transferred the business to a new entity named Hooper Motor Services Ltd. which acted as a sales and service company.

Hooper-bodied Bentleys outside the factory in Park Royal

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, May 18, 2014

J. C. & J. Field Ltd.

J. C. & J. Field Ltd. was a candle and soap manufacturer in Lambeth, south London. The company was one of the oldest in this part of London; it was established c.1642 and continued on the same site for nearly 300 years. Founded by Thomas Field, the firm continued through a descendant, also named Thomas, who was listed in 1768 as a wax-chandler of Lambeth and by 1800 the company was known as John & Charles Field, candle makers from Lambeth Marshes.

In 1820 another John Field joined the company which became J. C. & J. Field. At this time the firm was producing candles made of spermaceti (the oil from the head cavity of the Sperm Whale). These candles were more expensive than the ordinary tallow candles popular at the time, which were cheap but noxious and sputtered when burned.

In the 1840s the company began to manufacture household and laundry soap. In time this became the company's main production as the demand for candles declined due to the popularity of oil and gas lighting. By 1873 J. C. & J. Field was making Ozkerit Candles for export to British Colonies in Asia and Africa. These candles were made with ozkerite, a naturally occurring mineral wax, and had a higher melting point than regular  types, making Ozkerit candles extremely popular in tropical climates.

In 1887 the firm was incorporated as J.C. & J. Field Ltd. During the early 20th century the firm acquired premises in Rainham, Essex. The company diversified into the manufacture of toiletries and luxury products such as skin and dental creams and talcum powder. In the early 1940s the firm moved to Wimbledon and then onto Amersham, Buckinghamshire. J. C. & J. Field Ltd. was acquired by E. Griffiths Hughes in 1958 and became part of Aspro-Nicholas in 1960.

Soap pressing machine used by J.C. & J. Field in 1886

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Turner Brothers Asbestos Company

The business was founded in 1871 in Rochdale, Lancashire as Turner Brothers by John, Robert and Samuel Turner to manufacture cotton cloth based packaging. In 1879 the firm became the first in the UK to weave asbestos cloth with power-driven machinery, and the company name was changed to Turner Brothers Asbestos Co. The factory in Rochdale would grow to become the biggest asbestos plant in the world.

Shortly before the First World War, the company opened an asbestos cement plant at Trafford Park, Manchester. One of its major products was Trafford Tile asbestos cement sheets, which were widely used for roof and wall construction in industrial and agricultural buildings. In 1920 Turner Brothers Asbestos Co. merged with the Washington Chemical Co., Newalls Insulation Co. and J. W. Roberts to become Turner & Newall. In 1929 Turner & Newall set up a distribution and sales arm called Turners Asbestos Cement Co. Ltd. The company grew rapidly in the 1930s and 1940s and operated an asbestos mine at Havelock in Swaziland from 1939 until 2001.

In 1998 the business was acquired by Federal-Mogul, a US based automotive supplier. Federal-Mogul was overwhelmed by asbestos related lawsuits against its new subsidiary and put Turner & Newall into bankruptcy protection in 2001. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2007 with a trust created by Federal-Mogul to pay for future asbestos liabilities.

Today the site of the heavily-contaminated Rochdale site is derelict although new owners plan to build 600 homes there.

There are four different overprints related to the company:
  • Turner Brothers // Asbestos Co. Ltd. (style v2a) recorded on: SG 573, 726, 727
  • Turners / Asbestos Cement / Co. Ltd. (style hv3a) recorded on: SG 506, 573
  • Received for // Turners Asbestos / Cement Co. (style h3f) recorded on: SG 488
  • Received for // Turners Asbestos / Cement Co. (style h3f) recorded on: SG 465

by Mark Matlach