Sunday, August 31, 2014

A. Boake, Roberts & Co. Ltd.

A. Boake, Roberts & Co. Ltd. was a firm of manufacturing chemists, established in 1869 when Irishman Arthur Boake founded a company in Stratford, east London, to produce brewing chemicals. Boake invented a product for clarifying wine, which he sold successfully in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Boake ran the company alone until 1876 when Francis Roberts joined him in partnership. In 1888 the business became A. Boake, Roberts & Co. and in 1897 it was incorporated as a limited liability company. The firm began to manufacture flavouring essences and to distill essential oils. This evolved into the manufacturing of perfume and flavour chemicals. In 1935, for example, the company published the second edition of A Handbook for Ice Cream Makers. The company expanded greatly in the 1940s and 50s and factories were established in Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, Rainham, Letchworth and Widnes.

In 1966 A. Boake, Roberts & Co. Ltd. joined forces with Stafford Allen & Sons and W. J. Bush & Co. to form Bush Boake Allen. By the end of the 20th century, sales for the company had reached $470 million. In 2000 an American company named International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (I F F) purchased Bush Boake Allen for $970 million, making I F F the largest flavour and fragrance producing company in the world. Boake's original factory in Stratford was demolished and cleared for the 2012 London Olympics.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wright, Layman & Umney

In 1860, William Valentine Wright, with partners  Sellers and  Layman, opened a small wholesale druggist and chemist business at 11 Old Fish Street Hill near St. Paul's Cathedral in London. In 1866 the company developed Wright's Coal Tar Soap, which was to become a hugely popular brand of antiseptic soap that is still being sold today. The soap was made from liquor carbonis detergens, the liquid by-product of the distillation of coal to make coke; the liquid was made into an antiseptic soap for the treatment of skin diseases.

Sellers retired in 1876 and Charles Umney was taken into partnership, and the company's name was changed to Wright, Layman & Umney. At this time the firm was described as wholesale and export druggists, manufacturers of pharmaceutical and chemical preparations, distillers of essential oils, manufacturers and proprieters of Wright's Coal Tar Soap and other coal tar specialities.

William Valentine Wright died in 1877 and two of his sons, Charles and Herbert, subsequently joined the company. By 1898 Charles Umney had taken over the management of the coal tar soap section of the business. In 1899 Wright, Layman & Umney became a private limited company and moved to larger premises in Southwark. In 1909 the firm became a public limited company and was regarded as one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country.
 In the late 1960s, the Wright's Coal Tar Soap business was taken over by LRC Products Ltd. who sold it to Smith & Nephew in the 1990s. The soap is now made in Turkey for the current owners of the brand, Simple Health & Beauty Ltd. based in Solihull and is called Wright's Traditional Soap. As European Union directives on cosmetics have banned the use of coal tar in non-prescription products, the coal tar derivatives have been removed from the formula, and replaced with tea tree oil as the main anti-bacterial ingredient. Despite this major variance from the original recipe, the new soap has been made to approximate the look and smell of the original product.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 17, 2014

T. Bradford & Co.

Thomas Bradford & Co. was a company of laundry and dairy engineers established in Salford in 1850. The company made dairy appliances and butter churns but is most noted for being one of the first major manufacturers of washing machines in Victorian Britain.

The first reference to a washing “machine” can be traced to the diary of Robert Hooke in 1677. It described “a way of rinsing fine linen in a whip-cord bag, fastened at one end and strained by a wheel and cylinder at the other.....whereby the finest linen is washt, wrung and not hurt”. This is hardly what we would describe as a “machine”, yet this word was used in country house inventories of the 18th and early 19th centuries, which sometimes referred to “scrubbing engines” or “washing machines”.

It was not until the 1860s that washing machines as we would recognize them began to be sold in any number. These early machines were wooden-bodied, hand operated and showed a wide variety of forms, most incorporating wringers. One of the major manufacturers of early washing machines was Thomas Bradford. Bradford's distinctive motif can be found on many washing machines in museums and reconstructed laundries, as well as on box mangles, ironing stoves, linen presses and butter churns dating from the second half of the 19th century.

Thomas Bradford founded his company in Salford in 1850 and later set up a steam laundry in London. The company's Victress Vowel series of washing  machines was undoubtedly the most popular of its day. One of the features of the Victress Vowel series was that it was produced in a number of different sizes to suit different workloads. The most popular was the “E” model, designed for family use and costing 8 guineas in 1862. The “O” model was larger, designed for hotels, schools and mansions and the “U” model for large hotels, hospitals and workhouses. For these largest machines, Bradford advised specialist installation and operative training and eventually it was in this direction that the firm developed. At the Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester in 1887, Bradford's stand consisted almost entirely of commercial laundry and swimming-bath machinery, steam driers and disinfecting equipment. Thomas Bradford & Co. continued until at least 1938.
Victress Vowel washing machine made by Thomas Bradford & Co.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shrubsole & Co.

 Shrubsole & Co. was a private bank in Kingston-upon-Thames from 1792 until 1894. It is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

The bank was founded by a draper called William Rowlls who ran it alongside his existing drapery business. The bank underwent a number of name changes over the following years, finally becoming Shrubsole & Co. in 1869 when John Shrubsole took sole control of the company. John Shrubsole died in 1874 and his brother Henry became manager of the bank. Henry Shrubsole was also a popular mayor of Kingston from 1877 until his death in 1880.

Shrubsole & Co. was acquired by Parr's Banking Co. & Alliance Bank Ltd. in 1894; further mergers in later years would mean that the bank ended up as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

The Shrubsole memorial, erected in 1882 in Market Square, Kingston.
Henry Shrubsole died in office in 1880 while distributing gifts to the poor in Kingston Drill Hall.

by Mark Matlach

Monday, August 4, 2014

M T O (Morrell's Trustees Oxford)

In 1782 Mark Morrell and his son James took over the Lion Brewery in Oxford. After James Morrell's death in 1855, the business passed to his son, James junior who remained in charge until 1863. From 1863 until 1943 the brewery was managed by a group of trustees.

In the late 18th century the Lion Brewery was expanded and redeveloped. A large brewing shed was added in 1879, a blacksmith's shop and engine house in 1880, a further shed and new yard in 1882, stables in 1889, new offices in in 1892, a tun room in 1895 and a tall, octagonal chimney in 1901. All these developments were designed by local architect Harry Drinkwater, who also designed a number of public houses for Morrells. The Lion Brewery was powered by a waterwheel on a backwater of the River Thames, supplemented by steam engines for which the engine house was built.

From 1864 until 1876 the Morrell Trustees supervised the running of Headington Hill Hall, a 51-room mansion owned by the Morrell family. The Trustees also concluded a number of land purchases which resulted in the Morrell estate doubling in size by the end of the 1870s. Headington Hill Hall was occupied by the Morrell family until 1938. It was later leased to Robert Maxwell, the infamous newspaper publisher, who described it as “the best council house in the country”. Since 1992 the mansion has been leased to Oxford Brookes University.

Headington Hill Hall, Oxfordshire

In April 1943 Morrell's Brewery Limited was registered as a limited liability company to acquire the business from Morrell's Trustees. After an acrimonious family dispute, the Lion Brewery was closed in 1998. The beer brands were acquired by Refresh UK and are now owned by Marstons. Most of the company's 132 tied pubs were bought by Greene King in 2002. The Lion Brewery site was redeveloped for luxury apartments in 2002. The waterwheel and tall brick chimney were left intact but only the facades of the other buildings were retained.

by Mark Matlach