Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barry, Ostlere and Shepherd

Linoleum flooring has been with us for a century and a half. It was invented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1860. The flooring is made from solidified linseed oil, pulverized limestone, wood flour and cork dust; backings are made from burlap, hemp or other fibers. Linoleum is considered "green" because of its natural makeup and its durability. Over the years linoleum has moved in and out of popularity, with a recent revival starting in the mid 2000s.

In 1863, an Englishman - Frederick Walton - applied successfully for a patent for the exclusive manufacture of a new floor covering material, which he called 'linoleum', his company, Walton's Linoleum Manufacturing Company, was founded during 1864 to start production of this product.

After 1877, when Walton's patent expired, production became more widespread in Britain and abroad, spreading in particular to Scotland and to the town of Kirkcaldy in West Fife.

By 1877, Kirkcaldy had established itself as the world's largest centre for the manufacture of wax floor-cloth, and was in an ideal position to exploit a rapidly growing national and international market for linoleum. Within a few decades over a dozen linoleum manufacturing companies had taken root and flourished, helping to transform Kirkcaldy into the Linoleum Capital of the world.

The first producer in Kirkcaldy was the Scottish Linoleum Company which was registered on 29th September 1899, taking over the businesses of floorcloth and linoleum manufacturers John Barry, Ostlere and Co., the Kirkcaldy Linoleum Co., and Messrs. Shepherd and Beveridge.

In February 1930 a company called Linoleum Manufacturing Co Ltd with works at Staines, Middlesex, and offices at 6 Old Bailey, London EC4, (which had been registered 3rd June 1864), changed its name to Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd.

In December 1930, Barry, Ostlere & Shepherd Ltd converted into a private company and Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd then acquired all its assets. Although Barry and Staines Linoleum Ltd was the parent company, the two companies continued to trade under their original names, at its height, they employed around 350 people in Staines, making it the towns largest employer, churning out by 1956 3,200 sq. yards of 'Staines Lino' each week.

Sadly, during 1963/4 the flooring company Barry, Ostlere and Shepherd succumbed to a downturn in the linoleum business and folded, causing the loss of around 1,500 jobs.

By Paul Green

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