Sunday, November 28, 2010


In 1863 Tom Ponting, one of four brothers from Gloucester, opened a fancy draper's shop in Westbourne Grove. His three brothers, Sidney, John and William bought no. 125 High Street, Kensington, expanding to 123, 123a and 127 and also to Scarsdale House formerly the mansions of the Curzons of Kedleston.

They soon established a good business in retail fancy goods and silks, everything for art needlework, and even a Needlework School.

The original premises were replaced by a High Victorian building, designed by Sherrin.

In 1907 John Barker and Co. Ltd. bought the business. Pontings is known to have used commercial overprints on the 1912 issue, when it was a part of the Barker holdings.

The premises were demolished in the early 1970s and a new complex of shops built in their place.

By Paul Green

Jonas Brook & Brothers

Meltham Mills was the former site of Jonas Brook and Brothers, a silk mill complex that employed over 1,000 workers during the late 19th century.

The Brook family originally came from New House Hall in Sheepridge, moving to Thickhollins towards the end of the 18th century. William Brook married Martha Smith at Bradford Parish Church--the daughter of a prominent Mirfield banker. Their sons Jonas, James, and Joseph established their business in Meltham Mills, using a goat's head--the crest from the Brook's coat of arms--as their brand.

Edward Brook died at Hoddom Castle, which he had purchased in 1878, near Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland in 1904. The Brook family were philanthropists and built housing in Meltham Mills for their employees, including the convalescent home. They also built Meltham Hall, Helme Church and owned an estate at Enderby in Leicestershire. William Brook is buried with his wife Martha in Meltham Church, but his descendants are buried in the crypt underneath St. James Church, Meltham Mills.

Jonas Brook and Brothers became United Threads in 1890 and Sir Hildred Carlile of Ponsonby Hall, Hertfordshire was a Director of the business. United Threads was closed in 1939; the business was transferred to Paisley as part of J & P Coats--now Coats Viyella.

The factory site was later taken over by David Brown Tractors.

By Paul Green

J. H. Gosling.

In October 1795, Mr. J. H. Gosling founded a drapery store at 80 George Street, Richmond, London. J. H. Gosling's sons and grandsons succeeded him in the business throughout the 19th century. The last links with the founder's family ended with the deaths of Matthew Gosling and Herbert Gosling at the end of the 19th century. The manager at the time was Arthur Snow and his son, Ernest Snow, succeeded him at the store.

By Paul Green

Harvey, Nichols and Co.

Harvey Nichols ("Harvey Nicks"), founded in 1813, is an up-market department store chain. Its original store is in London. Founded in 1813 as a linen shop, it offers many of the world's most prestigious brands in women's wear, menswear, accessories, beauty, and food. Harvey Nichols attracts more younger shoppers than its rival Harrods, but tends to be more expensive.

In 1813, Benjamin Harvey opened a linen shop in a terraced house on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street in London. The business passed on to Harvey's daughter in 1820 on the understanding that she go into partnership with Colonel Nichols, selling Oriental carpets, silks, and luxury goods alongside the linens.

The existing Knightsbridge store, which was built by Higgs and Hill, was opened in 1880, with the rear section added in 1932.

In 1919, Harvey Nichols was bought by Debenhams and in 1985 became part of the Burton Group. In 1991, the store was acquired by Dickson Concepts an international retailer and distributor of branded luxury goods based in Hong Kong and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. In April 1996, Harvey Nichols obtained a full listing on the London Stock Exchange and for next seven years, remained a listed company. 1996 also marks the year when Harvey Nichols opened their first store outside of London.

February 2003, however, saw the controversial return of Harvey Nichols to private ownership. The store is now owned by the Hong Kong-based businessman Dr. Dickson Poon, whose retail businesses extend to North America, Europe, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.

By Paul Green

There are numerous small differences in the fonts and letter spacing in Harvey, Nichols and Co. overprints.

Herbert Ashman & Co.

In a trade directory of the late 19th century, Herbert Ashman and Company Limited were listed as curriers, leather merchants and leather belting and hose manufacturers. Ashman's family arrived in Bristol from Yeovil when he was a few months old. He joined his father's firm at the age of 15, and founded his own business with his brother seven years later, in 1876.

Although his name still stands engraved in the stonework high above 1-5 Broadmead street, Herbert Ashman's greater claim to fame is that he was created the first Lord Mayor of Bristol in June 1899. Before this time the office was simply that of Mayor. On 15th November of the same year he became Sir Herbert, when he was knighted by Queen Victoria during her visit to the city. This was the last personal conferment of knighthood by the Queen, who died in 1901. Herbert Ashman died in September 1914 following an operation for appendicitis.

By Paul Green

The company used commercial overprints at least into the early 1900s.

Derry and Toms

Derry & Toms was a large London department store, the company dates back to the 1860s, when Joseph Toms, a store proprietor joined forces with his brother-in-law, Charles Derry. In 1920, the John Baker Company acquired the "Derry & Toms" company.

In 1932, the store moved to a new large seven story building on Kensington High Street, the building was designed in an Art Deco style popular at the time by Bernard George and featured metalwork by Walter Gilbert, the store's building is most famous for its Kensington Roof Gardens, which were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by Ralph Hancock, a landscape architect, on the instructions of Trevor Bowen (then vice-president of Barkers, the Kensington department store giant that owned the site and constructed the building in 1932). The Gardens has been listed as a Grade II site by the English Heritage in 1978.

The company closed in 1973, and the building was bought by Biba, which remained there for only a few years. The location is now a Marks and Spencer’s.

Derry & Toms had used commercial overprints at least as early as 1901.

By Paul Green

Saturday, November 27, 2010

W. J. Bush & Co. Ltd.

W. J. Bush & Co Ltd. was a manufacturing chemist which was the first ever producer of flavourings and essences in Britain.

The company was established in 1851 by William John Bush. He acquired a small factory in Bishopsgate, London and undertook the preparation of herbs, spices, tinctures and essences. In 1885 W. J. Bush & Co. relocated to larger premises at Ash Grove, Hackney. The firm became a limited company in 1897.

In the following years, W. J. Bush & Co Ltd. manufactured chloroform, aspirin, perfumes, flavourings, fruit bases and essential oils. The company developed a worldwide presence and also acted as a distributor or agent for other manufacturers in various countries.

Advertisement 1949

In 1961 W. J. Bush & Co Ltd. was acquired by Albright & Wilson Ltd., a phosphorous manufacturer, but continued to trade under its own name.

In 1966 W. J. Bush & Co Ltd. merged with two other chemical manufacturers by the name of Stafford Allen & Sons Ltd. and A. Boake Roberts & Co Ltd., to form Bush Boake Allen Ltd., which became a subsidiary of Albright & Wison Ltd.

By 1998 Bush Boake Allen Ltd. had operations in 39 countries and was one of the world's leading suppliers of aroma chemicals. In 2000 Bush Boake Allen Ltd. was acquired by International Flavours & Fragrances, creating the world's largest flavour and fragrance company.

By Mark Matlach

W. J. Bush used commercial overprints at least until the Second Word War, but the overprint is not common.

Bush Boake Allen Ltd. is also reported to have used commercial overprints, but I do not have a copy.

Norwich & London Accident Insurance Association

The Norwich & London Accident Insurance Association was established by Charles Rackham Gilman on 1st September 1856, initially with the name of Norwich & London Accident & Casualty Insurance Association. By 1870 the Association was offering insurance "against accidental death with compensation in case of personal injury by accidents of all kinds." The change of name was made in 1875 and the Association started to offer employers liability insurance and, by 1892, had extended its business to include railway accidents, marine accidents and fidelity guarantee insurance.

Some interesting examples of claims paid in 1876:
  • "Farmer of Stafford, thorn pierced eye - £600"
  • "Surgeon of New Haven, drowned during dark night - £1000"

The Norwich & London Accident Insurance Association was never incorporated or registered and was acquired by the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society in 1909, which is now part of Aviva Insurance UK Ltd., currently the U.K.'s largest insurance and financial services group and the seventh largest insurer in the world.

The Norwich & London Accident Insurance Association did not overprint its stamps with the company name or initials. Instead, a handstamped commercial overprint with the initials "C.R.G." or "C.S.G." was used. These were the initials of the manager at the time.

C. Storey Gilman was manager until 1889. His son Charles Rackham Gilman was the manager from 1889 to 1903. C. Storey Gilman then took over again until 1909.

By Mark Matlach

The Norwich & London Accident Insurance Association appears to have no connection with the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society, a user of commercial overprints from at least World War Two until the early 1960s.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Union Bank of Australia Ltd.

In 1837 a struggling Australian bank called the Tamar Bank, went to London in search of capital and managed to find a group of investors who were prepared to support a bank in Australia. They founded the Union Bank of Australia, which took over the Tamar Bank and opened for business the same year. The new bank hoped to capitalise on Australia's potential to meet the large demand for wool by English textile mills.

In 1838 the New Zealand Company approached the Union Bank of Australia about opening a branch in the firm's new settlement. The Union Bank agreed and became the first bank to do business in New Zealand.

Between 1838 and 1841 the Australian sheep-farming boom reached new heights. During this period the Union Bank consolidated its position and built up business secure enough to withstand the severe depression that began in late 1841. By 1900 the Union Bank enjoyed relative strength and prestige throughout the Australian Commonwealth.

In 1951 the Union Bank merged with the Bank of Australasia to create a new company – the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. The merger catapulted the ANZ Bank to the top tier of banks in Australia and New Zealand. It is currently the fourth largest bank in Australia.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 21, 2010

George Angus & Co. Limited

George Angus & Co. Limited can trace its history as far back as 1788. In this year Joseph Angus began a leather manufacturing business in Newcastle. His company would eventually grow into a vast organisation manufacturing oil seals, fire hose, belting, gears, rubber industrial products and protective clothing.

George Angus first entered the company as an apprentice in 1836 and was in sole charge by 1855. He oversaw the building of the St. John's Leather Works in Newcastle. In 1888 George Angus & Co. became a limited company.

George Angus died in 1890 and two of his sons, John and William, took control of the firm. The two brothers initiated the company's diversification into gear manufacture at a new factory built at Walker Road in 1915.

In the 1930s the company diversified further by manufacturing oil seals for the lubrication of high speed machinery.

A new factory was opened at Wallsend in 1956, which was the largest oil seal factory in Europe.

In the mid 1960s production was moved to a new industrial rubber plant in Cramlington, Northumberland. The plant manufactured a wide range of products based on rubber, from wellington boots to fire hoses.

In 1968 George Angus & Co Ltd. merged with Dunlop Ltd to form the Dunlop Angus Industrial Group. The site of the factory in Wallsend is now occupied by B & Q.

By Mark Matlach

R. Hovenden & Sons Ltd.

R. Hovenden & Sons Limited was a wholesaler and exporter of pharmaceutical and hairdressing products. The company was established by Robert Hovenden in London in 1892.

The company sold a wide range of products such as razors, combs, perfumes, toiletries, mirrors and walking sticks. However the company seemed to be best known for being "human hair merchants". They did a brisk trade supplying pre-made wigs, hair curlers, and false buns which were incorporated into womens' hairstyles.

By Mark Matlach

Hovenden commercial overprints are known at least as late as SG 506.

J. Veitch & Sons

The Veitch Nurseries were the largest group of family-run plant nurseries in Europe during the 19th century. Started by John Veitch sometime before 1808, the original nursery grew substantially over several decades and was eventually split into two separate businesses - based at Chelsea and Exeter - as it became unfeasible to run the whole operation from one location.

The Veitch family probably influenced horticulture in Britain and around the world more than any single family had done before them or is likely to be able to do again.

The Nurseries of James Veitch (later James Veitch & Sons), were responsible for many horticultural firsts. They were the first commercial nursery in Britain to sponsor their own plant collectors to explore foreign lands in search of new and exotic plants for British gardens. These arduous and often dangerous journeys brought the raw materials for the Veitch Nurseries to exclusively market their own introductions which laid the foundations of what was to become an institution of immense importance. An influence which has left its mark on the gardening world today.

In all, the Veitch Nurseries sent 23 collectors to many countries over about a 72 year span. Famous names included John Gould Veitch, Peter C. M. Veitch, Frederick Burbidge, Charles Maries, Charles Curtis, James H. Veitch and Ernest H. Wilson. Hortus Veitchii tells the story of their endeavors as well as the firm's pioneering hybridization work and describes 1,500 or more of 'the most remarkable of their introductions'.

Other famous names followed including Thomas Lobb who was sent to the Far East and discovered many new orchids and the then new breed of Rhododendrons which came to be referred to as 'Vireyas', about 500 of which came to be bred by the Veitch Nurseries. Only a handful of these varieties survive today.

The firm had, by the outbreak of the First World War, introduced 1281 plants into cultivation, which were either previously unknown or newly bred varieties These included 498 greenhouse plants, 232 orchids, 153 deciduous trees, shrubs and climbing plants, 122 herbaceous plants, 118 exotic ferns, 72 evergreen and climbing plants, 49 conifers and 37 bulbous plants.

The nurseries were most famous for their orchids, although they also introduced several famous plants from other families, such as Nepenthes rajah and Nepenthes northiana. The pitcher plant species N. veitchii is named in honor of the Veitch dynasty.

The Chelsea business ceased to trade in 1914, whilst the Exeter business continued under Peter Veitch and later his daughter Mildred. She in turn sold the firm in 1969, when it was bought by St Bridget Nurseries. The business was run as a separate business for a further 20 years, but is now a non-functioning subsidiary of St Bridget.

By Paul Green

George Brettle & Co. Ltd.

The firm of Ward Sharp and Company (established in 1801) had its origins in the hosiery business conducted at Belper, Derbyshire by the Ward family. It was formed by John Ward and James Sharp who also opened a warehouse in London where they could sell their products produced at Belper. Following financial problems, William Ward invited George Brettle (1778-1835) to join the partnership in 1803 and the firm was renamed Ward Brettle and Ward. Prosperity soon returned and by the end of the decade, the firm was employing 1,000 people. Its wholesale warehouse accommodation became insufficient and new premises were taken in Wood Street, City of London to supply London's drapers with cloth, hosiery, haberdashery and blankets. By the 1830s, it was one of the biggest hosiery firms in the country.

The death of William Ward in 1833 left the firm in the hands of Brettle alone and he named the firm, 'George Brettle and Co.' The Ward family, excluded from the business but still in possession of the premises at Belper, set up the firm of Ward Strutt and Sharp. George Brettle purchased a site nearby for his own warehouse in Belper. Brettle died in 1835, leaving the running of the firm to three friends until his three sons were of age to succeed to their partnerships from 1843. By 1872 all three sons were dead and, although steam power and mechanisation of production had been introduced, the firm had lost its dominant position to Wards of Belper. Problems with labour supply and the workforce, growing competition from the German hosiery industry, and costly family settlements restricted the growth of Brettles over the next thirty years.

From the 1870s, an increasing proportion of Brettles' output took the form of knitted underwear rather than stockings.

The commercial side of the firm underwent little change beyond the employment of travelling company salesmen and it was slow to respond to the demands of the new department stores. Following a succession of deaths and marriages, the Twyford family took control of the firm. In 1913, the firm was inherited by Lionel and Harry Twyford and a year later it became 'George Brettle and Co. Ltd'. Lionel died in 1920 but with Harry's skill and a boom in demand for hosiery and knitwear that began during the war, the firm was revitalised. The factory at Belper was extended, a new factory was set up at Wirksworth, Derbyshire to tap a growing labour force there, and the firm began building its own machinery.

The firm was organised into a number of departments including lisle, haberdashery, bandannas, manchester, outfitting, cotton, fancy knitted goods, gloves, cashmere, silk, and half-hose. By the late 1930s, the lisle department with its range of elastic ('Silkestia') stockings accounted for over half of the company's output. In 1936, Brettles had become a public company. For its employees, the firm set up a pension scheme in 1928, and built sports grounds in Wimbledon and Belper for the firm's sports teams, the Oberon Athletic Club.

Brettles growth declined in the general austerity following the war. This combined with the problem of finding a successor to Sir Harry Twyford led to a link with the Courtaulds textiles group for which Brettles became the main hose production in 1964. In 1974, the firm was bought outright by Courtaulds and became Courtaulds Hosiery Limited. By the 1970s, the factory at Belper produced only knitted stockings and tights. In 1997, Chilprufe bought Brettles from the Courtaulds Group and moved production to Leicester. Production returned to Belper in 2002 when Brettles was sold to lingerie manufacturer, Slenderella by Chilprufe's receivers.

By Paul Green

Frederick Leyland and Co. Limited

Frederick Leyland was a partner in the firm of Bibby Bros and started up his own company in 1873 when 21 of Bibby Bros ships were transferred to the newly formed company. Services to Boston started in 1876.

With the death of Frederick Leyland in 1892, a new company Frederick Leyland & Co Ltd was formed and began a close association between Leyland and Furness Lines. Passenger services began in 1895, and in 1896 the founding of Wilson's & Furness-Leyland Line took place to run North Atlantic services.

In 1899 the West India & Pacific SS Co was taken over and ran a service from the UK to Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico ports. A Liverpool to New York service was inaugurated in 1901 and joint services to the Mediterranean were operated with G. Papayanni, Liverpool.

In 1902 the company came under the control of International Mercantile Marine Co which also took over American Line, Atlantic Transport, Dominion, Red Star and White Star Lines. A rationalization of services followed this take over and Leyland withdrew from the Mediterranean and transferred many ships to Ellerman Lines, and later withdrew from the New York service.

The years following WWI saw many transfers between IMMC group companies and in 1927 Leyland's two remaining passenger ships went to Red Star Line. The economic depression of the 1930s caused the sale of many ships, and by 1935 Leyland's last ship was sold and the company ceased to exist.

By Paul Green

Flower and Sons Ltd.

Flower’s Brewery was founded in 1831 by Edward Fordham Flower. He was the son of Richard Flower, a brewer, banker and sheep breeder who moved from London to Illinois. Born in Hertfordshire, Edward Flower went to the United States with his father but returned to England to establish his brewery in Stratford-on-Avon. He would later become the town’s mayor and a magistrate for Warwickshire.

Enjoying continual growth, Flower’s Brewery was acquired by J. W. Green Ltd of Luton in 1954 and the name changed to Flower’s Breweries Ltd.

In 1961 the parent company was absorbed by the expanding Whitbread empire, one of the big six brewers in the UK.

Flower’s Brewery was closed in 1968 and production transferred to Whitbread's Cheltenham brewery.

By Paul Green

Express Dairy Co. Ltd.

The Express Country Milk Supply Company was established in London in 1864 by George Barham, and in 1892 it became the Express Dairy Company Limited. The company transported milk into London by rail, and delivered it direct to people’s homes.

The Dairy Supply Company was formed as a separate company selling dairy equipment such as the milk churn, which was invented by Barham.

The company grew, purchasing College Farm, Finchley, London to conduct dairy experiments. The farm was sold in 1983.

The firm also ran Express teashops, cafes and bakery and became a limited company in 1937. In 1969 Express became part of Grand Metropolitan and in 1992 part of Northern Foods. In 1998 the name of Express Dairies Plc returned, with the division of Northern Foods into two sections.

By Paul Green

Bourne and Hollingsworth

This is the story of Howard Hollingsworth of London, England. Howard’s father, Charles, a successful bacon curer from Bilston, Staffs, ensured Howard (born 1871) received a good education – first in Edgbaston, then at college in Taunton, Somerset.

Starting out as apprentice in a drapery store, he was ill-used by the management, was served bad food and forced to live in a rat-infested basement. He soon moved to London where he met Walter W Bourne, son of a farmer, who worked as a buyer for the well-known Pontings store. They became very close friends and with £600 capital, borrowed from relatives, set up the first Bourne & Hollingsworth store in Westbourne Grove.

The business thrived, moving into larger premises. In 1902 they were able to purchase a much bigger store at 116–18 Oxford Street. From then until 1908 business really took off and they gradually purchased and rebuilt the entire block acquiring in the process a brothel, a ‘nest of Polish tailors’ and Savory’s cigarette factory. By 1925 it offered the best quality fashion goods, served by smart, well-trained staff within a very spacious and stylish 320,000 sq ft store (designed by Slater and Moberly), whose name was advertised nationwide.

Walter Bourne had died in 1921, aged 56, but two of his three sons joined the business as directors. Howard, who never married, encouraged and supported them and the store continued to lead the field. Escalators and lifts were installed, a dining room and rest area, and floorwalkers ensured customers received excellent service. Howard, perhaps remembering his own introduction to work, made sure the B&H employees had the best conditions.

His unique Staffordshire House company hostel was sold in 1911 and its successor, the larger Warwickshire House, provided good meals and rooms for up to 600 female staff close to the store. Another innovation was producing own-brand labeled goods in a company factory behind the store.

The store closed its doors for the last time in 1983.

By Paul Green

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peter Robinson

In 1833 Peter Robinson opened a linen-draper's shop in Oxford Street in the heart of London's West End. A "Court and General Mourning House" was also opened in Regent Street, which became known as "Black Peter Robinson's."

By the end of the 19th Century Peter Robinsons had grown into a large store selling fashionable ladies' clothing and accessories.

Advertisement from 1906

During the Blitz of the Second World War, Oxford Street was bombed repeatedly. The facade of Peter Robinson's store was ripped open ; three floors were destroyed and plate glass windows and debris was blown into Oxford Circus. The storefront was boarded up and subsequently used to display war advertising hoardings. Later in the war, the store's basement department was converted by the BBC into broadcast studios for its Eastern Service.

By the 1960's Peter Robinsons' had grown into a chain of department stores. There were 39 branches around the country, controlled from the original Oxford Street premises.

In 1964 the Peter Robinson chain was relaunched as Topshop. This was in response to a new young fashion culture around Britain in the 1960's. The Topshop launch began with Topshop - branded departments within Peter Robinson stores, with the first standalone Topshop stores opened in 1974. Eventually the Peter Robinson name was dropped altogether. Topshop is currently part of Arcadia Group Ltd.

By Mark Matlach

Peter Robinson Ltd. had an odd history with commercial overprints. The company was one of the first to use commercial overprints, but quickly fell into using handstamps. This appears to have continued until the Second World War, when they again began to use pre-printed commercial overprints.

W. H. Smith & Son

W.H. Smith & Son is a famous retailer best known for its chain of high street, railway station, and airport shops selling books, stationery, magazines and newspapers. It has been an innovative company, being the first chain store company in the world and it was responsible for the creation of the ISBN book catalogue system.

In 1792 Henry Walton Smith and his wife established the business as a news vendor in Little Grosvenor Street, London. After their deaths the company was taken over by their son William Henry. When William Henry's son, also named William Henry, became a partner in 1846, the company took the name of W.H. Smith & Son.

William Henry Smith

The firm took advantage of the railway boom at this time by opening news stands at railway stations, starting with Euston in 1848.

In 1928 W.H. Smith & Son became a limited company and was recognized as the main newspaper distributor in Britain.

From the 1970s W.H Smith & Son Ltd. began to expand into other areas of retail such as music and travel. In 1998 the company acquired John Menzies' retail outlets, which for many years had been the main rival to the company's railway station outlets. In 2006 the company decided to demerge the retail and news distribution sides of the business into two separate companies : W.H. Smith plc (retail) and Smiths News plc (newspaper and magazine distribution).

By Mark Matlach

As you might expect, W.H. Smith used commercial overprints extensively for at least 80 years and a variety of patterns are known.

Taylor Brothers Limited

Taylor Brothers Limited was a cocoa and chocolate manufacturer based at Brick Lane in the East End of London, where the company had a Mustard and Cocoa Mill. Taylor Brothers claimed to be "the largest manufacturer of cocoa in Europe" around 1880, so it is rather surprising that information about this company is elusive.

Taylor Brothers' most successful product appears to have been Maravilla Cocoa, which was sold in tin-lined packets by grocers nationwide in the last quarter of the 19th Century. The company also made Taylor Brothers' Original Homeopathic Cocoa and Soluble Chocolate as well as Challenge Mustard, which was "celebrated for its pungency and purity of its flavour."

By Mark Matlach

There are at least two varieties of commercial overprints for Taylor Brothers. The sample at the top of this post has the date .....188 while the receipt has .....189. The sample also has a "3" written at the end of the date, so we know that Taylor Brothers used commercial overprints for at least 11 years.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd.

During the 1850s the first commercially successful sewing machines went into mass production in the United States. It did not take long for entrepreneurs in Britain to seize the opportunity to cash in on the new invention.

One such entrepreneur was an engineer by the name of William Jones. Jones established a factory in Audenshaw, Manchester in 1859 and began manufacturing his own sewing machines. A year later Jones formed a partnership with Thomas Chadwick. Trading as Chadwick & Jones they manufactured sewing machines at Ashton-under-Lyne. The partnership was short lived and Chadwick left the company in 1864.

William Jones opened a new factory in Guide Bridge, Manchester in 1869. Business took off when Jones managed to get a large contract for Burtons the tailors to supply heavy-duty industrial machines to some of their factories.

The company went public in 1879 with the trading name of Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd. The firm was now producing a variety of sewing machines for both domestic and industrial use and was the best known sewing machine manufacturer in Britain.

The Jones Family Machine, which was produced in the 1880s

Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd. continued trading until 1968 when it was taken over by Brother Industries (UK) Limited, who continue manufacturing sewing machines to this day.

By Mark Matlach

S. & J. Watts & Co.

S. J. Watts & Co. was a wholesale drapery business established by brothers Samuel and James Watts in Manchester. Between 1851 and 1856 the company built a huge warehouse in the center of town.

The warehouse was more like a department store on the inside. 600 staff looked after finished goods:
  • on the ground floor: hosiery, linens and carpets
  • on the 1st floor: dresses, woolens, and dyed goods
  • on the 2nd floor: umbrellas, bags, corsets, boots and shoes
  • on the 3rd floor: ribbons, silks and underclothing
  • on the 4th floor: lace and furs.
During the Second World War, the Watts' warehouse was bombed in the Manchester Blitz, but was saved from destruction when the fire was smothered by textiles after the water supply had failed.

Watts Warehouse Manchester

S. & J. Watts & Co traded until 1960 when the company merged with a rival firm to become Cook & Watts, which was taken over by the Courtaulds Group in 1969. The Watts warehouse is now a Grade II listed building and since 1982 has been the Britannia Hotel.

By Mark Matlach

S. & J. Watts had a rich history of using commercial overprints, with at least five different patterns being known (the four immediately above and the example on the receipt). The last issue I am aware of is SG 518.

Oriental Bank Corporation

The Oriental Bank Corporation was a bank in India in the 19th Century. It was also the first bank in Hong Kong and the the first bank to issue banknotes there.

The Oriental Bank Corporation was established in 1842 in Bombay, India under the name Bank of Western India. After the headquarters were moved to London in 1845, the name was changed to the Oriental Bank Corporation.

In the 1860s the bank held a dominant position in India and China. However, its finances suffered greatly due to the coffee disease in Ceylon which devastated the coffee plantations in the area, in which the company had invested heavily. In 1884 the bank ran into severe difficulties and was reconstituted as the New Oriental Bank Corporation. With growing competition from its rivals, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank, the New Oriental Bank Corporation failed to survive and closed down in 1892.

by Mark Matlach