Friday, August 26, 2011

Old Betty Plant's Ltd.

Old Betty Plant's was a confectionery business that was established by Albert Plant in Stoke, Staffordshire. Albert named the company after his mother, Elizabeth, who made her own toffee and was affectionately known as Old Betty.

Around 1914, Old Betty Plant's was taken over by William Nadin from Stockton Brook. Nadin moved the company to a new factory in Morley Street, Hanley. The firm manufactured dairy mints, sugared almonds, herbal cough drops, and over a hundred varieties of boiled sweets. As well as being the proprietor of the company, William Nadin also gave himself the job of chief taster of his own sweets.

Old Betty Plant's remained in operation until 1970 when the Hanley factory was closed down. The business is now part of Barnett Confectioners Ltd.

By Mark Matlach

Cohen & Wilks Ltd.

At the end of the 19th Century, a Jewish refugee from Tsarist Russia named PM Quas-Cohen settled in Manchester. With finance from a short-lived partner named Wilks, Quas-Cohen began a company to manufacture men's clothing under under the brand name "Aquatite". As the company grew, manufacturing operations were also established in Bradford and Galashiels. During the First World War, Cohen & Wilks were seconded to manufacture uniforms for The British Expeditionary Force.

From the 1980s, casual wear and children's wear began to form the mainstay of Cohen & Wilk's manufacturing business. Today the firm is one of the main names in the character licensed apparel market, supplying a wide range of retailers that includes Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, Next, Debenhams, and John Lewis.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cussons Sons & Co. Ltd.

Today, Cussons Sons & Co. is PJ Cussons, manufacturers of Imperial Leather and other toiletries. Their 350 employees generate £135,839,000 in sales annually, with £15,147,000 profit. This is a long way from the chemist shop Thomas Cussons opened in England in 1869.

Cussons growth was the result of the work of Thomas's son Alexander, who purchased a bleach mill at Kersal Vale, Salford in 1909, establishing the firm in manufacturing. By 1917, Marks & Spencer penny bazaars began to stock Cussons products, and by 1918 the firm had moved into the production of perfume.

That was the beginning of a period of expansion: in 1920 Cussons established a soap factory in Kersal Vale, Salford, and in 1921, Cussons acquired Bayleys of Bond Street.

In 1946, Alexander made Cussons Sons & Co. into a public company. He also made Cussons into a multinational company, with sales in many Commonwealth countries.

A Cussons Advertisement from 1954

In 1955, Cussons acquired Gerard Brothers of Nottingham. Gerard Bros. Ltd., founded in 1897, was a manufacturer of personal healthcare products. Also in 1955, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a study by British Psychologist P. C. Wason of 15 soap-wrappers working for Manchester soapmaker Cussons, Sons & Co. Ltd. The soap wrappers were reported to do a strange little jig to music piped in over the plant intercom. Wason found that the dancing helped in both speed and efficiency.

In 1975, Cussons Sons & Co. were acquired by Paterson Zochonis.

The Cussons commercial overprint is very unusual in that it incorporates the company logo (shown in the advertisement) in the overprint.


by Michael Behm

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

J. & A. D. Grimond

The jute spinning and weaving industry was highly localised in Britain with practically the whole of the jute industry being centred in Dundee. In the early 19th century, jute was introduced and developed in Dundee by mills that were already involved in the production of coarse cloth. Jute manufacture required supplies of whale oil, which was readily available in Dundee as the city was a centre for whaling. The principal source of raw jute was Bengal and by 1840 Dundee had obtained the privilege of trading directly with Indian interests to obtain supplies.

J. & A. D. Grimond were jute spinners and manufacturers established in Dundee in 1840, originally as cloth merchants. In 1847 the company purchased large handloom factories in Maxwelltown for the production of various jute fabrics. In 1857, the first large plant for the production of jute was established in the Bow Bridge Works, making J. & A. D. Grimond the second-largest manufacturer of jute in Dundee. The company manufactured carpets, rugs, bags, sacks, and mattings.

1917 Advertisement

After the First World War, the jute industry in Britain was failing. There was a slump in the demand for jute and an increase in competition from manufacturers in India. This precarious situation prompted J. & A. D. Grimond to merge with a number of other Dundee jute manufacturers to form Jute Industries Ltd. in 1920. Jute Industries Ltd. became part of Sidlaw Industries in 1971, which later became Sidlaw Group plc in 1981.

By Mark Matlach


Bentalls is a department store chain with branches in Kingston, Greater London, and Bracknell, Berkshire. The well regarded "county" department store began as a drapery shop, founded by Frank Bentall in 1867. Since 2001, it has been owned by the private Fenwick group.

The principal buildings of the Kingston store were completed in 1935 to a design by architect Maurice Webb and inspired by Wren's design for Hampton Court. The fine stonework on the facade was the work of Eric Gill. This original facade has been retained as part of the Bentall Centre shopping development, in which the principal Bentalls store is now located. The store previously occupied buildings covering the entire site of the development and between 1935 and 1976 was the UK's largest department store outside central London.

Bentalls in Kingston

In addition to the Kingston and Bracknell stores, Bentalls once operated stores in Worthing, Ealing, Tunbridge Wells, Chatham, Tonbridge, Lakeside, and Bristol. The Bournemouth-based Beales group acquired the lease to three of these sites and the Worthing and Tonbridge stores continue to trade under the Beales name.

In 1987, construction began on creating a new Bentalls department store and shopping centre. This new development was to include a five-level department store and a four-level adjoining shopping centre including over 100 retail units. The development took five years to complete and was built in two phases, allowing the existing department store to trade throughout the development period. The first phase, the "new" department store opened in July 1990. The new shopping centre was opened in November 1992 by Edward Bentall (descendant of Frank Bentall).

The shopping centre's atrium ceiling is higher than the nave of Westminster Abbey or the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. The original department store's fa├žade was retained. Another significant feature of the centre is an escalator that travels from the ground to the second floor. It is the largest single-truss escalator in the world with only a top and bottom support.

By Mark Matlach

Hammond, Turner & Bate

Hammond, Turner & Bate was a button making company established in Birmingham c1790. The original name of the business was Hammond, Turner & Dickinson, the names of the three founding members: Samuel Hammond, John Turner, and John Dickinson. By the 1850s the firm was trading as Hammond, Turner & Bate before finally settling on the name Hammond, Turner & Sons.

Button making was one of Birmingham's most important industries since the 18th century. By the 19th century, Birmingham was renowned as the button making capital of the world. In 1870 there were 6000 workers in over 300 button making companies. Most of these workers were women and children. In 1833, 1841, and 1861 the premises of Hammonds were inspected to check the conditions under which children were working. Reports show that children, some as young as eight years old, were working for twelve hours a day, six days a week "stamping, pressing, and punching buttons." On Sundays, the children were expected to attend Sunday school. The reports concluded that the working conditions of the children were acceptable.

Hammond, Turner & Bate were best known for making buttons for the military. In the 1850s the company produced a number of different buttons for the Confederate army.

Confederate officer button manufactured by Hammond, Turner & Bate

Buttons were made from all sorts of materials, including brass, iron, nut, horn, and linen. The most popular buttons were made out of oyster shells. These pearl buttons were very fashionable in Victorian times and were worn exclusively by men. Shell was imported from the South Pacific, Australia and Malaysia. The shell was very fragile and up to eighty separate processes were required to make the best buttons.

Hammonds continued trading until c1955, although the company appears to have made fewer buttons and more metal items, such as cake stands, sugar trays, and tea strainers.

By Mark Matlach