Sunday, October 30, 2011

H. D. Rawlings

H. D. Rawlings was a carbonated drinks manufacturer established by John Rawlings in London in 1784. The company made fruit juices, squashes, cordials, and carbonated water.

In the Victorian era, the entire Rawlings empire eventually came into the ownership of a rich widow named Sarah Rawlings. A young clerk by the name of Henry Doo was employed by Sarah. She became infatuated with him and proposed marriage, offering Henry full control of the business, provived that he changed his surname to Rawlings. Henry agreed and the couple were duly married. Henry took control of the company, which now became H. D. Rawlings.

In 1891 H. D. Rawlings was acquired by rival carbonated drinks producer, R. Whites, and is now part of the Britvic Group.

by Mark Matlach

Silber & Fleming

Silber & Fleming were manufacturers and wholesalers of a vast range of products from ceramics and glass to furniture and silverware. The company was founded c1854 by Albert Silber, an immigrant from Germany, who, together with his partner Mr. Fleming, established a wholesale fancy goods business in Cheapside, London.

For a short period in 1868, Albert Silber was confined to his bed by illness. Wishing to see the time at night, he invented a little contrivance that soon became extremely popular. This was a stand to carry a nightlight within a glass globe, on which the hours were marked in bold figures. Silber experimented with the common Argand burner and found that it could be much improved by the introduction of an inner tube, which supplied a better current of air to the interior of the flame. This was the general principle underlying the "Silber" burner, and it was modified to suit illuminants of every description. In c1870 Silber produced a lantern for an Argand burner that was subsequently used for the purposes of naval or military signalling. Silber's last achievement was the production of a series of railway lamps, both for the lighting of carriages and for signalling.

In 1882 the premises of Silber & Fleming were completeley destroyed by a fire, but within two years a huge new replacement warehouse was built on the same site.

In 1886 Mr. Fleming retired. Albert Silber was left as sole proprietor and he converted the business into a private limited company. Silber died from smallpox later the same year and subsequently the fortunes of the company declined dramatically. In 1898 the firm was acquired by Faudel Phillips & Son.

by Mark Matlach

Smiths English Clocks Ltd.

Smith English Clocks Ltd. was one of the most prolific clockmakers of the 20th century. The company was begun in 1931 when S. Smith & Sons Ltd. (a motor-parts manufacturing company) decided to enter the domestic clock market and formed a new company, Smiths English Clocks Ltd., with the main factory in Cricklewood, London.

Smiths was one of the first companies to produce synchronous electric clocks, which were put on the market in late 1931. In 1934, synchronous alarm clocks were manufactured. This was followed in 1935 by the "Synfinity", which Smiths described as "the clock that never stops". If the electric supply failed, the clock would run for up to six hours and rewind when the power returned.

During the Second World War, Smiths' production expanded. There was a demand for motor, aircraft, and marine instruments for the Services. Fuses for shells were also manufactured. At the end of the war, the Cricklewood factory returned to clock production. Another factory at Carfin, Glasgow, began producing alarm clocks that sold for less than £1. A new factory for the manufacture of alarm clocks was opened at Wishaw in Scotland in 1951 as Carfin was not able to keep up with demand.

Advertisement, 1947

In c1955 Smiths English Clocks Ltd. changed its name to Smiths Clocks and Watches Ltd. The latter half of the 1970s saw the decline of clock and watch manufacturing by all European and British companies as they were unable to compete with lower cost products offered by manufacturers in the Far East. In 1977 Smiths Clocks and Watches Ltd. ceased trading.

by Mark Matlach

The Fore Street Warehouse Company Ltd.

The Fore Street Warehouse Company was a wholesale drapery business established by Joseph Todd in London. During the 1820s, James Morrison married Joseph Todd's daughter Mary Anne, and, together with his partner John Dillon, took over his father-in-law's business. The company was renamed Morrison, Dillon & Company. Morrison quickly made it into one of the most profitable businesses of its kind in the world. By 1866 the company had been renamed and was listed in the Post Office Directory of this year as the Fore Street Warehouse Company Ltd., trading at 104-107 Fore Street, London.

James Morrison (1790 – 1857)

The large warehouse in Fore Street supplied retailers with a huge variety of linens, toweling, and ribbons. James Morrison was one of the first English traders to depend on his success on the lowest remunerative scale of profit. He endeavored to secure a very rapid circulation of capital, his motto being "small profits and quick returns". Morrison became a multimillionaire from his business, and he spent much of his fortune buying up land in Berkshire, Yorkshire, and Scotland. Morrison also invested heavily in the United States railway industry and built up a valuable art collection that included works by Constable, Cuyp, Rembrandt, and Rubens. James Morrison died in 1857 but The Fore Street Warehouse Company Ltd. continued until at least the Second World War.

by Mark Matlach

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gellatly, Hankey, Sewell & Co.

Gellatly, Hankey, Sewell & Co. was a shipping company that was established by Edward Gellatly at 109 Leadenhall Street, London, in 1862. The company operated for a hundred years, closing in 1962.

Unfortunately, the records of the early history of Gellatly, Hankey, Sewell & Co. were burnt in a fire in the company offices; however, in 1862 the firm purchased a sailing ship called the Edwin Fox for the sum of £7600. The ship's nickname became the "Tea-tub", probably due to connection with the tea trade coupled with the fact that she was "tubby" in shape, as against the slimness of her contemporaries. The ship sailed the trade routes to Bombay, Calicut, & Cochin in India, returning with cargos of Calico linen, ginger, pepper, and other spices. Gellatlys sold the Edwin Fox in 1873. The ship was later used to transport emigrants from Britain to New Zealand. The Edwin Fox made four such voyages (which lasted 4 – 6 months) to the distant new colony.

The Edwin Fox, built in 1853

In 1884 Gellatly, Hankey, Sewell & Co. bought a steamship called the SS Bengal. Only a year later the ship was wrecked off Milton Reef near Java, when on passage from Saigon to Sourabaya with a cargo of rice.

by Mark Matlach

Glyn & Co.

Glyn & Co. was founded as the private bank, Vere, Glyn & Halifax, in the City of London in 1753 by Joseph Vere, Richard Glyn, and Thomas Halifax. The bank prospered, developing a large business as the London agent for many of the growing provincial banks and providing banking facilities for more than 200 of the new railway companies.

The bank became known as Glyn, Mills & Co. in 1851 and, after acquiring the business of Curries & Co. in 1864, it was restyled Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co. In 1890 the bank played a major role in preventing the collapse of merchant bankers Baring Brothers, thereby saving a number of London's financial institutions from ruin. By that time the bank had established many international links and was handling share issues for major companies and governments at home and abroad.

A prestigious new head office was established for the bank in Lombard Street in 1933. However, with war looming, Glyn, Mills' private partnership status and relatively small size had made it unviable and in 1939 it was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Glyn, Mills & Co. continued to trade separately, managed by its own board of directors and offering its own range of services.

In 1970 the Royal Bank of Scotland merged its two subsidiaries in England and Wales, Glyn, Mills & Co. and William Deacon's Bank, to form the new Williams & Glyn's Bank. In 1985 William & Glyn's was fully absorbed into the Royal Bank of Scotland plc and ceased to trade separately.

by Mark Matlach

W. Greenwell & Co. (W. G. & Co.)

W. Greenwell & Co. was a stockbroking firm founded in London in 1868 by Walpole Greenwell at the age of just 21. The company would become one of the wealthiest and most prominent stockbroking firms in the City of London.

Walpole Greenwell was also a keen agriculturist, a prominent breeder of pedigree stock (particularly Shorthorn cattle and Shire horses, for which he was awarded numerous championships), and was President of the Royal Shire Horse Society. His Shire stud was considered the finest in the country. Walpole was created 1st Baronet Greenwell, of Marden Park, Godstone, Surrey on 19th July 1906. Sir Walpole Greenwell died in 1919 at the age of 72.

Caricature of Walpole Greenwell published in Vanity Fair in 1898

W. Greenwell & Co. was acquired by Midland Bank in 1987. Following the HSBC takeover of Midland Bank in 1992, the company became HSBC Greenwell, which would become the largest treasury trading operation in Europe.

by Mark Matlach

Monday, October 10, 2011

N. Kilvert & Sons Ltd.

Nicholas Kilvert (Senior) was born in Over in Cheshire in 1822, the eldest son of Thomas Kilvert, and was the founder of N. Kilvert & Sons in Trafford Park, manufacturers of Kilvert's Lard, the world-famous brand of cooking fat. Kilvert lived at Ashton Lodge in Ashton on Mersey.

The origins of the family business had, in fact, begun earlier when Nicholas' father, Thomas Kilvert, (1799-1871), is recorded as having moved with his wife Sarah (Vernon) to Manchester in 1821 to set up a pork butcher shop at 13 New Market, Salford, and another later in Chorlton. He lived at White Cross Bank in Chapel Street, Salford.

One of Nicholas Senior's four sons, another Nicholas, (1859-1922), lived in Brooklands in south Manchester and became Managing Director of the company on the death of his father. This Nicholas went on to become a Manchester City Councillor for a time.

When he died, his younger son, Harry Vernon Kilvert, (born 1862) took up residence at Ashton Lodge. He too became Managing Director of the company on the death of his brother Nicholas (Junior). Harry Vernon was an important figure in local politics and was chair of Altrincham Conservative Association. He was Knighted by Queen Victoria for services to Business and the Community, and his wife, Annie, had a scout troop named in her honour - "The Lady Kilvert's Own Scout Group".

By Paul Green

Seymour, Pierce, and Chalk

In the London Gazette May 3rd 1901.

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Charles Alexander Pierce and Arthur Chalk, carrying on business as Stockbrokers, at 27, Throgmorton-street, in the city of London, under the style or firm of “Seymour, Pierce, and Chalk," has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the 25th day of March, 1901. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said Charles Alexander Pierce.

—Dated this 26th day of April, 1901.


By Paul Green

Tottenham & District Gas Co.

In 1845, Alexander Angus Croll acquired a concession from the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Co. to supply coal gas to the parishes of Tottenham and Edmonton. He took over a small gasworks that had already been set up to the south of Angel Road. He formed the Tottenham and District Gas Co in 1847.

Gas was in increasing demand for street lighting, domestic lighting and later for cooking. By 1861 gas mains had been laid as far away as Wood Green. The gasworks was reconstructed 1902/5.

The company then began to expand. In 1913 the Enfield Gas Co. was taken over, with its gasworks at Ponders End. The company took over the Waltham and Cheshunt Gas Co. (1928), the Hertford Gas Co. (1932), the Hoddesdon and Ware Gas Co. (1932), the Hitchin Gas Co. (1933), the Stevenage Gas Co. (1933) and the Southgate Gas Co. (1938) (the last mentioned company had a large gas works at New Southgate).

In 1948, when the gas industry was nationalised, the Tottenham and District Gas company came under the Eastern Area Gas Board, which covered Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, the Isle of Ely, Norfolk, the Soke of Peterborough, Suffolk and parts of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, and Middlesex

The local gasworks ceased production in 1972 with the introduction of natural gas from the North Sea.

By Paul Green

Saturday, October 1, 2011

GS&WR (Great Southern and Western Railway)

The Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR) was one of the main railway operations in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The company was the largest of Ireland's "Big Four" railway operators, buying up smaller operations and expanding its route mileage for much of its existence.

The heart of the GS&WR was the Cork–Dublin main line, the "Premier Line", a route still important in Ireland today. William Dargan was the driving force behind this and other GS&WR routes, and he was also responsible for other routes in Ireland not part of the GS&WR. The company's base of operations was Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station in Dublin. At its height, the GS&WR included, in addition to the Dublin–Cork main line, the Dublin - Waterford and Mallow - Waterford lines as well as numerous branch lines.

In 1925 the GS&WR was amalgamated with all the other railways operating wholly within the Irish Free State to form the Great Southern Railways. Cross-border railways were excluded from the merger.

In 1945, further amalgamation with the Grand Canal Co., and the Dublin United Tramway Company brought about the creation of Córas Iompair Éireann, the Irish State Transport Company. CIÉ was nationalised in 1950, only to be broken up into separate rail and road interests in 1987. From then until today, the railways are operated by Irish Rail (Iarnród Eireann).

By Paul Green

Woolland Bros. Ltd.

The firm of Woolland Brothers began modestly in 1869, when Samuel and William Woolland, from Bridford in Devon, took over a draper's shop at No. 2 Lowndes Terrace. Though the shop was apparently aimed chiefly at the needs of servants, it soon attracted notice in the trade press for its 'exceptionally good' window display:

'The fancy window was dressed close up to the pane, and divided into tiers, with a long ticket right across the width, dividing the several classes of goods — piles of ribbons at the bottom, then a long stretch of flowers, scarves next, two or three rows of gloves, and rows of broad striped linen cuffs in conclusion; in the next window a bottom of blocked dress goods, with a row of light grenadines looped up along the front, cambrics at the back and side, the lobby being occupied in one pane with cuffs and lace goods and in the other with hosiery.'

Over the years the shop expanded into the neighbouring houses, until by 1892 it had taken over the entire eastern half of Lowndes Terrace (from 1903 Nos 95–107 Knightsbridge). The Woollands — three bachelor brothers, Samuel, William, and Moses, and their spinster sister Mary — were then living round the corner at No. 17 William Street.

By this time the original drapery business had diversified to encompass household linens, soft furnishings, outfitting, haberdashery and accessories; and its clientele had become high-class, even aristocratic. The Duchess of Portland was spotted there in 1893, 'patronizing the after season sale'.

In 1896 began the first phase of a program of complete rebuilding, which continued into 1900–01, the final phase, covering the sites of houses at the rear of Lowndes Terrace in William Street (including No. 17). The new store was designed by Henry L. Florence and erected by W. Cubitt & Company. Of fireproof construction throughout, it was built on a steel frame and faced in Portland stone, with a profusion of carved baroque ornamentation and copper-covered domes at the corners. Other than on the ground floor, where there was a continuous run of plateg lass display window, it had all the appearance of a traditional masonry building, with a conventional pattern of fenestration .

In the early 1900s Edward VII's mistress, Alice Keppel, would bring her two young daughters down from Edinburgh four times a year to shop at Woollands. Sonia Keppel recalled:
"In those days, the 'Juvenile Department' at Woollands was situated on the third or fourth floor. Grimly, the lift man shut his concertina-gates on us, and very, very slowly we ascended to our appointment with 'No. 10'.

'We never discovered whether 'No. 10' had had Christian baptism and a name of her own. To Violet and me, she remained a numerical cipher that sucked pins. Always she was bent double at our feet, measuring our skirts, slithering round on her poor, old knees."
Up-to-date at the turn of the century, by the 1930s Woollands had come to seem old and cramped. No further rebuilding took place, although in 1913 the firm had acquired the freehold, not only of the store, but of almost the entire block between William and Seville Streets, including the houses on the north side of Lowndes Square (these last, however, were disbarred by covenant from being put to business use). In 1949 Woollands was acquired by the Debenhams group, already in possession of its next-door rival, Harvey Nichols. For some years Debenhams maintained the distinctive character of each establishment, but by the mid-1960s the co-existence of the two large stores had ceased to be viable, and in 1967, the site having been sold for redevelopment, Woollands closed. The premises were demolished two years later for the building of what is now the Sheraton Park Tower hotel.

By Paul Green

Vacuum Oil Co. Ltd.

Vacuum Oil Company was an American oil company known for their Gargoyle 600-W Steam Cylinder Oil.

Vacuum Oil was founded in 1866 by Matthew Ewing and Hiram Bond Everest, of Rochester, NY. The lubrication oil was an accidental discovery while attempting to distill kerosene. Everest noted that the residue from the extraction was suitable as a lubricant. Soon after, the product became popular for use by steam engines and the internal-combustion engines. Ewing sold his interest to Everest, who carried on the company.

Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York (Socony) merged in 1931, after the government gave up their attempts to prevent it. Their union, creating Socony-Vacuum Corp. made them the third largest (at the time) world oil company. Everest was given a salary job as President and remained with the company.

In 1931, Socony and Vacuum Oil merged, and in 1955, the company became Socony Mobil Oil Company. In World War II, the Tschechowitz I & II subcamps of Auschwitz in Czechowice-Dziedzice provided forced labor for Vacuum Oil Company facilities in Nazi Germany. In 1963 it became "Mobilgas" then just "Mobil".

By Paul Green