Sunday, November 25, 2012

Welch & Sons

Welch & Sons was a straw hat manufacturing company established in the early 1800s. The company had a hat factory in the Bedfordshire town of Luton and a warehouse in London.

Historically Luton and the surrounding area was the center of the straw hat trade in England, producing a large share of all the womens' hats manufactured and worn in the country. In 1895 Welch & Sons was one of the most prominent hat manufacturers in Luton. The local trade directory of this year describes the company as a “manufacturer of straw hats, straw plaits and bonnets”. Most of the work in the hat industry was undertaken by women and girls. Luton gained a reputation as a place where men were kept by the women, the Luton Chamber of Commerce going so far as to produce a booklet in 1900, aimed at attracting new industry to the town by advertising the advantage of being able to pay men at low rates as the female members of the family were already employed.

by Mark Matlach

The London Joint Stock Bank Ltd.

Joint stock banking effectively started in 1826. Private banks had been the major force in English banking throughout the 18th Century and for the first decades of the 19th Century. By the 1820’s there was considerable discussion about the perceived limitations o f the private banks and whether joint stock banks should be permitted, similar to banking developments in Scotland. Up to this period all the private banks, of which there were now 700 or so, were restricted to a simple partnership structure with a maximum of 6 partners. This limited the size of their resources and consequently their ability to withstand periods of financial crisis. In December 1925 there was a widespread financial crisis as a result of which over 100 private banks closed. Whilst some did re-open, about 80 private banks actually failed.

This crisis finally stimulated the authorities to action. In 1826 legislation was passed which allowed banks to be created on joint stock principles (for example, not limited to six partners) provided that they were not situated within 65 miles of London. This 65-mile restriction was to protect the Bank of England from direct competition. At the same time the Bank of England was specifically authorised to open branches anywhere in England & Wales.

All the early joint stock banks were of necessity provincial banks as none were permitted to locate themselves within 65 miles of London. However in 1833 further legislation removed this restriction and allowed joint stock banks in London provided they did not issue their own banknotes. This restriction on banknote issues within 65 miles of London was, once again, intended to protect the Bank of England.

During the next decade just five London joint stock banks were established. Some of these new banks began to develop the branch networks that were one of the major benefits of the joint stock banking structure.

The London Joint Stock Bank, established in 1836, was one of the early joint stock pioneers in London.  The first branch was opened in Coleman Street in the City of London but in 1837 the Bank moved to nearby Princess Street. The London Joint Stock Bank had influential City support and deposits rose from £600,000 in 1837 to £2.25 million by 1845. This was serious money at the time. In 1840 a “Western Branch” was established by the purchase of a private bank (Wright & Co) in Covent Garden. This “Western Branch” quickly moved to 69, Pall Mall and the picture above  shows an early London Joint Stock Bank cheque from this location.

In 1917 the London Joint Stock Bank became a part of the Midland Bank. This amalgamation created the largest bank in the country, known as HSBC on the High Street today.

by Paul Green

Swiss Bank Corporation

Swiss Bank Corporation was a large integrated financial services company located in Switzerland. Prior to its merger, the bank was the third largest in Switzerland with over 300 billion CHF of assets and 11.7 billion CHF of equity.

During 1854, six private banking firms in Basel, Switzerland, pooled their resources to form the Bankverein, a consortium that acted as an underwriting syndicate for its member banks. Among the original member banks were Bischoff zu St Alban, Ehinger & Cie., J. Merian-Forcart, Passavant & Cie., J. Riggenbach and von Speyr & Cie.

Basler Bankverein later combined with Zürcher Bankverein in 1895 to become the Basler & Zürcher Bankverein. The next year, Basler Depositenbank and Schweizerische Unionbank were acquired. After the take-over of the Basler Depositenbank, the bank changes its name to Schweizerischer Bankverein (Swiss Bank). The English name of the bank was changed to Swiss Bank Corporation in 1917.

SBC continued to grow in the early decades of the 20th century, acquiring weaker rivals, but the onset of World War I put a hold on much of the bank's development. Although SBC survived the war intact, it suffered the loss of its investments in a number of large industrial companies. Nevertheless, the bank surpassed 1 billion CHF for the first time at the end of 1918 and grew to 2,000 employees by 1920. In 1937 , SBC adopted its three keys logo symbolizing confidence, security and discretion. The logo was designed by a Swiss artist and illustrator, Warja Honegger-Lavater.

Swiss Bank Corporation found itself in relatively strong financial condition at the end of World War II, with 1.8 billion CHF of assets, by 1947 SBC was shifting its focus back to its traditional business of lending money principally to private companies as part of the postwar rebuilding of Europe.

The following years were marked by a constant process of expansion supported by a number of aggressive acquisitions, this placed the bank in second place to UBS in the Swiss banking market. 

Swiss Bank began the 1990s as the weakest of the "Big Three" Swiss banks but by the end of 1997 would be the driving force behind the merger with Union Bank of Switzerland. SBC had been impacted by losses on its real estate investments and a series of minor controversies, despite the bank's historically conservative posture.

On December 8, 1997, Union Bank of Switzerland and SBC announced an all stock merger creating a new entity UBS AG also referred to as the “New UBS” to distinguish itself from the original Union Bank of Switzerland. At the time of the merger, Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation were the second and third largest banks in Switzerland, respectively, both trailing Credit Suisse. Discussions between the two banks had begun several months earlier, less than a year after rebuffing Credit Suisse's merger overtures.

UBS, the successor of the Union Bank of Switzerland, is among the largest diversified financial institutions in the world. As of 2010, UBS operated in all of the major financial centers worldwide with offices in over 50 countries and 64,000 employees globally.

The bank would grow considerably in the 2000s, building a large investment banking franchise to compete with the major U.S. and European bulge bracket firms. UBS suffered among the largest losses of any European bank during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 ~ 2009 and the bank was required to raise large amounts of outside capital from the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, the Swiss government and through a series of equity offerings in 2008 and 2009.

by Paul Green

C. C. Wakefield and Co.

Founded on 19 March 1899 by Charles Cheers Wakefield in London, and originally named the Wakefield Oil Company.

In 1909, the company began production of a new automotive lubricant named Castrol (a contraction of Castor oil, from which it was made). The company developed specific oil applications for various applications of the new internal combustion engine, including automobiles, motorcycles, and aircraft.

It was in 1917 that the company was first advertised as C. C. Wakefield and Co., a registered company.

In the following years Castrol oil products were to be found in all aspects of the transport industry, in particular working with pioneering aviators and motorists, such as:
  • Helping flight pioneers Alcock and Brown for their first non-stop flight across the Atlantic.
  • In 1925, M. Campbell sets a new World Land Speed record.
  • W. Handley becomes the first rider to win two Isle of Man TT races in one week.
  • Bentley win Le Mans in 1928 at an average speed of 69 mph.
Castrol was also used as a product of choice by F1 teams, World rally teams, Thrust SSC world land speed record, Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner etc.

During 1960 C. C. Wakefield and Co changed the name of the group to Castrol Ltd. At this time the head office was moved into a new building ‘Castrol House’, in the Marylebone Road, London

In 1966, Castrol Ltd was acquired by British oil company Burmah, which was renamed Burmah-Castrol in 1967.

In 2000, Burmah-Castrol was acquired by the then BP Amoco plc (now renamed BP plc). Castrol branded lubricants continue to be sold around the world and are, in many countries, market leaders.

by Paul Green

Sunday, November 18, 2012

T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd.

T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd. was a glass, lead, paint and sanitary ware manufacturing company in Westminster, London.

In the 1840s, two brothers named Thomas and William Farmiloe, set up a business as window glass cutters at Rochester Row, Westminster. A trade directory from 1859 describes the company as “window glass and lead merchants.” In the 19th century lead was a popular material in the construction of sanitary systems. (The word “plumber” is derived from “plumbus” the Latin word for lead.)

In 1885  T. & W. Farmiloe took over a lead works in Limehouse called the Island Lead Mills. The lead was used to make glazing bars, water cisterns and pipes. The company also had a large warehouse at Rochester Row, a brass foundry at Horseferry Road, a varnish works in Mitcham and another large warehouse at 88 Nine Elms Lane, Battersea. As lead became more problematic as a plumbing material, the company turned to other metals. The T. & W. Farmiloe 1886 catalogue lists an enormous variety of plumbing ware in lead, brass, copper, zinc and steel.

Exterior of the Farmiloe warehouse in Nine Elms Lane. Barrels of lead can be seen in the foreground.

By the end of the 19th century T. & W. Farmiloe had become a limited company. As the new century progressed, the manufacture of paint and sanitary ware began to dominate the business. “Nine Elms” white lead paint became a brand leader in the south east  of England by the 1920s. Other Farmiloe paint brands included “Father Thomas” and “Blackfriars”. The company also had a patent for a new mix of white paint which was used for road markings.

In the 1960s and 1970s, T. & W. Farmiloe Ltd. appear to have ventured into new markets, with several patents taken out for new types of sealant. Perhaps this new direction was not successful for the company as it was dissolved in 1988.

The Farmiloe overprints seem to be very scarce. The stamp shown in the scan (SG 488) is the only stamp issue I have seen overprinted by this company.

by Mark Matlach

R. Whytock & Co.

R. Whytock & Co. was a carpet manufacturing company established by Richard Whytock in 1807 at 9/11 George Street, Edinburgh. The original business of the company was making upholstery and decorative fringes for furniture. In the 1830s Richard Whytock became interested in the process of carpet manufacture which led him to invent and patent the Tapestry Carpet Loom in 1832. This was basically a new, mechanised method of weaving carpets with an unlimited number of colours possible. The carpets made using Whytock's invention were much more affordable to the general public and became known as Tapestry or Tapestry Brussels carpets.

In 1834 R. Whytock & Co. purchased a disused distillery in Lasswade and converted it into a carpet factory employing 100 people. It was here that the company produced Persian and Turkish style hand-knotted carpets. In 1838 Whytock received his first Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria and in the mid-1840s the factory was producing 10,000 yards of carpet per day.

In 1846 Richard Whytock retired from the business in order to concentrate on the development of fabrics, leaving the company to his son Alexander. In 1876 Alexander Whytock became partners with John Reid, a successful upholsterer and cabinet maker, and the company became Whytock, Reid & Co. Alexander died six years later and was succeeded by his son William. However, William Whytock had no interest in the business and sold his grandfather's carpet weaving invention for around £7 million. Whytock, Reid & Co. continued to trade until 2004 as a furniture manufacturer and later as an antiques restoration business.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 11, 2012

P. Phipps & Co. Limited

The brewing company of P. Phipps & Co. was established by Pickering Phipps in the West Northamptonshire town of Towcester in 1801. A second brewery was opened in Bridge Street, Northampton in 1817. Pickering Phipps clearly prospered as he became mayor of Northampton in 1821. His two sons, Richard and Thomas, inherited the business on his death in 1830. All beer production was moved to Northampton in 1900 following a fire that destroyed the original brewery.

P. Phipps & Co. continued to expand under the stewardship of various family members. By the end of the 19th century the company had grown to become the largest brewer in the Midlands. It continued to expand in the first half of the 20th century, absorbing a number of other regional brewers.

In 1957, P. Phipps & Co. Ltd. merged with neighbours Northampton Brewery Co. Ltd. to become Phipps Northampton Brewery Co. Ltd. The newly merged company now owned a total of 1131 tied houses. In 1960, London based brewer Watney Mann launched a successful bid for the business. The new owners' key bitter “Red Bitter” was soon brewed in Northampton alongside the local beers. By 1968 all traditional draught bitters were axed and the company was renamed Watney Mann (Midland).
A 19th century poster for Phipps India Pale Ale showing the Northampton Brewery in Bridge Street, now the site of Carlsberg UK.

by Mark Matlach

London and India Docks Joint Committee, Port of London Authority

The London and India Docks Joint Committee was a dock company formed in 1888 by the merger of the East and West India Co. with the London and Katherine's Co. The merger enabled the company to take control of all the north bank docks in the Port of London. The docks at this time were not under one authority; there were four competing dock companies and over 150 wharves and granaries, all in the Port of London.

By 1900 the Port of London had a substantial surfeit of dock space, a significant portion of which was unsuitable for the steamships that were becoming larger by the year. In 1900 the Government set up a Royal Commission to look into the problems of the port such as poor facilities, high charges, poor land communications and delays. The Royal Commission's main recommendation was for the creation of a new port authority, the first major act of 20th century nationalisation in the UK. In 1908 the Port of London Authority was established to maintain and supervise the Port of London. The new authority spent the years up to the First World War improving the efficiency of the docks. However, it soon built itself an impressively grand headquarters suggesting that the principle of economy was not always uppermost in its strategies. The Authority originally operated all the enclosed dock systems on the River Thames, but all these have since been closed to commercial traffic, with the exception of the Port of Tilbury which was privatised in 1992. Today, the Port of London Authority is responsible for river traffic control, security, navigational safety and conservation of the River Thames.

Former Port of London Authority Building, built in 1912

by Mark Matlach

F. Ry. Co. (Furness Railway Company)

 The Furness Railway Company was an independent railway operating between 1846 and 1923. Originally conceived as a mineral railway, it later played a major role in the development of the Lancashire town of Barrow-in-Furness, and in the development of the Lake District tourist industry. The Furness area was traditionally very isolated. The local landowners wanted to get their high quality slate and iron ore to their markets and they looked to build a railway down the coast, using ships for the onward journey.

The railway opened in 1846 – first to goods trains and then later in the year to passenger trains. In its early years the line slowly expanded, extending north from Kirkby to the market town of Broughton-in-Furness in 1848. An extension to Ulverston was completed in 1854. The Furness Railway Co. bought out the Ulverston & Lancaster Railway Co. in 1862. For the first time the people of Furness had easy access to the rest of the country. The Furness Railway Co. also owned the slate and iron ore mines in the area. The company built a steelworks in Barrow to process the local ore and built a shipyard that used the steel from the steelworks.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century the Furness Railway Co. consolidated its position and expanded. However, by the early years of the 20th century railway traffic was falling and under new management the Furness Railway was transformed into a tourist line.

The Railway Act 1921 signaled the end of the plethora of interlinking independent railway companies in Britain. Four massive companies were to be created, and the Furness Railway was absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway on 1st January 1923. London Midland & Scottish operated the network through to the nationalisation of the railways in 1948. The Furness Railway main line survives to this day as part of the national network.

Image of “Coppernob", the nickname given to Furness Railway Number 3, which hauled the first passenger train on the Furness Railway. It is now a valued exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, November 4, 2012

D. Hulett & Co.

 D. Hulett & Co. was a lamp manufacturing company in London from at least 1874 until at least 1914. The company had show rooms at 55 and 56 High Holborn and a factory at Harpur Mews that produced lights, hall lamps, chandeliers, street gas lamps and gas-meters.

Gas hall lamps seem to have been a specialty of the firm. These types of lamps with metal frames supporting colored and beveled glass were typically used in entrance halls of homes in the last two decades of the 19th century.

As far as I am aware, D. Hullet overprints can be found only on the two stamp issues shown.

by Mark Matlach

Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company

Prior to the mid-19th century, drinking milk was considered a health risk. Milk straight from the cow was loaded with bacteria. Milk not consumed within a matter of hours in the summer soon spoiled in the heat. Illness allegedly derived from contaminated milk consumption was referred to as “milksick”, milk poison” and the “milk evil”. The idea for a portable canned milk product that would not spoil came from an American called Gail Borden in 1852. His company began production of condensed milk in the United States in 1856.

The Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company was founded in 1866 by Charles Page, the American Consul in Zurich, who had witnessed the success of Gail Borden's condensed milk business in his homeland. The company established the first European condensed milk factory in Cham, Switzerland, where large supplies of milk existed, although the bulk of the product was intended for England. Anglo-Swiss broadened its product line in the mid-1870s to include cheese and infant formulas. In 1881 the company opened a factory in New York and was soon competing successfully with Gail Borden in the United States.

In 1905 Anglo-Swiss merged with Nestlé, its fiercest competitor in Europe at this time. The new company was called Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. The company's current name of Nestlé S.A. was adopted in 1977. Today, Nestlé is a multinational nutritional and health-related consumer goods company and is the largest food company in the world measured by revenues.

The Anglo-Swiss overprint appears on the Queen Victoria 1d Inland Revenue stamp (type of 1868) and the 1d Lilac stamp (1881).

by Mark Matlach

Agra Bank Limited

The Agra & United Services Bank was an Indian-based British overseas bank established in London in 1833. The bank was originally formed to cater to military personnel and government employees. The popularity of the bank increased steadily throughout India with branches opened in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Agra, Cawnpore, Delhi, Simla, Benares and Dacca.

In 1862 the Agra & United Services Bank merged with Masterman & Co. to form the Agra & Masterman's Bank. The bank became heavily involved in the financing of railway construction in Australia, however it collapsed following the banking crisis of 1866.

In 1867 the bank was resuscitated under the name Agra Bank Limited and continued for the next twenty years before going into liquidation in 1887.

The Agra Bank Limited overprint can be found on the Queen Victoria Inland Revenue 1d stamp (shown on receipt) and the 1d Lilac stamp.

The Agra Bank building in Calcutta, now called the Currency Building and  occupied by the Indian Government's Currency Department

by Mark Matlach