Sunday, July 28, 2013

H. Rossell & Co.

Henry Rossell & Co. was a company of steel refiners and manufacturers of steel tools established in 1837 at Effingham Road, Sheffield.

In 1914 the company had 150 employees and manufactured steel files, shear blades, machine irons, roller bars, bed plates, knives and drills.

During the 1930s, H. Rossell & Co. was a supplier to the aircraft industry and had offices in Glasgow and London.

The company traded until 1967 when it was acquired by the Tempered Spring Co. Ltd.

Henry Rossell & Co., Wallace Works, Sheffield

by Mark Matlach

Druce & Co. Ltd.

Druce & Co. Ltd. was a large furniture store situated at the corner of Baker Street and Blandford Street in west London. The store was also informally known as “the Baker Street Bazaar”, the site originally being the home of a horse bazaar which extended to carriages and other goods in the 1830s. The furniture store was established in the 1850s by a second hand furniture dealer called Thomas Charles Druce. Druce died in 1864 and his son Herbert took over and ran the business until 1913.

On 8th December 1940 Druce & Co. Ltd. suffered extensive damage following a German bombing raid. The warehouse stock of bedding, furniture, carpets and antiques was largely destroyed. A small part of the building survived and it continued to be used by Druce & Co. until 1956. In 1957 the store was finally demolished and the site was developed as Michael House, serving as the UK headquarters of Marks & Spencer until 2005. The site now forms part of an office complex with adjoining shops and restaurants.

Druce & Co. Ltd. after the Second World War

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, July 21, 2013

B W & Co. (Burroughs Wellcome & Co.)

In 1879 two American pharmacists, Silas Burroughs and Henry Wellcome, established a pharmaceutical company in London. At this time there were very few companies in Britain which manufactured drugs and pharmacists still used the traditional time-consuming and less precise pestle and mortar method to prepare medicines. In the United States a mechanized method of making pills had been invented, and Burroughs and Wellcome began importing and selling the compressed pills. Business was good and the company acquired larger offices in Snow Hill in 1883. In the same year a factory was purchased in Wandsworth, south west London, and the company began to manufacture its own pills. The drugs were an instant success in Britain and a bigger factory was established in Dartford which remained the firm's production center until the 1980s.

In 1888, Burroughs Wellcome & Co. developed a new machine that could produce 600 compressed pills a minute, each pill having an unprecedented standard of precision. To eliminate the threat of competition the company registered as a trademark one of the most famous and powerful brand names in business history Tabloid, a word created by blending the words tablet and alkaloid – to denote the company's pills. The name was applied to the full range of the company's products, including tabloid first aid kits and medicine chests, tabloid photographic developer and even tabloid tea. The term has now passed into general use to mean anything in compact form, in particular a newspaper format, though it is still technically the property of Burroughs Wellcome & Co.

Silas Burroughs died in 1895, leaving the company in the hands of his partner.  The business flourished under Henry Wellcome's leadership, expanding massively and setting up several research laboratories which employed some of the most outstanding scientists of the day.

In 1995, Wellcome merged with Glaxo to form Glaxo Wellcome plc. The company merged with SmithKline Beecham in 2000 to form GlaxoSmithKline which is currently the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

Burroughs Wellcome & Co. Head Office, Snow Hill, London, 1880s

by Mark Matlach

A.E.I. Hotpoint Ltd.

Associated Electrical Industries (A.E.I.) originated in 1929. The company began as a financial holding company for a number of leading electrical manufacturing and trading companies in the UK. These included British Thomson-Houston (BTH), Metropolitan-Vickers, Edison Swan, Ferguson Pailin and Hotpoint Electric Heating Co.

The Second World War was economically beneficial for A.E.I. The company's engineering products assisted the government's military projects during the 1930s. Significant contributions to the war effort included automatic pilots for aircraft, radar, guns and gun mountings. A.E.I.'s greatest work during the War years was its manufacture of the “Manchester”, “Lancaster”, and “Lincoln” bomber aircraft.

As the diversity and extent of A.E.I.'s products expanded after the War, the company was joined by Sunvic Controls (1949), Birlec (1954), Siemens Brothers (1955), W.T. Henley (1958) and London Electric Wire Co. & Smiths (1958). In 1959 A.E.I became a trading company and the A.E.I. Symbol began to replace the brand names and trademarks of companies within the group. In 1966 A.E.I. had 95,000 employees staffing 67 factories in all five continents and had an annual turnover exceeding £250 million. In 1967 A.E.I. was acquired by GEC (General Electric Company) to create the largest electrical group in the UK.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, July 14, 2013

N. Corah & Sons

N. Corah and Sons was a manufacturer of hosiery and textiles, located in Leicester in the United Kingdom. At one time it was the largest knitwear producer in Europe, and its products had a major influence on the development and prosperity of the Marks & Spencer chain of retail stores.

The company was founded by Nathaniel Corah at the Globe Inn, Silver Street, in Leicester – a building which still survives, and which at that time was closely associated with the city's stockingers. Corah's business model was to buy completed stockings in Leicester, and to sell them elsewhere at a profit. The majority of Corah's sales were in Birmingham, and he maintained a stock room in another public house there. The business soon grew, and its own premises on Union Street in Leicester were purchased in 1824. The company remained at these premises until 1845. In 1830, Corah's three sons – John, Thomas and William – were taken into partnership. The name of the firm became Nathaniel Corah & Sons.

In 1855, Thomas Corah & Sons had 2000 knitting frames, making it one of the largest hosiery firms in the country. By 1865, its premises on Granby Street had become too small, and so the company decided to relocate to a location close to the River Soar and the Great Central Railway. A site north of the city center was chosen, in the parish of St Margaret and production started for the first time on 13 July 1865.

By this time the firm had expanded its product range beyond hosiery. In the 1870s, for instance, it began producing football and rugby jerseys, in addition to a range of men and women's garments.

The firm was the first company to develop a relationship with Marks & Spencer, a well-known British retailer. The latter's St Michael brand, which it used from 1928 until 2000, was inspired by Corah's use of "St Margaret" as a label for its clothing. The "St Margaret" label was one of the first trademarks to be registered under the 1875 Trademarks Registration Act, and it appeared on products sold in Marks & Spencer outlets until after the Second World War. 

In the 1970s, the company's trade with Marks & Spencer was worth £20 million per annum – and Corah celebrated the "golden anniversary" of the relationship in 1976.

In the twentieth century, Corah expanded beyond Leicester to open branch factories in Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Oakham, and Barrie, Ontario.

The St Margaret's Works were a major employer in the city of Leicester. Corah had over a thousand employees in 1900, many of whom were female. The size of the company was such that 330 male employees participated in the First World War. Forty were killed. At the same time, 70 per cent of Corah's output went to the war effort. The Second World War also had an important effect on Corah – it took away the firm's female workers, which led to a skills shortage once peace had resumed. This led the company to introduce specialist training for the first time in the post-war era.

Workers at Corah had many opportunities to participate in the wider social life of the factory. The Corah works maintained several competitive sports teams, and working at the factory was – according to those who worked there – to be part of a close-knit community in which birthdays and other important occasions were celebrated. The British Legion also maintained its own branch at the Corah works in the post-war period.

by Paul Green

St. Cuthbert's Co-operative Society

The St. Cuthbert's Co-operative Society opened its first shop in Ponton Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859 as a Consumers' co-operative. This society was part of the movement started by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, and followed the Rochdale Principles with the aim of providing decent food at affordable prices in a shop controlled by its customers as a co-operative. It took its name from Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

As early as 1913 St. Cuthbert's had bought the Cliftonhall Estate which was almost 970 acres in area. In 1918 four more farms were bought on the Newtonhall Estate and in 1919 780 acres were purchased at Bonnington. By 1949 the Association owned over 3,000 acres of land.

The former Co-op headquarters in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh
St. Cuthbert's Co-op largest department store in Bread Street, Edinburgh was built in three stages to designs by three architects: John McLachlan in 1892; Thomas Purves Marwick in 1898 and 1914 and Thomas Waller Marwick in 1936. The 1930s section features a glass 'curtain wall', the first of its kind in Scotland, in contrast to the stone facades of its late 19th-/early 20th-century neighbors. The store closed in the early 1990s and buildings were converted for use as the Point Hotel and Conference Centre in 1999.

St. Cuthberts expanded to become one of the largest societies in the British co-operative movement, employing some 3,000 at its peak, before amalgamating with the Dalziel Society of Motherwell in 1981 and being renamed Scotmid. Its dairy used horse drawn delivery floats until 1985, and between 1944 and 1959 employed the future actor Sean Connery as a milkman.

To this day, the Scotmid Supermarket opposite the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh still has, on the goods in access road, gates, which read "SCCA - St Cuthbert's Co-operative Association".
by Paul Green

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Smith, Parfrey & Co. Ltd.

Smith, Parfrey & Co. Ltd. was a wheel manufacturing company established in 1835 in Hammersmith, west London, originally under the name Smith, Parfrey & Hitchings. The Pimlico Wheel Works in Hammersmith grew to become the largest and best-equipped of its kind by the early 1900s, manufacturing all kinds of wheels for wagons, lorries, carts, vans, buses, taxicabs and motor cars.

In 1913 the company was producing 400 complete wheels for 3- and 5-ton motor vehicles weekly, in addition to a large number of wheels for trailers, and 2000 taxicab wheels. Smith, Parfrey & Co. Ltd. also carried out repair work and manufactured motor parts such as axles and springs. The company traded until at least 1920.

Advertisement, 1908

by Mark Matlach

Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.

Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. was a shipping company that operated ships between the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The company was formed by the merger of Shaw, Savill & Co. and Albion Co. in 1883.

The UK to New Zealand trade was one of the last routes to convert from sail to steam. Two British companies provided most of the ships. These were Shaw, Savill & Co. (founded in London in 1858 by Robert Shaw and Walter Savill) and Albion Co. (founded in Glasgow in 1864 by Patrick Henderson). As the two firms operated from different British ports they developed a friendly rivalry. Both companies mainly acted as brokers, advertising for passengers and cargoes for New Zealand and utilizing chartered ships.

The creation of the New Zealand Shipping Co. in 1873 provided the two British companies with fierce competition. They decided to merge in 1883 to form Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. with a combined fleet of 31 sailing ships. The company joined the Australia trade in 1905 when it acquired the Aberdeen Line, and in 1934 purchased White Star interests in the Australia Line.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. owned 26 ships. It lost 12 ships to enemy action. After the War the company embarked upon a major rebuilding and expansion program that resulted in the fleet reaching a peak of 33 ships in 1968.

Containerization and airline competition in the 1970s led to a downturn in the company's fortunes. In 1986 the last ship was sold and Shaw, Savill & Albion was taken over by Hamburg Sud.

by Mark Matlach