All posts by T Farrell

King of Hong Kong: John D Hutchison

Douglas Clague built Hutchison into one of the largest trading houses in Hong Kong.

Establishment of John D Hutchison
John Duflon Hutchison (1855 – 1920) was born in Bromley, London, to an English father and a Swiss mother.

Hutchison went to Hong Kong in 1877 and joined Robert Walker & Co, a trading house engaged in selling general goods to China. Shortly afterwards he acquired the business, and renamed it John D Hutchison & Co.

Hutchison established an office in Shanghai in 1900.

Thomas Ernest Pearce (1883 – 1941) joined the firm in 1903.

Hutchison’s son, John Colville Hutchison (1890 – 1965), declined to enter his father’s business, and instead joined the Foreign Office from 1915. He went on to become the first British ambassador to Communist China, and was later knighted.

T E Pearce acquired a controlling stake in John D Hutchison & Co in 1917.

Hutchison died in Shanghai in 1920.

Pearce was joined in partnership by his brother-in-law, Philip Stanley Cassidy (1889 – 1971), from 1922.

Pearce was killed in action during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, and Cassidy became the chairman of the firm.

Duggie Clague
John Douglas “Duggie” Clague (1917 – 1981) was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and raised on the Isle of Man. He originally worked as a bank clerk. He was a convivial man, with a passion for horse racing.

Clague joined the British Army and was stationed in Hong Kong during the Second World War. Following the Japanese invasion he was captured and held in the Sham Shui Po prisoner of war camp. With three others, including John Pearce (1918 – 2017), the son of T E Pearce, he made a daring escape into China in 1942. He was awarded the Military Cross and a CBE in recognition of his bravery.

From Huizhou, Clague commanded the British Army Aid Group, a MI9 unit engaged in assisting POWs to flee Japanese internment camps. From 1945 he joined the Thailand underground movement, and when the war ended he took charge of 30,000 Allied POWs in Thailand.

Clague was promoted to Colonel in 1945, and appointed War Crimes Liaison Officer for Burma and Thailand. Clague returned to Hong Kong in 1947 with a sterling reputation and an excellent network of acquaintances.

Embed from Getty Images

Presumably aided by an introduction from John Pearce, Clague was appointed deputy to Philip Cassidy. At the time, John D Hutchison & Co was dwarfed by the larger Hong Kong trading houses of Jardine Matheson and Wheelock Marden.

Cassidy retired in 1952, and Clague was appointed chairman of John D Hutchison. He would go on to develop the company into a business with an international scope.

Clague bought out a 50 percent stake in J D Hutchison owned by Wheelock Marden in 1963. He renamed the company Hutchison International, and embarked upon the acquisition trail.

A S Watson, a pharmacy chain and one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Hong Kong, was acquired in 1965. Other acquisitions included Davie Boag, a specialised trader, and Oriental Pacific Mills, a textiles business.

Hutchison gained control of Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Company, one of the largest companies in Hong Kong, in 1969. Amidst the cultural revolution in China, and riots in Hong Kong, Clague found that assets could be acquired at a relative discount.

Following the takeovers, Clague confidently proclaimed in 1969 that Hutchison was now the largest trading house in Hong Kong.

Clague received a knighthood in 1971.

Clague was firmly embedded in the Hong Kong establishment. He held the prestigious role of chairman of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club from 1972 to 1974. The Financial Times described Clague as “one of Hong Kong’s most remarkable entrepreneurs” in 1974. He boasted, “I am Hong Kong’s Rock of Gibraltar”.

The downfall of Clague, and the rise of Li Ka-shing
A global recession in the mid-1970s hit Hong Kong’s export-driven economy hard. This, combined with heavy losses at an Indonesian subsidiary, high-risk financial speculations and overpayment of directors, led Hutchison to enter into cash-flow difficulties.

Hutchison was rescued by the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC), which acquired a one third stake in the company for £15 million in 1975. The bank lent the money on the condition that Clague would relinquish his executive responsibilities.

HSBC replaced Clague with William Wyllie (1932 – 2006), an Australian with a reputation as a turnaround specialist for Asian businesses. Wyllie regarded Hutchison as “a cowboy outfit”, and his initial reaction was that “there probably aren’t 50 subsidiaries that are worth a damn”. Wyllie reduced expenses, and divested 103 subsidiaries in 1976.

To the annoyance of Wyllie, HSBC sold its stake in Hutchison to Li Ka-shing (born 1928), a property developer, for less than half of its book value in 1979. Wyllie left Hutchison in 1981.

Li Ka-shing (born 1928) in 2010

Following a battle with cancer, Clague died in 1981.

Ka-shing brought professional management principles to Hutchison, and expanded its operations into overseas markets. He appointed Simon Murray (born 1940), an affable Englishman, as managing director. Murray admitted, “I’m just the guy driving the truck. Li’s in the back, telling me which way to go”.

Ka-shing had extended his stake in Hutchison to 40 percent by 1991.

Murray and Ka-shing clashed over company direction: Murray wanted to invest in Britain and Canada, whilst Ka-shing wanted to concentrate on trade with mainland China. Murray was replaced as managing director by Canning Fok in 1993.

Ka-shing sold the John D Hutchison Group, the trading arm, and Hutchison Boag Engineering, a building materials company, to Inchcape Pacific for US$111 million in 1990.

Hutchison remains one of the largest companies in Hong Kong, and Clague deserves credit for his faith in the Hong Kong economy and for establishing the strong foundations at Hutchison which Ka-shing subsequently built upon.

A sporting chance: Umbro

Umbro became the leading soccer brand in the world.

The Humphreys brothers establish the Umbro brand
Harold Charles Humphreys (1902 – 1974) was born at Mobberley in Cheshire, the son of a house painter. He found work as a salesman for Bukta, a football kit manufacturer.

Predicting that football kit sales would continue to grow, Humphreys entered into the sportswear retail business for himself from 1920. He was joined by his brother, Wallace James Humphreys (1900 -1950), and the firm traded as Humphreys Brothers.

Harold Humphreys (1902 – 1974). Image courtesy of Umbro

Harold Humphreys initially operated the business from rooms above a pub that his parents managed in Mobberley.

The Umbro brand was introduced from 1924, with the name derived from a portmanteau of Humphreys Brothers. Clothing manufacture was originally subcontracted, but growing sales saw an Umbro factory established from 1930.

Wallace Humphreys (1900 – 1950). Image courtesy of Umbro

Umbro kits were worn by both teams at the Wembley finals in 1934.

Umbro manufactured military uniforms and Lancaster Bomber aircraft interiors during the Second World War.

Umbro manufactured the England international kit from 1952.

Roger Bannister (1929 – 2018) wore Umbro clothing when he ran the first ever sub-four minute mile in 1954.

Umbro began to outfit overseas international teams from 1958. When Brazil won the World Cup that year, they were kitted out in Umbro clothing.

The second generation takeover the business
Umbro was being managed by the two sons of Harold Humphreys by the early 1960s: John Humphreys (1929 – 1979) and Stuart Humphreys (1931 – 2005). John Humphreys took the managerial lead at the business.

Umbro won a 25-year contract as sole distributor of Adidas products in Britain in 1961. Adidas was the largest manufacturer of soccer boots in the world, but this was its only manufacture, so there was no conflict of interest.

Umbro kitted out 15 out of 16 teams in the World Cup Finals in 1966.

A factory had been established at Wilmslow, Cheshire, by 1967.

Distribution of Adidas footwear and clothing had become the largest source of income for Umbro by the early 1970s.

Umbro supplied the football kits to all 16 teams in the World Cup Finals in 1974.

The England international football team switched their kit manufacturer to Admiral, who had made a superior cash offer, in 1974.

John Humphreys died in 1979. His unexpected death affected corporate development, and Arnold Copley, a former partner at Price Waterhouse, the accountancy firm, was appointed chief executive from 1982. He led the company into the leisure wear market.

A factory was opened at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, in 1984.

Umbro regained sponsorship of the England international football team kit from 1984.

Meanwhile, Adidas had entered the leisurewear market, which resulted in increasing conflicts of interest with Umbro, so the distribution contract was ended in 1986. The termination of the contract gave Umbro free reign to enter into the footwear market.

Umbro employed 650 people at factories in Macclesfield, Ellesmere Port and Wilmslow by 1985. Umbro was the largest sportswear manufacturer in Britain.

Umbro was the market leader in football kits in the United States by 1990.

Umbro is acquired by Stone Manufacturing
Umbro was acquired by its United States franchise holder, Stone Manufacturing of the United States for £2.9 million in 1992. The increasing cost of club sponsorship saw Umbro abandon its interests in squash and rugby in order to focus solely on football.

Umbro closed factories at Macclesfield and Stockport, with the loss of 146 jobs in October 1992, following a slump in sales.

The death of Eugene Stone in 1997 left the remaining family members conflicted regarding the future direction for Umbro. Phenomenal growth left capital stretched.

Several cost-saving measures were introduced in order to stave off bankruptcy in 1998. Most of the United States workforce were made redundant. Headquarters were relocated to Cheadle in Greater Manchester. Umbro divested its factory in Biddulph near Stoke: Umbro clothing continued to be manufactured there, but under contract by a third party. The Ellesmere Port factory, with a staff of 120, was closed.

Subsequent ownership
Umbro was sold to Doughty Hanson, a private equity group, for £90 million in 1999.

Under new ownership, Umbro underwent a remarkable turnaround. The Wythenshawe factory was closed in 1999, and manufacturing was outsourced to China and Hong Kong. The Umbro brand was repositioned to focus solely on football.

Umbro was acquired by Nike for a generous £285 million in 2008 in order to build its presence in the football market. At the time Umbro was the leading supplier of soccer clothing in the world, and the third largest supplier of branded athletic apparel in the United Kingdom.

Nike unsuccessfully attempted to impose its own manufacturing and sales logistics onto Umbro. Nike executives struggled to understand the niche company, and the business was sold to Iconix Brand Group for £137 million in 2012.

England football kit sponsorship was switched to Nike from 2013.

Currant affairs: a history of Ribena

H W Carter & Co introduced Ribena to Britain. 90 percent of British blackcurrant production goes towards making Ribena.

George Withy establishes the business
George Withy (1802 – 1878) was born in Bristol, the son of a Quaker woolen draper. Withy established himself as a soft drinks manufacturer at Orange Grove in Bath from 1831.

Growing sales saw the Bristol Soda Water Works established at Wilder Street, Bristol in 1861. George Withy & Co was the largest soft drink manufacturer in the South West of England by the mid-1860s.

H W Carter acquires the business
Henry Williams Carter (1839 – 1913), a chemist, partnered with J R Grace to acquire the Bristol Soda Water Works from George Withy & Co in 1872. The business traded as H W Carter & Co.

Ernest Matravers Wright (1851 – 1949) had joined the firm by 1891, and the business traded as Carter, Wright & Co.

Wright left the firm to enter into business for himself in 1898, and Henry Williams Carter took sole control. H W Carter & Co was registered as a limited company.

A carton of Ribena in 2007

Poor health forced Henry Williams Carter to retire in 1904.

The company was best known for Carter’s Concentrated Lemon Syrup by 1909, a product for which it held the largest market share. The cordial was exported across the world, and was known as the best product of its kind. Other products included lemon squash, lime juice cordial, table jellies and custard powder.

Henry Williams Carter died with an estate valued at £12,149 in 1913.

H W Carter & Co also became engaged as wine and spirits merchants.

Ribena is introduced
By 1920 William Dillworth Armstrong (1876 – 1954), a long-term salesman for H W Carter & Co, was managing director, and his son, Frank Dillworth Armstrong (1900 – 1993) was chairman. As a trained chartered accountant, Frank Armstrong reorganised the finances at the company.

A Ribena cordial bottle from the 1970s or 1980s

H W Carter & Co merged with four other local businesses to form Bristol Industries Limited, with a share capital of £250,000, in 1920.

Frank Armstrong was retained as chairman of Bristol Industries, but baulked when he was requested to sack his own father. He responded by negotiating a bank loan and buying back control of H W Carter & Co with a capital of £30,000 in 1924.

A surplus led to low milk prices in the 1930s. H W Carter & Co decided to develop fruit-flavoured syrups that could be added to milk to form milkshake. Ribena was developed as a by-product of this research.

H W Carter & Co went public in 1936.

A new factory to produce cordials from British fruit was established at North Street, Bedminster, Bristol in 1936. Ribena blackcurrant cordial was introduced that year.

Blackcurrants

During the Second World War imported sources of Vitamin C such as oranges had become scarce due to the German U-Boat campaign. Ribena, made from homegrown blackcurrants, was advertised as a good source of Vitamin C for children, and the government distributed it for free to babies, young children and expectant mothers.

Ribena production was relocated to a new factory at Coleford, Gloucestershire, in 1947. Sales of Ribena continued to grow strongly during the post-war period. Around 800 people were employed at the Coleford factory during the summer of 1955.

The Coleford, Gloucestershire factory in 2013

Sale of the business
H W Carter & Co was acquired by the Beecham Group in 1955, beating a rival bid of £1.2 million from Reckitt & Colman, which owned the Robinson’s Barley Water brand.

Beecham, with the Lucozade, Tango and Corona brands, was the largest soft drink producer in Britain by 1960.

Beecham merged with SmithKline Beckman in 1989 to form SmithKline Beecham. It amalgamated with GlaxoWellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.

GlaxoSmithKline divested its British soft drinks business, which included Lucozade and Ribena, to Suntory of Japan for £1.35 billion in 2013.

Rows of blackcurrants

90 percent of British-grown blackcurrants go towards Ribena production as of 2018, and each 500ml bottle contains around 37 blackcurrants.

Ribena uses specifically-designed blackcurrants that have a high juice content. The factory is supplied by 40 farms. The blackcurrants are harvested in July and August. They are pressed at the Thatcher’s cider mill in Somerset.

Leverage: a history of Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa

Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa was a popular energy restorative in the Victorian era, and could be regarded as the Lucozade or Gatorade of its time. At its height it was one of the highest-selling cocoa-based drinks in Britain.

William Tibbles introduces Vi-Cocoa
William Tibbles (1834 – 1912) was born into impoverished circumstances in Leicester, in the English Midlands. The family lived in the workhouse during the 1851 Census.

Tibbles described his occupation as a framework knitter and medical practitioner in the 1861 census. No evidence has been uncovered that suggests that Tibbles ever underwent any formal medical training.

Tibbles claimed that botanicals had cured him of tuberculosis in 1867. He began to sell coca and its concentrated extract, cocaine, as a general cure for physical weakness and tuberculosis, from 1871. He was advertising Tibbles Concentrated Essence of Composition and Cocaine by 1876.

Tibbles later invented Vi-Cocoa, a mixture of malt, hops, kola and cocoa. He licensed the recipe and brand rights to Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa Ltd, a company formed to exploit his product. Advertisements for Vi-Cocoa first appeared from 1893.

William Tibbles retires and Lord Leverhulme takes control of the business
The business was registered as Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa (1898) Ltd with a capital of £400,000 in 1898. Tibbles retired soon afterwards. The company was probably overvalued, with high sales heavily dependent on unsustainable levels of advertising.

The business was renamed the Watford Manufacturing Company from 1907. Over 1,000 people were employed by 1914. Vi-Cocoa and Delecta chocolate were the principal products.

The company did not pay a dividend between 1908 and 1918. Nominal capital was increased from £250,000 to £1 million in 1918, with Lord Leverhulme (1851 – 1925) becoming the largest single shareholder. Originally a soap manufacturer, Leverhulme was increasingly concerned with food manufacturing by this time, and the paternalistic reputation of the Watford Manufacturing Company was in harmony with his own views.

Lord Leverhulme (1851 – 1925) in 1917

Construction of a large new factory begun in 1918-19, but was never completed due to liquidity issues. The company had benefited from healthy sales during the First World War, aided by military contracts. However the wartime boom was followed by a post-war economic slump.

Company capital was increased to £3 million in 1919-20.

The Watford Manufacturing Company entered into liquidation in 1922. Lord Leverhulme purchased the company assets for £543,000 in cash to ensure that all creditors were paid, as well as in all likelihood, to protect his own reputation.

The Financial Times commented after the liquidation that the downfall of the company was as a result of its excessive valuation.

Leverhulme almost immediately sold the site and brands to Planters Products Ltd, a Lever Brothers subsidiary. Vi-Cocoa production continued.

The Watford factory employed 400 people by 1929, and was one of the largest employers in the area.

The Watford factory was sold off in 1930, and production was absorbed into Unilever, the successor to Lever Brothers.

Vi-Cocoa continued to be advertised as late as 1945.

Making bacon: Henry Denny & Sons

Henry Denny & Sons was the largest bacon producer in Europe.

Henry Denny
Henry Denny (1790 – 1870) was born in Waterford, Ireland, to a Protestant shoemaker. He established himself as a provisions merchant in Waterford. Denny was initially in partnership with a Simon Max, but began trading independently from 1820.

Waterford was the centre for pig production in Ireland, with 3,000 hogs killed weekly. However pigs were generally exported alive in order to ensure freshness. Curing techniques in an era before artificial refrigeration were crude, and relied on an excessive amount of salt.

Denny’s principal trade was in butter as late as 1839. It is not until 1846 that we see him described as a bacon merchant.

Henry Denny was elected as Mayor of Waterford in 1854.

Denny introduced improvements to existing curing techniques. He began to cure bacon using ice from 1854. Known as “mild curing”, it made the bacon more palatable by using much less salt for preservation. Denny was granted a patent for this process from 1857.

By importing large shipments of block ice from Norway, bacon could be produced during the summer months for the first time. Irish meat could now be exported year round.

Abraham Denny enters the business
Abraham Denny (1820 – 1892), a trained architect, joined his father in the business from 1855. Abraham Denny is said to have been instrumental in expanding the business.

Denny & Co used over 1,000 pigs every week by 1866. Denny was challenged only by its Waterford rival Richardson & Co for the position of the largest bacon curer in Ireland.

London was the principal market for Waterford bacon, and Edward Maynard Denny (1832 – 1905), son of Henry Denny, was sent to the capital to act as a sales agent for the business from 1866. He was joined by his brother Thomas Anthony Denny (1819 – 1910).

An average of about 2,000 pigs a week were used by 1868.

Henry Denny died of bronchitis in 1870 and the business was continued by Abraham Denny.

Henry Denny & Sons opened a factory in Limerick from 1872.

62,886 pigs were killed in 1876.

150 people were employed by 1877, shared equally between the Waterford and Limerick plants.

The works at Waterford probably represented the largest bacon curing plant in Europe by 1882.

Operations were extended to Cork in 1889.

Henry Denny & Sons was the largest bacon curer in Ireland by 1890, and one of the largest employers in Waterford. An extensive export trade to Europe had been developed by this time.

Public listing of Henry Denny & Sons
Henry Denny & Sons went public with a capital of £400,000 in 1891.

Operations had been established in Hamburg, Germany by 1892.

Abraham Denny died with a personalty valued at £174,967 in 1892. He was succeeded by his son, Charles Edward Denny (1849 – 1927) .

Due to an insufficient supply of pigs in Ireland, Henry Denny & Sons acquired a Danish meat company in 1894. The company introduced Irish meat curing techniques to Denmark.

Waterford operations outgrew the original site on Queen Street,  and the plant was relocated to the former Richardson & Co factory on Morgan Street.

Edward Maynard Denny left a gross estate valued at £584,789 when he died in 1905.

Thomas Anthony Denny died with a gross estate valued at £226,150 in 1910. He had been a prominent supporter of the Salvation Army.

Over 3,000 pigs were used every week by June 1914. The company was a substantial supplier of Irish bacon to the British armed forces during the First World War.

Henry Denny & Sons was advertising itself as the largest bacon producer in Europe by 1919.

Charles Edward Denny died in 1927, with an English estate valued at £475,248 and an Irish estate valued at £66,277.

The factory on Morgan Street, Waterford, was the largest of its kind in the British Isles by 1933. 400 workers were employed during peak periods. The site could handle up to 4,000 pigs every week.

Inside the sausage room at Denny’s Waterford factory, 1937

A Wiltshire cure bacon factory was opened in Portadown, Northern Ireland in 1935. It initially had a capacity to process 2,000 pigs a week, and employed a workforce of 200.

Cook & McNeily, bacon curers of Sligo, was acquired in 1936.

J & T Sinclair, bacon curers of Belfast, was acquired in 1960.

Overcapacity and sale of the company
The Cork factory was closed due to overcapacity in the industry in 1968. 160 jobs out of a total of 180 were lost.

The Waterford site was closed in 1972 due to continued overcapacity in the industry, and the outdated nature of the site.

The company began to seriously struggle as the bacon market became oversaturated. The Irish operations were acquired by Kerry Foods for around £1.5 million in 1982. The company employed 300 people. Kerry already supplied much of the pigs for Denny products.

Stocking trade: N Corah of Leicester

N Corah operated the largest hosiery factory in Britain.

Origins and early success
Nathaniel Corah (1776 – 1832) was a Baptist from Bagworth, a Leicestershire village. He entered into the local knitting industry, and trained as a framesmith.

Corah established himself as a hosiery trader in Leicester from 1815. He would purchase hosiery at the Globe public house on Silver Street in Leicester and sell it in Birmingham. He was initially assisted in business by his wife Sarah (1784 – 1856).

The Globe on Silver Street, Leicester, is still trading

Corah became a successful trader, and was able to purchase the freehold of a block of buildings on Union Street, Leicester, to house his increasing stocks, in 1824.

N Corah & Sons
Corah’s sons, John, William and Thomas, entered into the business as partners from 1830, and the firm began to trade as N Corah & Sons.

N Corah & Sons relocated to a purpose-built factory on Granby Street from 1845. Steam-powered manufacturing was introduced at the new premises. The business employed around 1,000 old hand frames for stocking manufacturing by 1846.

John Harris Cooper (1832 – 1906) joined N Corah & Sons in 1846.  He became involved in management at the firm following the completion of his seven year apprenticeship.

John Harris Cooper and Edwin Corah (1832 – 1880) acquired the business in 1857.

Relocation to the St Margaret’s Works
N Corah & Sons relocated to the St Margaret’s Works in Leicester from 1865. Named after the parish in which it was located, the site originally had a floor space of two acres. The firm introduced the St Margaret’s trademark for clothing at this time. A large beam engine was operated from 1866.

N Corah & Sons employed a workforce of 1,500 and produced about 2,000 tons of product annually by 1872.

Upon the death of Edwin Corah in 1880, John Arthur Corah (1846 – 1917) and Alfred Corah joined Cooper in partnership, and the firm began to trade as N Corah, Sons & Cooper. J A Corah had previously managed the Liverpool branch of the business, and Alfred Corah had managed the Birmingham branch.

Electric lighting was installed at the St Margaret’s Works from 1883. The firm paid wages substantially above average, and thus avoided strike action by its workers. The firm was a substantial benefactor to various charitable causes, especially the elderly poor of Leicester.

50 percent of the male staff at Corah joined the armed forces during the First World War. The firm produced ten million articles of knitwear during the war, with over 70 percent destined for government contracts.

John Arthur Corah died in 1917 with a gross estate valued at £143,208.

Incorporation as a private company
N Corah & Sons was incorporated as a private company in 1919. The St Margaret’s Works was the largest factory of its kind in Britain and probably the largest single-site hosiery works in the world. 2,500 people were employed on a five acre site. Production largely consisted of hosiery and other woollen goods.

King George V visited the factory in 1919, partly in recognition of its contribution to the war effort.

King George V and Queen Mary visit St Margaret’s Works in 1919

N Corah & Sons became a supplier to Marks & Spencer from 1926. The two companies would develop a strong relationship.

Authorised capital was increased to £750,000 in 1939. 4,500 people were employed.

During the Second World War, half the company’s staff either went into the armed services or were transferred to munitions production. Some 26 million articles were produced during the war. The engineering department was largely given over to producing gun components and parts for tank landing craft.

Conversion into a public company
N Corah & Sons was converted into a public company in 1946. Marks & Spencer was the principal customer. The St Margaret’s Works in Leicester covered six acres and was the largest hosiery factory in Britain. Around 2,500 people were employed.

Marks & Spencer was a dynamic retailer, and Lord Marks encouraged Corah to become more ambitious. Marks & Spencer made the transition from a low-cost retailer to a quality purveyor from 1951. As a major supplier, Corah too entered this transition. Encouraged by Marks & Spencer, Corah entered into a policy of long-term planning and development.

To reflect the success of its trademark, the company name was changed to N Corah (St Margaret) Ltd in 1954.

The St Margaret’s Works covered a floor space of twelve acres by 1965. Corah employed 6,500 people across the company.

Marks & Spencer accounted for 75 percent of Corah sales by 1968.

Nicholas Corah (1932 – 2010) became company chairman from the late 1960s.

Financial difficulties and demise
Corah entered into difficulty in the 1980s. It acquired Reliance, a fellow Marks & Spencer supplier, but struggled to integrate the business. This was followed by a strike at one of its factories.

Meanwhile, tastes in fashion began to change. The struggling knitwear division was closed with the loss of nearly 800 jobs in 1988. Corah sold its sock division to Courtaulds for £7.5 million in cash in 1988.

The loss-making Corah was acquired by Charterhall, an Australian investment group, for £27.2 million in 1988. Charterhall entered into administration in 1990.

Coats Viyella, the largest textiles company in Britain, acquired Corah for around £25 million in cash in 1994.

Message in a bottle: Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale became the highest selling bottled beer in Britain, and came to make significant sales in the United States.

John Barras & Co
Bells, Robson & Co established the Tyne Brewery on Bath Lane, Newcastle in 1867. It was said to be the largest brewery in the North of England.

Bells, Robson & Co entered into financial difficulty, and the business was acquired by John Barras & Co of Gateshead, after their own brewery site was subject to compulsory purchase by the North Eastern Railway in 1884.

John Barras & Co was managed by Charles John Reed (1820 – 1908), who had leased the brewery since 1861, after marrying into the founding Barras family.

Reed appointed Thomas Watson Lovibond (1849 – 1918) as head brewer and manager from 1887. Lovibond had received scientific training during an era when almost all brewers lacked such formal education. He was to have a significant impact upon the future success of the business.

John Barras & Co traditionally brewed mild ale, but under Lovibond’s direction, pale ale was being produced by 1889, in order to compete with rival products from Burton upon Trent and Edinburgh. Lovibond also introduced greater standardisation of product quality.

Newcastle Breweries
John Barras & Co merged with four local brewers in 1890: W H Allison of North Shields, J J & W H Allison of Sunderland, Swinburne of Gateshead and Carr Brothers & Carr of North Shields to form Newcastle Breweries.

The Tyne Brewery was regarded as one of the largest and best equipped breweries in the North of England, and all production was centralised there. As a result, the output of the brewery was doubled from 900 to 1,800 barrels a week.

Newcastle Breweries controlled an estate of nearly 300 public houses by 1897.

The amalgamation was to prove highly successful. Forster’s Bishop Middleham Breweries was acquired in 1910.

Colonel Porter and the introduction of Newcastle Brown Ale
James Herbert Porter (1891 – 1973) was the son of a master brewer in Burton upon Trent. He joined Newcastle Breweries as a trainee brewer in 1909.

Porter was a highly courteous and mild-mannered man, a model of an English gentleman. He saw action during the First World War, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Newcastle Exhibition, a cask beer, was introduced from 1920.

Sales of bottled beers began to increase after the war, influenced by the inconsistent quality of cask beer. Colonel Porter determined to develop a high quality bottled beer of his own. Newcastle Breweries opened one of the largest and best-equipped bottling plants in Britain in June 1925.

Colonel Porter, by now promoted to assistant brewer, and Archdale Mercer Jones (1881 – 1954), manager of the bottling works, laboured for three years to perfect the recipe for Newcastle Brown Ale. Porter created its distinctive taste by blending a strong, crystal malt-influenced aged beer with a light pale ale.

Newcastle Brown Ale was launched in April 1927. The sole ingredients were malt, hops, sugar and yeast and it boasted an ABV of 6.25 percent. It was filtered but was not subject to pasteurisation.

Newcastle Brown Ale would have been seen as a rival to Bass Pale Ale, a comparable beer in terms of strength and quality. Another similar beer, Whitbread Double Brown, had been launched in London just a month earlier.

Newcastle Brown Ale was to enjoy immediate success. It was a quality product brewed to vigorous scientific methods and high standards, and sold at a reasonable price. Colonel Porter’s role in improving the beer sold by Newcastle Breweries saw him promoted to head brewer by September 1927.

Newcastle Brown Ale was named as the best bottled beer in Britain at the 1928 Brewers Exhibition in London. Newcastle water had long been considered an inferior brewing liquor, but Colonel Porter disproved this notion.

The blue star logo was introduced in 1928. Each point on the star represented one of the five businesses that combined to form Newcastle Breweries.

The brewery produced six million bottles of beer a year by 1928.

Newcastle Brown Ale had seen its ABV reduced to around 5.5 percent by 1931.

Colonel Porter was promoted to the Newcastle Breweries board of directors in 1931.

Newcastle Breweries encountered material shortages during the Second World War, and as a result brewed lower strength beers out of necessity. However the company refused to compromise on the quality of Newcastle Brown Ale, which went unchanged, although sales were by necessity highly rationed.

Although sales remained confined to the North East of England, 300 million bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale had been produced by 1952.

Colonel Porter was appointed chairman of Newcastle Breweries in 1955.

The Tyne Brewery occupied 6.5 acres by 1956.

The crown cork bottle cap replaced the old screw cap from 1958 in order to help preserve freshness.

It was claimed that Newcastle Brown Ale was the highest selling bottled beer in the North of England by 1959. That year, “the one and only” was introduced as an advertising slogan.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale had continued to grow and the brewer’s bottling facility had reached capacity. A new bottling plant entered into production from 1959.

John Rowell & Son of Gateshead was acquired in 1959 to bring the total number of Newcastle Breweries controlled premises to around 700.

Scottish & Newcastle
Newcastle Breweries merged with Scottish Brewers to form Scottish & Newcastle in 1960. Colonel Porter was appointed vice chairman. Newcastle Brown Ale was a leading product of the new company, alongside McEwan’s Export and Younger’s Tartan Special. The merger afforded Newcastle Brown Ale a wider network for distribution.

In the early 1960s Scottish & Newcastle began to produce Newcastle Brown Ale in brown bottles instead of clear ones. This was to protect the beer from UV rays, which can have a negative impact on taste. However drinkers complained about the change, and the decision was swiftly reversed.

Newcastle Brown Ale had been introduced in cans by 1964.

Distribution of Newcastle Brown Ale throughout the Midlands and the South of England had begun by the late 1960s. The beer found particular favour among university and polytechnic students.

The Tyne Brewery produced over one million barrels of beer a year by 1972, however increasing national sales of Newcastle Brown Ale saw the facility struggle to meet demand.

Newcastle Brown Ale had earned a near legendary reputation in its local area by the mid-1970s. It garnered colourful nicknames, based on its supposed strength, such as “lunatic’s broth” and “journey into space”. However an independent analysis in 1974 found the beer to have an ABV of five percent, and an original gravity of 1047.

Domestic sales of Newcastle Brown Ale peaked in 1974, after which sales of bottled beers began to enter into a steady decline. The appeal of bottled beer had been its consistency, but with the increasing distribution of keg beer its unique selling point was lost.

By 1977 a total of 7.5 million barrels of Newcastle Brown Ale had been produced since it was introduced in 1927.

Newcastle Brown Ale was the highest selling packaged ale in Britain by 1980. It was sold in over 97 percent of off licences in England and Wales and more than 90 percent of supermarkets and grocers.

It is believed that Newcastle Brown Ale ceased to be a blended beer from the early 1980s onwards.

Newcastle Brown Ale was known as “Dog” on Tyneside by the 1980s, arising from the “going to walk the dog” euphemism, which implied a visit to the pub.

A new £3.5 million bottling plant was opened in 1984, the fastest in Europe. The Tyne Brewery had grown to cover 14 acres by 1985. 1,200 people were employed there in 1988.

Scottish & Newcastle was the fifth largest brewer in Britain by 1988.

Newcastle Brown Ale had settled on its current ABV of 4.7 percent by 1989.

Newcastle Exhibition was the highest selling draught ale in the North East of England by 1989.

A resurgence for Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale underwent a resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with increased distribution in the South of England, as well as a strong presence in student union bars. Marketing efforts dissociated the drink from its working class roots and repositioned it as a premium product. The product was sold in thirty countries.

Scottish & Newcastle took direct control of its United States product distribution from 1990 onwards. Major European import rivals such as Bass, Guinness and Heineken had strength on the East Coast, so Scottish & Newcastle established its American headquarters in San Francisco.

American sales increased by 300 percent between 1989 and 1991, and a further 75 percent in 1993.

25 percent of Tyne Brewery output was dedicated to Newcastle Brown Ale by 1994. 120 million pint bottles (not including cans) of Newcastle Brown Ale were produced every year.

Newcastle Brown Ale had gained significant traction in the United States, with over a million cases of the beer sold in that market during the 1994-5 financial year.

Scottish & Newcastle acquired Courage in 1995 to become the largest brewer in Britain.

Embed from Getty Images

The United States represented the largest market for Newcastle Brown Ale by 2001, with annual sales of over 300,000 hectolitres. However sales in Britain were “well down”, according to a Scottish & Newcastle executive.

The Tyne Brewery was closed in May 2005. Production of Newcastle Brown Ale was relocated to the Federation Brewery in nearby Dunston, Gateshead.

Newcastle Brown Ale was among the top fifty highest-selling beers in the United States in 2006.

Bottling of Newcastle Brown Ale was relocated to the John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, from 2007.

Heineken ownership
Scottish & Newcastle was acquired by Heineken in 2008.

Heineken closed the Federation Brewery in May 2010, and production of Newcastle Brown Ale was relocated to the John Smith’s Brewery.

Caramel, used to darken and flavour Newcastle Brown Ale since its inception, was replaced with roasted malt from 2015, amid United States health concerns.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale for export was relocated to the Zoeterwoude Brewery in the Netherlands from 2017.

Global sales of Newcastle Brown Ale declined from nearly seven million cases in 2014 to around two million cases in 2019.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale for the United States market was relocated to the Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewery from 2019. The recipe was subjected to significant changes, including the addition of Centennial and Chinook hops.

A capsulated history of Beecham’s pills

Beecham’s was the largest patent medicine manufacturer in the world, with well over a million pills sold every day by 1913.

Thomas Beecham
Thomas Beecham (1820 – 1907) was born to humble circumstances in Oxfordshire. He worked as a shepherd and used his knowledge of herbs to tend his animals.

A coarse yet charismatic character, Beecham began to manufacture pills from 1847. Beecham’s Pills, comprised of aloes, ginger and soap, had a mild laxative effect.

The pills were more palatable than the traditional home remedies of the day, such as rhubarb and Epsom salts.

Beecham relocated to the booming mill towns of the North West of England. He sold his pills from a market stall in Wigan, Lancashire. He relocated to nearby St Helens in 1859.

The business was run by the family and a small number of employees until the late 1870s.

Joseph Beecham
Thomas Beecham’s son Joseph (1848 – 1916) had effectively taken control of the company by the 1880s. Joseph Beecham was described as “[i]n personal appearance … the quiet, pipe-smoking, tweed-clad type of Englishman. He has neither business nor artistic pose, and is modesty itself.”

Beecham pills had the highest sale of any patent medicine in the world by 1885. A new factory, powered by electricity, was opened in St Helens in 1886.

250 million pills were sold in 1890, a quarter of all factory-made pills in Britain.

A factory was leased in Brooklyn, New York from 1890 in order to manufacture Beecham pills for the American market.

Thomas Beecham handed over full control of the business to Joseph in 1895.

Joseph Beecham spent £100,000 a year on advertising by 1895. The factory had 120 employees, all men.

After it was discovered that he was engaged in adultery, Joseph Beecham was divorced by his wife in 1901.

Joseph Beecham had an annual income of £20,000 by 1903.

American sales doubled between 1906 and 1913. A new factory in Brooklyn was purchased in 1910. Joseph Beecham made frequent trips across the Atlantic to attend to his American business.

The New York Times reported that Joseph Beecham was the third richest man in England by 1909, with a fortune valued at US$130 million. Joseph Beecham was knighted in 1912, in recognition of his philanthropic work.

Beecham spent US$5 million on advertising between 1903 and 1913, and was one of the most extensive newspaper advertisers in the world.

Over 450 million Beecham pills were sold worldwide in 1913. The annual advertising budget was $5 million.

Before his death, Sir Joseph Beecham handed the American business to his son, Henry Beecham (1888 – 1947).

Sir Joseph Beecham died in 1916, and had an estate valued at £1.5 million. The British business was passed to his two sons, Henry and Thomas Beecham (1879 – 1961).

Henry Beecham was convicted of manslaughter in 1921 after speeding in his car. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Philip Hill and public offering
Philip Hill (1873 – 1944) acquired the business, largely from Thomas Beecham, for £2.8 million in 1924.

Hill was a skilled entrepreneur, and established a new laboratory. The company’s first pharmaceutical product, an aspirin-based cold and flu powder, was introduced in 1926.

The Veno Drug Company of Manchester, a manufacturer of cough syrup, was acquired in 1928.

Beecham’s Pills was incorporated as a public company in 1928.

Yeast-Vite, including Holloway’s Pills, was acquired in 1931.

Macleans, a toothpaste manufacturer, and Lucozade, a medicinal drink, were acquired in 1938. Also that year, Eno Proprietaries and County Perfumery, the manufacturer of Brylcreem, were both acquired, the latter for £580,000.

Eno Proprietaries, best known for its Fruit Salts product, provided Beecham with an international distribution network.

20th century continued growth
Following the death of Philip Hill in 1944, Stanley Holmes (1878 – 1961) became company chairman.

A single product, Lucozade, provided one third of Beecham’s British profits in 1949.

Beecham was dedicating a significant amount of revenue to product research and development by the 1950s.

H W Carter, the manufacturer of Ribena, was acquired in 1955. Thomas & Evans, the manufacturer of Corona soft drinks, was acquired in 1958. Beecham became the largest soft drink manufacturer in Britain.

Beecham was the second largest advertiser in Britain by 1960.

Horlicks was acquired in 1969.

Beecham employed around 23,000 people by 1972.

Beecham was the eleventh most highly-valued public company in Europe by 1982.

Production of Beecham’s Pills ended in 1998. The manufacturer recommended consumers use Milk of Magnesia as a substitute.

Whiff of success: Henri Wintermans

Henri Wintermans is the highest-selling cigar brand in the world.

A Wintermans & Sons is established
Two brothers, Sjaak Wintermans and Henri Wintermans (1886 – 1975), established a cigar manufacturing business at Duizel, in the Netherlands, from 1904. They traded as A Wintermans & Sons, in honour of their father. Sjaak focussed on sales and Henri concentrated on the buying and blending tobacco.

A Wintermans & Sons captured a substantial proportion of the Dutch market but Henri amicably left the partnership to establish his own cigar manufacturing business from 1934.

Henri Wintermans relocated to the neighbouring town of Eersel, and his son Adriaan Wintermans entered into the business.

Adriaan Wintermans takes over the business, and grows sales in Britain and France
Adriaan Wintermans took over management of the business from 1945.

Wintermans identified the post-war Dutch cigar market as oversaturated, and decided to concentrate on export sales in order to drive his business forward. Britain quickly became the largest market.

The Cafe Creme cigarillo was introduced in France from the early 1960s.

Henri Wintermans was by far the highest-selling Dutch cigar brand in Britain by 1965.

Wintermans is sold to British American Tobacco
Adriaan Wintermans had a clear vision for the European cigar market, but he lacked the financial capital to realise his ambition. He felt that the company could best realise its potential as a part of a larger concern, and sold Henri Wintermans to British American Tobacco (BAT) for just under £2 million in 1966.

BAT was the largest manufacturer of tobacco products in the world, and Adriaan Wintermans was appointed head of their European cigar business.

Over 500 million Henri Wintermans cigars were produced in 1971.

Henri Wintermans made just two percent of its sales in the Netherlands in 1972. Britain accounted for over 62 percent of sales, and Henri Wintermans held around 15 percent of the British cigar market.

Henri Wintermans increased sales by over 500 percent between 1966 and 1972. Production capacity was increased by 75 percent to cope with rising demand in 1972.

A Henri Wintermans advertisement from the Daily Telegraph in 1986

Henri Wintermans was the leading cigar exporter in the world by 1977. It was the highest-selling imported cigar brand in Britain by 1978.

Wintermans Cafe Creme ranked second in the British miniature cigar market by 1983.

Over 600 million Henri Winterman cigars were sold in 1990.

BAT sells Wintermans to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group
Henri Wintermans was sold to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group for £55 million in 1996. The merged business was the largest cigar manufacturer in Europe.

Henri Wintermans employed around 2,000 people in 1999.

Henri Wintermans products continue to be manufactured in Eersel. The vast majority of sales are in Europe. Henri Wintermans is the leading cigar brand in Australia.

Running the show: Reebok

J W Foster & Sons produced some of the most highly-regarded running shoes in the world in the 1920s. Rebranded as Reebok, its fashion shoes became highly successful in the 1980s.

J W Foster & Sons
Joseph William Foster (1881 – 1933) was a cobbler and keen amateur runner. He developed a spiked running shoe in 1895.

Foster began to manufacture shoes for other runners, and established a shoe manufacturing business at 57 Deane Road, Bolton from 1900.

The business was trading as J W Foster & Sons by 1910. This was presumably an attempt to make the firm seem larger or longer-established than it really was, as his sons at the time were eight and four years old.

Production switched to army boots during the First World War.

Foster’s running shoes were the elite athletic item of their era. A large number of professional athletes used his shoes.

J W Foster & Sons advertised that 90 percent of English and Scottish football league clubs used their shoes by 1922. The firm also supplied the 1924 British Olympic track team.

J W Foster & Sons advertised itself as the oldest manufacturer of entirely handmade running shoes in the world by 1926.

C Ellis broke the one mile running record wearing Foster’s shoes in 1928. Percy Williams (1908 – 1982) used Foster’s shoes to win the 100m and 200m races at the 1928 Olympic games.

Joseph William Foster died in 1933 and left an estate valued at £5,598. His two sons, John William Foster (1902 – 1960) and James William Foster (1906 – 1976) took over the business.

Army boots were produced during the Second World War.

Reebok is established; expansion in North America
German rivals Adidas and Puma began to entered the athletic shoe market from the post-war period, with lower-cost and more effective models.

The founder’s grandsons, Joseph William Foster (born 1935) and Jeffrey William Foster (1933 – 1980), entered into the business during this period.

After returning from national service, the two brothers became frustrated at their fathers’ lack of vision. The business was not adapting to their rivals, and did not pursue sales or overseas markets.

The two brothers broke free from their fathers, and established Reebok at Bury in 1958 in order to manufacture their own athletic shoes. Joseph William Foster was the chairman and managing director.

The Reebok brand was well known throughout the North West of England by the 1970s.

Following the death of James W Foster in 1976, J W Foster & Sons was absorbed into Reebok.

A new footwear range was introduced in 1978: the Aztec trainer, the Midas racing shoe and the Inca spiked track shoe. All three products received a five-star review in Runner’s World, an influential American magazine.

Joseph Foster sold the American sales rights for Reebok to Paul Fireman (born 1944), an affable and easygoing outdoor equipment marketer, for $65,000 in 1979.

Assembly of Reebok shoes was transferred to South Korea, where production costs were lower, from 1980. Shoe components continued to be manufactured in the original factory in Bury.

Reebok registered United States sales of around $300,000 in 1980.

High demand saw Reebok USA suffer from cash flow problems. Stephen Rubin (born 1937) acquired 55 percent of Reebok USA for $77,500 in August 1981. Rubin contributed knowledge of the sports shoe market, and experience with Asian outsourcing.

Reebok identified the growing market for aerobics, and launched two shoes, Freestyle and Energizer, in 1982. Total US sales had climbed to $12.9 million by the end of 1983. Meanwhile, Nike was suffering a downturn, which allowed Reebok to flourish.

A 1985 advertisement for the Reebok Freestyle

Reebok International and Reebok USA merged in April 1984. Stephen Rubin maintained his 55 percent stake and was named chairman of Reebok International. Paul Fireman was named President and CEO of Reebok International, and held the remaining 45 percent share.

Reebok headquarters were relocated from Bolton, England to Avon, Massachusetts. The site had 52 employees. The relocation was based on the fact that most Reebok sales were in the US.

Warehouse and office facilities were maintained in Bolton, and Joseph Foster remained President of Reebok International.

In 1984 all the lasts, dies and markings were made in England. Research and development took place in England and South Korea.

Reebok becomes a public company; acquisition by Adidas
Stephen Rubin took Reebok International public in 1985. Sales for that year totalled over $300 million.

Reebok overtook Nike as the largest athletic shoe manufacturer in the United States in 1986. Growing sales saw the head office relocated from Avon to Canton.

The British factory was relocated from Bury to Bolton in 1986.

Rockport was acquired for $118.5 million in cash in 1986.

Nike reclaimed its position as the largest athletic shoe manufacturer in the United States from 1988.

Reebok International was the most profitable company in the United States, based on return on equity, by the late 1980s.

Joseph Foster retired as President of Reebok International in 1990, but remained in a consultancy position.

The cost-conscious Rubin clashed with Fireman, who argued for lavish marketing campaigns. Rubin sold his stake in Reebok for $770 million in 1991.

Reebok International registered sales of $3 billion in 1996. Its products were sold across 170 different countries.

Reebok was acquired by Adidas for £2.1 billion in 2005.

Adidas closed down the Reebok head office in Bolton in 2009, ending the brand’s association with its home town.

Joseph Foster stepped down from his consultancy position in 2015.