Category Archives: Health & beauty

Bubble market: William Gossage & Sons

William Gossage & Sons was the largest soap manufacturer in the United Kingdom, and possibly the world, by 1877.

Early life and Stoke Prior
William Gossage (1799 – 1877) was born in Lincolnshire. After serving an apprenticeship to his uncle in Chesterfield, Gossage commenced trade as a chemist and druggist at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.

William Gossage (1799-1877)

Gossage was appointed chemist to the Stoke Prior Salt and Alkaki Works in Worcestershire from 1830. Gossage sank a shaft that was to prove highly successful in pumping brine. He was eventually appointed a director and managing partner of the business.

Gossage commences the manufacture of soap in Widnes
Gossage established a soda-making plant at Widnes, Merseyside, from 1850. He also produced alkali from crushed limestone. He soon gave up soda-making, and commenced the smelting of copper, which was to prove successful.

Soap prices increased during the Crimean War (1853 – 56) due to inflated tallow prices. Gossage began to manufacture a low-cost alternative soap of similar quality using sodium silicate and palm oil from 1855.

Gossage introduced blue mottled soap from 1857. Mottled soap served no superior utilitarian function, but gave the soap the pleasant aesthetic appearance of marble.

William Gossage was considered a model employer, and was highly popular with his workforce. He employed 80 men by 1861.

The two sons and T S Timmis enter the business
Alfred Howard Gossage (1831 – 1904) and Frederick Herbert Gossage (1832 – 1907), sons of William Gossage, had entered the business as partners by 1861.

Thomas Sutton Timmis (1830 – 1910) joined the business from 1865, and became a partner.

Thomas Sutton Timmis (1830 – 1910) c.1892

A H Gossage retired in 1866.

William Gossage & Sons held a contract to produce dry soap for R S Hudson from 1869.

William Gossage & Sons was the second largest soap manufacturer in Britain by 1870.

William Gossage retired from business due to ill health from 1874.

Frederick Gossage and Thomas Timmis were to drive the business forward. Gossage had the technical expertise, and Timmis possessed a keen aptitude for finance.

William Gossage & Sons was the largest soap manufacturer in the United Kingdom, and possibly the world by 1877, with an output of no less than 500 tons a week.

William Gossage & Sons employed 500 men and 40 boys by 1881.

Over 200,000 tons of mottled soap were produced between 1862 and 1887.

William Gossage & Sons held a contract to produce Sunlight soap during the early days of Lever Brothers. Frederick Gossage was said to have taught William Lever how to make soap.

Gossage and Timmis converted the business into a private limited company, William Gossage & Sons, from 1894.

William Gossage & Sons produced 1,400 tons of soap a week by 1897, and was probably the second largest soap manufacturer in the world after Lever Brothers. The business focused on the overseas trade, and had a large market in China.

Frederick Gossage died with a net personalty of £709,396 in 1907.

Thomas Timmis died in 1910 with a net personalty valued at £643,247.

Thousands of tons of blue mottled soap were produced annually by 1911. William Gossage & Sons accounted for 57 percent of all soap exported from the United Kingdom, and held 33 percent of the foreign soap trade worldwide.

Acquisition by Brunner Mond
Brunner Mond, the largest chemical manufacturer in the world, acquired William Gossage & Sons and Joseph Crosfield & Sons of Warrington, a rival soap manufacturer, in 1911. Brunner Mond was a major supplier of raw material for the soap industry, and the merger was motivated by an intent to create a strong competitor against the increasingly dominant Lever Brothers.

The Widnes site covered about fourteen acres by 1914. About 1,500 people were employed. Exports were strong throughout the British Empire, and in the Far East.

Sale to Lever Brothers
Lever Brothers acquired William Gossage & Sons and Joseph Crosfield & Sons in 1919.

William Gossage & Sons employed around 1,300 people in 1928.

The Widnes site was closed in 1932, and production was transferred to Lever Brothers-controlled plants in Bromborough and Warrington.

William Gossage & Sons was merged with Joseph Watson & Sons, a Leeds soap manufacturer that was also controlled by Lever Brothers, to form Watson & Gossage from 1937.

The English patent: Holloway’s Pills

Hollway’s Pills and Ointment became the highest-selling medicines in the world.

Thomas Holloway establishes his patent medicine business
Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883) was born at Devonport, the son of a baker. He was apprenticed to a chemist.

Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883)

Holloway relocated to London from 1828. He established himself as a merchant on Liverpool Street from 1836. One client was a Felix Albinolo (1785 – 1872), the proprietor of Albinolo’s ointment, a patent medicine. The success of Albinolo’s product inspired Holloway to introduce an equivalent.

Holloway’s Family Ointment was introduced from 1837. Holloway’s Pills were launched two years later. Holloway was the first person to advertise medicines on a massive scale, and it was this that would cement the success of his products.

George E Barclay was granted the sole licence to manufacture the pills and ointment in the United States. Between 1857 and 1858 his sales totalled $250,000.

Holloway’s Pills and Ointment claimed the largest sales of any medicine in the world by 1862.

Thomas Holloway became a very wealthy man. He retired in 1873 and, as he was without issue, appointed his brother-in-law, Henry Driver (1830 – 1909) as manager of his business.

Thomas Holloway dedicated much of the rest of his life to charitable ventures; he established the Holloway Sanatorium at Virginia Water, Surrey at a cost of £250,000 in 1873. He later went on to found the Holloway College at a cost of £350,000.

Holloway College in 2015

Death of the founder and gradual decline of the business
Thomas Holloway died in 1883 with an estate valued at £550,000.

Sole control of the Thomas Holloway business was assumed by Henry Driver, who added the Holloway name to his own to become Henry Driver Holloway.

An analysis of Holloway’s Pills conducted for the British Medical Journal in 1903 found the product to consist of aloes, rhubarb, saffron, sodium sulphate decahydrate and pepper. The pills would have likely had a laxative effect. Holloway’s ointment was found to consist of turpentine, resin, olive oil, lard, wax and spermaceti.

Holloway’s Pills was registered as a company in 1929, with a modest capital of £5,000. Holloway’s Pills had lost considerable market share to Beecham’s Pills, as well as falling prey to an increased scepticism among the public regarding patent medicines.

Holloway’s Pills was acquired by Yeast-Vite Ltd, which itself came under the control of the Beecham Group in 1931.

Production of Holloway’s Pills and Ointment ended in 1951.

Andrews Liver Salts

Andrews Liver Salts became the highest-selling antacid product in the world.

Scott & Turner introduce Andrews Liver Salts
William Henry Scott (1860 – 1922) and William Murdoch Turner (1862 – 1932) were proprietors of a successful margarine wholesale business based at Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England.

W H Scott was a prominent Wesleyan Methodist. He was a well-liked man, and was held in a high regard by his workforce.

Scott & Turner began to manufacture Andrews Liver Salts, an antacid and stomach reliever, from 1895. The product was named after their office, located at St Andrew’s Buildings.

W M Turner entered into retirement from 1907. Andrews Liver Salts had an annual sale of over two million tins by this time.

Sales of Andrews Liver Salts continued to grow, and the Gallowgate works were repeatedly expanded to accommodate increased production.

Scott & Turner advertised Andrews Liver Salts as the highest-selling antacid in the United Kingdom by 1922. Around 300 people were employed by this time.

W H Scott continued to act as chairman of Scott & Turner until his death in 1922.

Sterling Drug acquires Scott & Turner
Scott & Turner was acquired by Sterling Drug of the United States in 1923.

Andrews Liver Salts were introduced to the Canadian market from 1924.

Andrews Liver Salts were advertised as the highest-selling antacid in the world from 1926.

Staff hours were reduced to five days a week, with no reduction in pay from 1935. A total of 350 to 450 people were employed.

There were around 500 employees by 1944.

A new factory at Fawdon, Newcastle was opened in 1949 in order to meet rapidly growing demand overseas for Liver Salts. 27 percent of Liver Salt production was exported. The Gallowgate site was divested.

Export sales of Liver Salts ran at about £1 million a year by 1952.

Scott & Turner rebuilt the Fawdon site in 1956. The new factory was thoroughly modern, with utmost standards of cleanliness and high levels of automation.

Sterling Drug merged Scott & Turner with another subsidiary, Charles H Phillips Chemical Co, manufacturers of Milk of Magnesia, to form Phillips, Scott & Turner in 1960. The head office was at Acton Vale, London, and the northern sales office was based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Andrews was the clear market leader in stomach remedies in the UK as late as 1978.

Andrews Liver Salts contained sodium bicarbonate, citric acid and magnesium sulphate as of 1993.

Recent ownership and closure of the Fawdon site
Sterling Healthcare was acquired by SmithKline Beecham in 1994.

About 700 people were employed at the Fawdon plant in 1994.

SmithKline Beecham merged with GlaxoWellcome in 2000 to form GlaxoSmithKline.

Andrews Liver Salts was the fourth highest-selling indigestion remedy in the UK in 2011, behind Gaviscon, Rennie and Remegel.

The Fawdon site was closed in 2015.

Andrews Liver Salts are still sold in the UK as of 2020, and are manufactured in Spain.

Life’s a bleach: a history of Domestos

Domestos is the leading brand of bleach in the United Kingdom.

W A Handley establishes the Domestos business
Wilfred Augustine Handley (1901 -1975), was the son of a blacksmith employed in the Tyneside shipbuilding industry.

W A Handley trained as a dental mechanic. As a side project, he manufactured chemicals in his garden shed. He acquired sodium hypochlorite, a waste product from the local chemical industries, including ICI Billingham, and manufactured a powerful disinfectant and sterilizer, which he called “Domestos”.

W A Handley established his “Hygienic Disinfectant Service” in 1929. Assisted by his wife Ivy, he worked as a door-to-door salesman to sell Domestos.

Domestos was incorporated as a private company in 1936. A factory was established at Albion Row in Byker.

Stergene, designed for washing woollens, was introduced in 1948.

Domestos enjoyed distribution across Britain by 1952.

Sqezy, the first washing-up liquid in squeezable bottles, was launched in 1957.

W A Handley placed Domestos into a shell company which was valued at £250,000 in 1957.

Unilever era
W A Handley lacked sufficient capital to expand, and the business was sold to Unilever for £2.5 million in 1961. Unilever lacked a bleach brand of its own, and was attracted to the strong growth at the company. The acquisition provided Domestos with Unilever managerial expertise.

Handley was retained in a managerial capacity, but stepped down as chairman in 1962.

The Domestos blue plastic bottle was introduced from 1963.

The Domestos marketing and sales departments had been transferred to London by 1965.

Domestos employed 700 people by 1965.

Domestos sales continued to grow, but the Newcastle factory lacked space to expand. As a result, production of Domestos detergents including Sqezy and Stergene were transferred to the Unilever factory at Port Sunlight, Merseyside, from 1965. The customer service office was relocated to London.

Domestos held a third of the British bleach market by 1968.

Handley died in 1975 and left an estate valued at £172,786.

The Domestos factory in Newcastle upon Tyne was closed with the loss of 160 jobs in 1975, and operations were relocated to Port Sunlight.

Domestos was sold throughout Europe by the end of the 1970s. It was introduced to Australia from 1981.

Domestos enjoyed ten percent growth globally in 2017, and is a leading product in the Unilever Home Care division. It is sold in 35 countries, sometimes under different brand names, such as Domex (India and the Philippines), Glorix (Netherlands), Vim (Vietnam, Argentina and Brazil), Promax and Klinex (Greece).

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.

A digested history of Eno’s Fruit Salts

Eno’s Fruit Salts became one of the best known branded medicines in the world.

J C Eno introduces Fruit Salts
James Crossley Eno (1827 – 1915) had established a small chemist’s shop at 5 Groat Market in Newcastle upon Tyne by 1851. He introduced Eno’s Fruit Salts, an indigestion remedy, from 1868. It became popular among sailors, who helped to establish the reputation of the product overseas.

A 1924 advertisement

James Crossley Eno soon found himself unable to meet increasing demand for his product, and he relocated his business to a factory on New Cross Road, London, from 1876. The business employed 50 people by 1884.

J C Eno was established as a limited company with a capital of £100,000 from 1891.

Eno’s Fruit Salts consisted of sodium bicarbonate, tartaric acid and citric acid, according to an analysis for the British Medical Journal in 1903.

James Crossley Eno entered into retirement from around 1904. He was succeeded as company chairman by his son in law, Commander Harold W Swithinbank (1858 – 1928).

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933) of Toronto was the Canadian sales agent from 1907. Ritchie characterised the J C Eno business as tradition-bound and staid, and promised to forfeit his commission if he failed to double Canadian sales within one year. Fortunately for Ritchie, he managed to quadruple sales in his initial year.

James Crossley Eno died in 1915. His estate had a gross value of £1.6 million.

J C Eno company capital had been increased to £650,000 by 1920.

The Eno business is sold to Harold F Ritchie
Following the death of Commander Swithinbank, the business was sold to Harold F Ritchie for a reported £1.5 million in 1928. Ritchie received the first option to acquire the business in recognition of his service to the company.

Ritchie maintained existing management. Between 1928 and 1932 he established factories in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, South Africa and Germany.

Ritchie died in 1933, and his widow sold the company to the London & Yorkshire Trust for over £1 million in 1934.

Eno Proprietaries Limited had a paid-up share capital of £2 million in 1934.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had become one of the best known proprietary medicines in the world. The product was sold in 83 countries. It was advertised in 73 countries with 26 different languages. The principal factory was in London, but there were two large factories in North America, and nine smaller factories across the rest of the world.

Beecham acquires the business
Eno Proprietaries was acquired by Beecham for £1 million in 1938.

The New Cross factory was completely destroyed by Germany bombing during the Blitz in 1940. Production was transferred to the Macleans toothpaste factory in Brentford. Fruit Salt production was relocated to a site at Watford from 1946. The Watford site was closed in 1953, and production was returned to Macleans.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had been rebranded as simply “Eno” by the 1980s. It continued as a major Beecham product line.

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

Eno is still widely sold across the world as an antacid for the relief of indigestion. Its largest markets are Asia and Latin America, and it is the leading antacid brand in India.