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Manchester Industry, Commerce & Business Entrepreneurs


Arthur Brooke

Brooke Bond Co Limited - Tea Manufacturers

Arthur Brooke of Brooke Bond Tea Co Ltd

Arthur Brooke, opened his first shop at 29 Market Street, Manchester in 1869 to sell his own brands of sugar, tea and coffee. His products were to become universally known by the name "Brooke Bond", still one of the major names in tea manufacture today. Actually, there never was a Mr Bond - Brooke added it to his name just because he thought it sounded elegant and made his company seem more important. He was born in 1845 in the flat above his father's wholesale tea shop in George Street, Ashton-under-Lyne.
As a young man, Arthur went into the textile trade, but this was short lived as his employer went bankrupt. Therefore, at the age of 24, with �400 saved up, he opened his first shop. Operating on a strictly cash basis, he offered his own packaged blends of tea and coffee at very low prices, and based on a system of rapid turn around of stock. His teas were particularly consistent and soon found favour with the public, and his fair trading impressed local grocers. In 1898 Brooke released his "True Tea" at 10d (ie, 10 Old Pence - about 4p) a pound. Later, his PG Tips Teas were selling nation-wide, with new shops opening in Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford - two further shops opened in London, (but both failed initially).
He married at age 30 and moved to live in Stonebridge Park, Willesden. Decline in the tea industry in the 1870s forced him to sell all of his house, as well as several shops in Scotland. However, the wholesale bulk trade side of the business survived and this was where his fortune was eventually made as major department stores and grocery chains were eager to sell his quality products.
Today, Brooke Bond Teas are part of Van Den Bergh Foods Limited (part of Unilever) and operate a major production factory in Trafford Park. They employ over 3,000 people nation-wide, with 480 based in the Manchester area. Over 200 million Brooke Bond teabags and half a million packets of loose tea are consumed in the United Kingdom every year!

J D Williams

J D Williams & Co - Worldwide Wholesale Warehousing

J D Williams & Co Wholesale Warehousing

Born in 1856 James David Williams set up a wheelbarrow carting business with the princely sum of �13.10 shillings (�13.50) and a small loan in Brackwell near Alpeton, and found, much to his pleasure and surprise, that he earned �10.15 shillings (�10.75) on his very first day. He realised that there was a fortune to be made in delivery, and searched for the most promising base from which to operate. He settled on Manchester as the most rapidly developing centre of commerce. When the Post Office launched it's Parcel Post Service in 1882, JD saw the potential of a letter based or mail order delivery service, and by 1887 he had three delivery "vans" taking parcels to and fro between his base in Manchester's Watling Street and the General Post Office.
In 1888 he bought the premises at 34 Charlotte Street, and in 1907 his first purpose built warehouse was completed in Dale Street. JD Williams became a limited company in 1921, by which time the business had grown so large that JD's four sons were effectively co-running the business.
JD, known as "the Governor" to his employees, died in 1925. In 1963 the company was bought out by Cooper-Taymil Limited, a subsidiary of Alliance Brothers. Other mail order companies were added later, including Quality Post from the Burton Group, Halwins, and the Northern Irish company Aldrex in 1987. Bury Boot & Shoe Company were acquired, as was Whitfords, and the small mail order business of Heather Valley. By the late 1980s the company was publishing specialist clothing catalogues, including "The Special Collection", "Candid" and "Fashion World ". In 1994 a range of women's clothes appeared in "The Classic Collection" .
Today, JD Williams is part of the N Brown Group of Companies whose headquarters are based at 53 Dale Street, Manchester. It is recognised as a Top 200 company with an annual turnover exceeding �300 million, with 5 generations of the descendants of J D Williams having worked in the company.

J J Kearns

Lancashire Dairies

James Kearns of Lancashire Dairies

James J Kearns had begun a small dairy business, selling just 10 gallons (about 45 litres) of milk in the 1880s in St Helens (now in Merseyside, but then in Lancashire). He purchased his milk directly from local farmers, and transported it by donkey cart from house to house, ladling out milk sales to residents.
In the 1850s "clean" milk was a rarity and was a common source of disease. Kearns business steadily grew and he soon had two successful shops in Liverpool Road, St Helens.
Kearns soon moved to Manchester and acquired the Manchester Pure Milk Company with premises in Bradford (district of Manchester). Coincidentally, and as it happens, providentially, a Mancunian named Anthony Hailwood had exhibited bottled, filtered and medicated milk, and in 1894 sterilisation process had been introduced into milk production. By 1894 this so-called "medicated" milk was growing in popularity and in 1898 the foundation was laid for Lancashire Hygienic Dairies when Kearns and several local dairymen formed the company as a collaborative venture.
Several premises were soon in operation, in Bradford and Hulme as well as in Uttoxeter in Staffordshire. Success followed and a new headquarters was set up at 65 Mulberry Street, Hulme to co-ordinate the several dairies. In 1909 cheese factories were acquired in Cheshire and Staffordshire and by 1910, steam delivery wagons were introduced to replace the horse-drawn milk carts. Kearns also developed a "model farm" at Oakfield Road, Ashton-on-Mersey.
By 1927, both pasteurised and sterilised milk was made available to customers, and it had six further dairies - at Sandbach, Miles Platting, Oldham, Ashton and Rochdale, and had become the largest supplier of milk and milk products in the county of Lancashire. In 1954, Handforth's Dairy was acquired to serve the Salford and Eccles areas and in 1957 the Knowsley Street premises were extended to create a new high technology processing and bottling plant.
In 1995 the company introduced "Shake, Rattle & Roll" , the UK's first thick long life milk shake. Today the company has a �100 million annual turnover processing 200 million litres of milk a year for a worldwide market.

Fred Duerr

Duerr's Fruit Preserves and Jam Manufacturers

Fred Duerr, of Duerr's Jams & Preserves

Born in 1848, and originally a leather dresser, by 1880 Duerr had moved on to become a Commission Agent for the grocery trade. Providentially, Duerr at the age of 24, had married Mary Naylor in 1872, and this was to be the start of a long and profitable partnership.
From a small kitchen at their home in Heywood, Mary made jams and marmalades for their own domestic consumption. When Duerr subsequently met with a buyer from Heywood Co-operative Society, and learned that he was having trouble finding a good reliable supplier of jams and preserves, Duerr immediately introduced him to his wife Mary. As there were no real food standards in place, many jams contained fillers to add weight and bulk (including talc, cardboard and wood sawdust - a practice that survived for many years), and jam was notoriously inconsistent and rather questionable in quality and contents. Immediately, the Duerr's were asked if they could supply to the Co-op. Mary did all the cooking and Fred delivered the finished products to Heywood by handcart.
A bank loan soon financed the equipping of a small factory at Guide Bridge in Manchester. Soon the premises were too small and a purpose-built factory was started at Prestage Street in Old Trafford, where the factory still exists in production today.
Duerr, a member of the Manchester Corn Exchange, installed the most up to date, scientific and hygienic equipment and was known for the generous wages paid to his employees. Working conditions and relationships were of the highest quality and works outing were frequently arranged for day trips to Blackpool. In 1914, Duerr was commissioned to provide tinned jams and preserves to the troops in the trenches, and this really established his name on a nation-wide basis. After the Armistice, returning soldiers were eager to buy the jams which had often been the only highlight of otherwise hellish and dangerous existence at the front.
Fortunes have varied from success to near tragedy over the years, but when Kwik Save Supermarkets placed Duerr's jams on their shelves in the 1970s their present success was assured. By the end of the 1980s Duerr's were also manufacturing peanut butter. In 1996 a new large storage warehouse was bought in Wythenshawe.
Today, Duerr's remains very much a family run business and still has three Duerr family members on its board of directors. Duerr's method of bottling preserves in sealed glass jars which he invented have become a generic term for the industry. Duerr's jams, marmalades and preserves now sell in an international market.

Watts, Kendal & Milne

Kendal Milne & Company Department Store

pThomas Kendal, Kendal Milne & Company, Manchester
Thomas Kendal

Though the name of Watts is lesser known, every Mancunian will know of Kendal and Milne through the department store (still on Deansgate) which still bears their name. However, the enterprise began when John Watts, his wife and six sons, were farmers in Burnage, Manchester, who opened a draper's shop in Deansgate. As business expanded Watts took on several partners, including Thomas Kendal, James Milne and Adam Faulkner. Watts' business and commercial holdings in Manchester continued to grow, as did his ownership of properties. His greatest legacy is the Watts Warehouse on Portland Street, which opened at a cost of �100,000 in March 1858, (now the Britannia Hotel). In 1836 Watts sold out his remaining interest in the partnership to the others. James Milne was also to become High Sheriff of Lancashire and Mayor of Manchester, being knighted in 1857. Meantime, Kendal and Faulkner concentrated on developing the business, which they bought out when Milne died in 1862. The business was known from this time on as Kendal, Milne & Company, and now simply as Kendals, part of the House of Fraser Group.

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This page last updated 24 Jan 12.