Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Ayrton, Saunders and Co

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Bismuth Indigestion Tablets.
New Slipper Bed Pan. (Image: © Chris Iles – Friends of Williamson Tunnels.)

of Liverpool, wholesale druggists.

1868 Established by A. H. Saunders (d. 1889), a retired partner in a firm of wholesale chemists in Walworth Road, London, when he was approached by a Liverpool doctor and Deputy Coroner, F. Ayrton, with a view to establishing a pharmaceutical manufacturing business.

Ayrton played little active part after a few years.

1886 Dr. F. Ayrton retired.

1888 Saunders' two sons H. G. Saunders (d. 1909) and W. H. Saunders became partners and the business prospered.

1903 The company absorbed Henry Gilbertson and Sons Ltd of London (established 1790), and W. H. Kemp and Sons of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Incorporated as a Limited Company Ayrton, Saunders & Kemp Ltd

1908 The name Kemp was dropped. The firm manufactured the usual pharmaceutical lines and had an especially energetic export policy (associated with the extensive travels of W. H. Saunders), and very high-class art work in their sales literature.

1914 Wholesale Druggists. Also Druggists' Sundriesmen, Surgical Instrument Makers, Dealers in Medical Glass. Are Glass Blowers, Wood Turners, Box Makers, Cabinet Makers, Perfumers, Linseed Meal Crushers, Elastic Stocking Makers.

WWI premises were opened in Duke Street to house new chemical laboratories and, as a separate concern, a factory making cardboard boxes. Other specialities included a highly homogenised "cod liver oil emulsion", dyestuffs, surgical instruments, and instant tea.

By 1920 the firm was employing 1000 staff.

1982 The firm became Ayrton, Saunders & Co. plc and now has a large overseas market for its own branded specialities, while in Britain it is a wholesaler to many retail pharmacists in the North West and Midlands.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Archives of the British chemical industry, 1750-1914: a handlist. By Peter J. T. Morris and Colin A. Russell. Edited by John Graham Smith. 1988.