Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,173 pages of information and 245,641 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


From Graces Guide
December 1928.
January 1929.
September 1930.
May 1931.
April 1933.
November 1933.
March 1945. Rayon.
April 1946. Rayon.
February 1947.
November 1947.
1949. Rayon.
October 1949. Rayon.
November 1950.
1951. Courtaulds Fabrics.
January 1955.


November 1956.
October 1957.
February 1962.
November 1963.
November 1990. Amtico.

of St. Martin's-le-Grand, London, EC1. Telephone: Monarch 8811. Cables: "Courtaulds, Cent., London". Also as Samuel Courtauld and Co of the same address and Lustre Fibres of Foleshill Road, Coventry. (1947)

Courtaulds was a manufacturer of fabric, clothing, artificial fibres, and chemicals.

The Courtauld family was descended from Augustine Courtauld, son of a Huguenot refugee who settled in England in 1685; the family were silversmiths.

1775 George Courtauld (1761-1823), great-grandson of Augustine, was apprenticed to a Spitalfields silk weaver and set up as a silk throwster.

1785 George made the first of a number of trips to America where, in 1789, he married Ruth Minton.

1794 Shortly after their son Samuel's birth, George and Ruth returned to England

1798 George set up in business at a mill at Pebmarsh, Essex, manufacturing silk, crepe and textiles - George Courtauld and Co with his cousin Peter Taylor (1790-1850) - before moving to a larger mill at Bocking. George Courtauld was an enterprising, restless character, temperamentally unsuited to working in a partnership.

1810 Samuel Courtauld was managing his own silk mill in Braintree, Essex.

1814 George Courtauld was granted a patent for an improved spindle

By 1816 Samuel's position, and that of his family, was financially perilous. Samuel set up in business on his own account as a silk throwster in a small mill at Bocking, Essex. His father went back to America, where he died in 1823.

1818,George Courtauld returned to America, leaving Samuel Courtauld and Taylor to expand the business – now known as Courtauld and Taylor – by building further mills in Halstead and Bocking.

George settled in Ohio where he purchased large tracts of land on which he settled some of his family. He inspired all, apparently, except his son Samuel, with his vision of founding a new order of society in Ohio. He was a friend of Robert Owen, also a textile manufacturer who had founded the similar Owenite Settlements. George often wrote to his son Samuel, who was managing and expanding his own silk mills in Braintree, Halstead and Bocking, urging him to give up textiles and come 'to the land of opportunity'. But Samuel did not emigrate and continued steadfastly to expand Courtaulds through subsequent centuries.

1825 Samuel installed a steam engine at the Bocking mill, and then installed power looms at Halstead.

1828 Samuel recruited his brother, George Courtauld II (1802-1861), as partner

His mills remained heavily dependent on young female workers – in 1838, over 92% of his workforce was female.

1849 Recruited, as another partner, fellow Unitarian social reformer Peter Alfred Taylor (1819-1891), the son of Peter Taylor who died the following year.

By 1850, Courtauld employed over 2,000 people in his three silk mills. By this time Courtauld was a very wealthy man but was also suffering from deafness.

A boom in black crape developed in Victorian England as the ritual of mourning was formalized, publicized, and commercialized. Samuel Courtauld and Co did very well out of it, becoming the country's biggest manufacturer of mourning crape. Until crape began to fall from fashion in the 1880s, the partners were regularly earning well over 30 per cent on their capital.

Courtauld planned to spend more time on his country estate Gosfield Hall near Halstead but could not convince himself to retire, and continued to play an active role in the company until just before he died in March 1881, leaving his estate to his 2 adopted children.

1898 Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947), great nephew of Samuel Courtauld, joined the company.

c.1900 Acquired British rights to the viscose process for making "synthetic silk", at the instigation of H. G. Tetley, the joint managing director, who promoted the shift from silk to rayon.

1908 Samuel Courtauld became general manager of all of the textile mills, with the support of H. G. Tetley, the dominant force in the company.

1913 Reconstruction of Samuel Courtauld and Co which was renamed as Courtauld and Co Ltd[1]

1913-39 Annual reports in Coventry Archives[2]

1916 Started production of sulphuric acid, and production of carbon disulphide at Trafford Park factory, to safeguard supplies for fibre production

By 1919 the company was referred to as Courtaulds Ltd.

1921 Samuel Courtauld became chairman of the Courtauld company but is chiefly remembered today as the founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

Courtauld's policy of financial conservatism, with large reserves and a cautious dividend policy, protected the company during the period when many new rayon enterprises were established and then went bust.

William Julien Courtauld was also a benefactor of the arts: he gave artworks to the Essex County Council chamber at Chelmsford and the town hall at Braintree in the 1930s.

1920s Developed cellulose acetate for a new fibre.

1928 Courtaulds started acetate rayon manufacture

Established engineering department to design machines for using new fibres.

1935 A joint venture company, British Cellophane Ltd was formed between La Cellophane SA and Courtaulds when they began building a major factory in Bridgwater, Somerset. This produced thin transparent Cellophane films for packaging.

1936 "The leading manufacturers of men's and women's hosiery, underwear and outerwear continually specify Courtaulds Rayon - the best in the world." [3]

1940 formed British Nylon Spinners jointly with ICI.

1941 American Viscose Co. was sold.

1947 As a result of the sale of American investments, Courtaulds had £45 million in liquid assets; it constructed new factories for nylon in South Wales, for tyre yarn in Cumberland, and others were planned for Dundee and Belfast; North Wales rayon staple plant was being doubled and the rayon fibre plant in Preston was being expanded, plus textile plants in Accrington and Burton-on-Trent[4]

1947 British Industries Fair Advert as Manufacturers of Rayon Yarns, Staple fibre and Rayon Textiles of all descriptions. Distributors Overseas of Rayon Yarns and Staple Fibre: Lustre Fibres, Limited Coventry; Rayon Textiles, Samuel Courtauld and Co. Ltd., London. (Textiles Section - Earls Court, Ground Floor, Stands No. 69 and 74) [5]

1950 Opened a new factory in Carrickfergus to make viscose rayon.

1951 Had developed sufficient knowledge of wood pulp (one of the feedstocks) to develop a new process using eucalyptus; formed supply company in South Africa to safeguard feedstock supplies.

1957 Acquired British Celanese with which the company had common interests in acetic anhydride, acetone, acetic acid and related chemicals

1958 Acquired Cellon Ltd in order to access its experience in colouring of materials, especially relevant to Cellophane.

1959 Courtaulds acquired National Plastics, and Gossard (Holdings) Ltd which extended the company's experience in using its fibres[6].

By 1960 Courtaulds had acquired Pearlite Box, Reads and Betts and Co to expand its experience in packaging[7].

1960 As part the company's diversification into the paint industry, acquired Pinchin, Johnson and Associates Ltd[8]. Had also acquired rights to process for making caprolactam, a feedstock for nylon.

1961 Courtaulds acquired British Enka Artificial Silk Co[9]

1961 ICI made (what was then) Britain's largest take-over bid for Courtaulds[10] but the bid was not accepted by sufficient Courtaulds' shareholders[11]

1962 Courtaulds returned to its plans for reorganising the textile industry[12]. The company has said that by the early 1960s it was becoming increasingly apparent to it that the provisions of the Cotton Industry Act 1959 were insufficient to ensure the future and strength of all sectors of the textile industry; new capital and management were needed to achieve re-equipment and re-organisation into the different and more stream-lined groups essential if the industry was to become economically viable.

In the autumn of 1962, Courtaulds conceived a plan which it called its Northern Project; it entered into negotiations with five major textile groups, namely -

It was at first envisaged that Courtaulds would acquire the five companies but this was later modified to a scheme whereby the five would exchange their existing shares for shares in a new joint company and Courtaulds would buy shares in the new company by providing relatively large amounts of cash to finance re-equipment. The Board of Trade were informed of the intended re-grouping.

Between December 1962 and April 1963 Courtaulds, ICI, and the five textile companies concerned, together examined the Northern Project in detail, but a financial agreement was not reached.

1963 As part of their joint policy to strengthen the textile industry by vertical integration, ICI and Courtaulds contributed £10 million to English Sewing Cotton Co to enable that company to bid for Tootal and, soon after, acquired a 10 percent interest in Carrington and Dewhurst, spinners and weavers of man-made fibres[13]

1963 With a number of builders merchants, Courtaulds set up Celanese Building Components to encourage greater use of plastics in the building industry[14]

1963 Acquired Bairns-Wear.[15]

1964 ICI and Courtaulds went their own ways - ICI acquired British Nylon Spinners and Courtaulds carried on with another nylon range.[16]

1964 Courtaulds acquired the whole of the equity capital of Lancashire Cotton Corporation and Fine Spinners and Doublers, thereby becoming the owner of 30% of the spinning capacity of the Lancashire textile industry.

1964 Exchange of subsidiaries with Thomas Tilling: Courtaulds acquired Spray and Burgass, dyers and finishers of Nottingham; Tillings acquired J. Walton (Electrical), a subsidiary of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation[17]

1965 The British Enka factory at Aintree was re-developed for use by another Courtaulds subsidiary, Pinchin, Johnson and Associates[18]

1966 Announced the closure of:[19]

1967 Announced the closure of:[20]

1968 Courtaulds offered to make a bid for International Paints under attack from Dufay[21]. Courtauld's bid, from its subsidiary Pinchin, Johnson and Associates was successful[22]; the companies became part of a new company, International Paint Company, 83 percent owned by Courtaulds[23]

1974 Produced a booklet to introduce engineers to the range of applications for carbon fibre.[24]

1976 Announced the closure of its Skelmersdale weaving mill.[25]

1978 Sold its American cotton farming subsidiary Delta Pine Lands, of Mississippi.[26]

1979 Sold its Accrington Brick and Tile Co subsidiary to George Armitage and Sons. [27]

1980 Announced the closure of seven mills in its Northern Spinning Division:[28]

1985 Considered splitting the textiles from the paints and coatings businesses but, instead, made management changes along these lines.

1986 Sold the South African pulp interests.

1989 Announced plans to undo the 1960s mergers by splitting off the textiles business into a separate company. The Courtaulds business would concentrated on marine and decorative paints, cellophane and film, cellulosic fibre, acetates, non-woven fabrics, and composite materials[29]

1990 Announced the closure of:[30]

1990 Demerged Courtaulds Textiles as a separate listed company supplying, amongst other customers, Marks and Spencer with lingerie[31]

1998 Settled a 5-year dispute with Lenzing of Austria about a new, breathable fibre which Courtaulds called Tencel; both companies used a process licensed from Akzo-Nobel to extract cellulose from wood pulp; Courtaulds and Lenzing agreed to a cross-licencing arrangement. Courtaulds was building a plant at Grimsby to make Tencel[32]

1998 The company planned to split itself in two in order to boots the share price; the fibres and chemicals business would continue under the Courtaulds name; the coatings and sealants business would probably be spun off under a name such as International Coatings[33]

1998 Courtaulds would close it Water Soluble Polymers business, having sold some of the assets of the business to Dow Chemical; the main product, Celacol, had been obtained in the acquisition of British Celanese[34]

1998 Akzo-Nobel made an agreed bid for the company; the share price had already responded very positively to rumours of the approach; Akzo-Nobel indicated that it would spin off the combined fibres and textile businesses of the 2 companies, headed by Gordon Campbell of Courtaulds[35]

1998 Courtaulds Textiles won exclusive rights to the Courtaulds brand name after Akzo-Nobel changed the name of Courtaulds to Akzo-Nobel[36]

Plans announced by Akzo-Nobel to hive off the combined fibres business in a new company Acordis in 1999. Also announced management buyout of plastics and packaging businesses in the UK, previously part of Courtaulds Packaging, as Betts, based in Colchester.[37]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times Mar 03, 1913
  2. National Archives
  3. The Textile Manufacturer Year Book 1936. Published by Emmott and Co. Advert on p8
  4. The Times, Jan 01, 1947
  5. 1947 British Industries Fair Advert 456; and p71
  6. The Times, 21 July 1960
  7. The Times, 21 July 1960
  8. The Times, 21 July 1960
  9. The Times Nov 14, 1961
  10. The Times, December 19, 1961
  11. The Times , March 10, 1962
  12. The Times March 16, 1962
  13. The Times, Jun 22, 1963
  14. The Times Oct. 29, 1963
  15. Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 20 June 1963
  17. The Times, Nov 26, 1964
  18. The Times, Oct 08, 1965
  19. Liverpool Daily Post, November 19, 1966
  20. The Times, July 7, 1967
  21. The Times, Jun 20, 1968
  22. The Times, Aug 03, 1968
  23. The Times, Aug 07, 1968
  24. The Engineer 1974/08/15
  25. The Times, October 29, 1976
  26. The Times, October 13, 1978
  27. The Times, August 17, 1979
  28. The Times, August 30, 1980
  29. The Times, October 31, 1989
  30. The Scotsman, May 26, 1990
  31. The Times September 11, 1998
  32. The Times, January 8, 1998
  33. The Times , February 26, 1998
  34. The Times , March 18, 1998
  35. The Times, April 21, 1998
  36. The Times September 11, 1998
  37. The Times November 28, 1998
  • Biography of Samuel Courtauld, ODNB [3]
  • Biography of Samuel Courtauld, ODNB [4]