Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 137,482 pages of information and 221,873 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of East Street, Bedminster, Bristol.
1901 The Imperial Tobacco Company was created through the amalgamation of thirteen British tobacco and cigarette companies compromising W. D. and H. O. Wills of Bristol (the leading manufacturer of the time), John Player and Sons (Player's) of Nottingham and 11 other independent family businesses, which were being threatened by competition from the United States in the form of James Buchanan Duke and his American Tobacco Company. The company was registered on 10 December to amalgamate various businesses of tobacco manufacturers. 
The company's first Chairman was William Henry Wills of the Wills Company. Subsequently the smaller companies in the group including Lambert and Butler, William Clarke and Son, Franklyn Davey, Edwards Ringer, J. and F. Bell and F. and J. Smith were absorbed by the larger, with Wills and Players eventually emerging as the UK market leaders.
1902 The then Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company agreed to form a joint venture; the British-American Tobacco Company Ltd. The parent companies agreed not to trade in each other's domestic territory and to assign trademarks, export businesses and overseas subsidiaries to the joint venture.
1911 American Tobacco sold its share but Imperial maintained an interest in British American Tobacco until 1980.
1960 Invested in the Golden Wonder Crisp Co of Edinburgh.
1964 As a prelude to further diversification, the company was split into 4 divisions:
1964 Acquired a 75 percent interest in Anselm Holdings, a group of companies making plastic products
1967 Acquired H. P. Sauce, maker of sauces and pickles, as well as canned beans and other foods.
1969 Acquired Ross Group, maker of frozen food, poultry, shellfish and processed vegetable products.
1969 Formed Motoross, operators of motorway service stations
1969 Formation of new subsidiary, Smedley Ross Foods, to handle the frozen foods business of its newly acquired Smedley and Ross businesses
1973 Having become increasingly diversified (restaurant chains, food services and brands, distribution etc), Imperial Tobacco Company became the Imperial Group Limited, later Imperial Group PLC.
1978 Acquired Eastwood Thompson
1980 Acquired Howard Johnson
1981 Acquired Happy Eater
1986 The company was acquired by the conglomerate Hanson Trust, at a price of £2.5 billion. Hanson undertook a major reorganisation of the company; divestments netted £2.3 billion, leaving Hanson with the hugely profitable tobacco business for "next to nothing."