West Ham & River Lea

John Knights Silvertown


caution !! this is an initial draft ...

I keep these notes on my server so I don't lose them !!




Knights Castile

Knight's Castile Toilet Soap, John Knights of Silvertown and West Ham & the River Lea might seem strange subjects for research notes but this trio nicely linked the threads running through our own work at Unilever and our study of great grandfather Edward Hindley. Edward was 'in the business' and met the same opportunities & problems associated with rural rivers during the industrial revolution at The Weaver Refining Company, Acton Bridge.

Opportunities & problems which have distorted judgments & clouded reputations about health & poverty in the cities ... and led to two other of our fascinations ... the immense contributions of Cheshire Cheese & Humble Hogs of West Ham to the  success of the industrial revolution ... which ... together with beer drinking have fed endless hours of our fun!  

On 10 October 1670 our maternal g-g-g-g-g-g-g Great Uncle William Gandy (1625-1683) shipped 30 tons of Cheshire Cheese on the 'Ann of Brighton' from a new fangled warehouse at Sutton Weaver to London. In this way the Agricultural Revolution in rural Cheshire helped to feed the burgeoning City of London and ignighted the Industrial Revolution.

In 1842 in American Notes Charles Dickens, in his inimitable way, ridiculed the contribution of the urban pig to our history of the industrial revolution but he was on the button.

... story of urban pigs merits a page of its own?


West Ham River LeaWest Ham Industrialisation   

There were three spurs to industrial developments over the ancient Bow Bridge on the West Ham flood plains and the Back Rivers of the Lea -

1839 Eastern Counties Railway - Stratford Station & Great Eastern depot & works and access to the rail network

1844 Metropolitan Building Act - restricted noxious industries from the metropolitan area, bounded by the River Lea

1855 Victoria & Albert Docks - the Royal Docks and access to ocean transport ... and cheap coal

'Chemicals and processes, factory after factory were erected on the marshy wastes of Stratford and it only required the Building Act and the construction of the railways and docks to make the once desolate parish of rural West Ham a manufacturing and commercial centre of the first importance and to bring upon it a teeming and an industrious population'.

West Ham population in 1801 - 6,500 ... and in 1901 - 300,000 ... equals more shelters, more potable water and more sh1t ... wot was going on was obvious to hindsight and to history as writ?

Bow BridgeIdyllic Straford, West Ham & Plaistow became sewers and poverty traps.

Folk moved to West Ham because thats where the jobs were. But marsh land & flooding, overcrowding & jerry builds ... happenings were not propitious from day one ... but jobs were much better than the alternative ... and the idyllic past no longer existed. The smaller companies quickly thrived on the water transport, coal energy ... and 'free' disposal of obnoxion. Marsh land was cheap but had its drawbacks ... flooding was perpetual. Health, environment, education and social interactions suffered something rotten. The metropolitan 'powers that be' had written the new law of the land and kicked obnoxion out of the City so instinctively the suffering folk looked to the independent 'powers that be' in West Ham for deliverence.

Inevitably there were fiscal challenges. Pushing obnoxtion to the otherside of the River Lea didn't seem to cut the mustard. Coal & rivers solved one problem to create another. Technology solutions cost big money. There was no free lunch. The record of Municiple interventions did little to the alleviate ecological damage in East London.

There were notable milestones in the harnessing of the valuable River Lea as a sewer -

Watermills - Langethorne Abbey until the 1535 dissolution, gated tidal reservoires to power milled grain, then oilseed & gunpowder

1750 some silk weavers from Spitalfields were replaced by water hungry calico pinters

1760 the Limehouse Cut provided water borne access to the City. The first navigable canal to be dug in London and was one of the earliest canals in England. It opened in 1770. At that time most of the area was rural in character. The Limehouse Cut was dug as a short cut between River Lea at Bromley in the east to the River Thames at Limehouse in the west.

1850 the Lea was repurposed for coal transport rather than water power

1854 John Snow trumped cholera 

1858 'Great Stink' led to the fabulous 1860 Thames Embankment & sewer which did the job & more in the metropolis but did nowt for east of the Lea 

1888 girls at Bryant & May in Bow went on strike, the same year as Willie Lever opened up in rural Wirral and built his superb salubrious model village in Port Sunlight 

1892 Trades Unions & Keir Hardie responded to the intolerable social conditions by blaming the incumbent greedy monopolists for the water shortage ... and lavished promised pipe dreams ... from laissez faire liberalism to interventionist socialism was on a roll 

1898 Labour sweep to victory in West Ham local elections

1900 the Lea was overwhelmed ... too little water, to much silt, sh1t & waste ... and much of the obnoxion always seemed to be inherited from upstream ... the small factories were in trouble as larger ones went to Silvertown to avoid trans shipment of coal

1902 the water monopolists were nationalised ... and why stop at the water problem what about wages, jobs, rates, trams, lighting, sweat, houses, sub contracting, markets ... bakeries ... after all health & happiness were now 'entitlements'? The hubris of nationalisation took hold in West Ham.    

Crisis! The headlines & blame games raged as one damn enquiry after another embassassingly reported their platitudes and apple pies but no solutions ... all the interventions, squabbles and disagreements over miasmics, zymotics & germs had come to nought.

Folk suffered ... water, flooding & filth; ague. Folk blamed lack of Bazalgette intervention, had not the Great Exhibition proved that London was the global leader in science & technology ... no need for torts and gains from trade; Uber Alles? But was it not intervention & the expulsion of obnoxion in 1844 that was the start of it all? Perhaps it wasn't regulation that solved the problem in the City perhaps it was the embankment technology? Praise be to Bazalgette and his monstrous sewers.

Throughout the catastrophe cheap soap was a boon, but soap manufacture was not fully costed? Was this the tradegdy of the commons? There was no free lunch, no one could regulate away honest folk who needed to shelter & needed to defecate ... this reality & fiction was to be repeated all over the globe in filthy shanty towns everywhere.

It seemed there was one persistent truth; social conditions were reflected in environmental conditions. And the path to typhoid, diptheria, dysentry & cholera was not via foul stenches but rather the fecal-oral route but as usual the experts disagreed and the politicias made hay. West Ham was bad and significantly the low lying south west was real bad news while prosperous noth east Forest Hill much better ... something had to be done now now. Before the science of germs was understood some progress on the priority of infant mortality was made as Public Health Officers helped with the obvious; drainage & waste disposal and then thru education; breastfeeding and soap ... cleanliness was next to godliness.

River Lea & Back Rivers became a coal & water 'in route' and a sh11t & wastes 'out route' for the factory boom from 1844 - 1904. Good for small factories but bad for scale and as the crisis deepened the larger industries decamped ... and longer term deindustrialisation and population decline set in. As the economics changed so too jobs were lost ... and unemployment was added the list of woes. Business cycles, seasonal labour, casual labour, trade obsolescence, unskilled manuals ... same old tragedies ... same demand for non-exstent money to be thrown at the problem?

It was never for the want of trying ... but slowly some folk began to whisper quietly about moral hazard ... and wot about East Ham? ... and would Newham be the answer? Who decides 'deserving' and 'undeserving'? Who pays for the grandiose schemes to repopulate the idyllic countryside ... and build Heronry Lake? Some one else would pay ... but always the money was spent before the funds arrived. Canalisation of the Lea and back rivers was too ambitious ... and impossible, the mill and property owners were against such a crazy proposal.

 The economic dynamism of West Ham was lost. Willie Lever picked up the old soap makers for a song and supplied London with quality soaps from Port Sunlight.

There can be no doubt that industrialisation did great damage to the environment during the second half of the 19th century. But it also created the wealth which enabled advanced societies to build better sanitation facilities and spurred an enlightened populace with a historically unprecedented concern over the environment and a hope that higher taxation would pay for public stewardship.

Fast-forward to 2012 and The Olympic Games and 2015 when the Beeb reported 'more than 2,000 seals have been spotted in the Thames over the past decade ... along with hundreds of porpoises and dolphins and even the odd stray whale ... there are now 125 species of fish in the Thames, up from almost none in the 1950's. Similarly, average concentrations of suspended particulate matter in London rose from 390 in 1800 to a peak of 623 in 1891, before falling to 16 micrograms per cubic meters in 2016.
Today, air in the capital of the United Kingdom ranks as one of the cleanest among the world’s major cities.

The required solution to the woes & wretchedness of West Ham came with success of the 2012 Olympic Games ... and then in 2021 The Hammers made Europe!

All done without the help of the urban hog ... but at wot cost to the poverty stricken poor?

... or was there another story to tell, some alternative facts, about the unrecorded contribution of the urban pigs?


Soap InnovationOne of the noxious industries identified by the Metropolitan Building Act in 1844 was the soap boilers. Now soapmaking was close to our hearts ... in 1968 we manufactured luxurious sparkling white Knight's Castile Toilet Soap at Port Sunlight ... and cleanliness was next to godliness?

In 1854 The Art of Manufacturing Soaps reviewed the latest technology of the time and confirmed the spate of innovative variety going on in these apparently mundane manufactories.

 Around this time the industrial sites on the lower Lea were enthusiastically occupied. Pudding Mill, High Street and Marshgate Lane became established areas for industry bent on production and innovation.

By the Lea, after the old-established cornmills, breweries, distilleries, calico printing with dye-works and associated chemicals, there followed extensive engineering establishments and after 1844 the noxious refugees from The City. All intimately involved with the vagiaries of water, transport, coal and waste disposal.

 By the late 19th century the area was defined by variety ... wharfs, porcelain, jute spinning mills, printing inks, aniline colours, varnishes, soaps, candles, oils, greases, creosotes, bone boilers, glues, paraffin, coprolite, nitro-phosphate, gas & tars, oil, timber, chemicals, vestas & matches, power, nucleonics, gunpowder, guano and other artificial manures ... an endless variety and more ... all of an equally unfragrant & insalubrious character? 

In this way early bone works and soap works were joined by a conglomeration of chemicals ... and their filthy wastes.


Some of the fascinations of industrial West Ham -

Bow Porcelain 1747Bow Porcelain - the factory was active from 1747 at Bell Road, St Leonard's Street, Bromley in what is now the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It rivalled the Chelsea porcelain factory in the manufacture of early porcelain in Great Britain. Bow Porcelain was the first so called soft-paste production in the country. The soft paste included bone ash, and Bow products were made by pressing the paste into moulds, rather than the poured slipcasting used at Chelsea.
By 1749 the business had moved from Bow to New Canton, a new factory on the Essex side of the River Lea, close to Bow Bridge, just west of Stratford High Street and beside Bow Back River. The factory was first to make bone china.
Bow and the Essex bank became a centre for slaughter & butchery of cattle & pigs for the City market. The piggeries thrived on the mash residue produced by the gin mills at Three Mills and readily supplied animal bones for local entrepreneurs Thomas Frye & Edward Heylyn who developed a mix of ground bones with clay to create a form of fine porcelain which rivaled the best from abroad.
 Bow appears to have been the largest English factory of its period. In 1758, the manufactory's high point, 300 persons were employed, 90 of whom were painters, all under one roof. After about 1760, quality declined, as more English factories opened, and the dependence on Chelsea models increased, perhaps aided by an influx of Chelsea workers after 1763, as production in Chelsea declined.
The factory which has been extensively researched closed in 1774-76 and moved to Derby.


John Barber & Son - pig dealers & fat contractors, 68 High Street & Marshgate Lane Kellys 1890 ... our mind boggles ... who were these guys with urban pigs, fat & bones ... for sure producers of a wealth of raw materials for customers and in the centre of the problems floods and wastes graphically described in The Engineer in 1859 as new technology encroached on the 'idyllic' farming life of the past -

'The main drainage works at West Ham are progressing but less rapidly than could have been wished, partly from the weather, the nature of the soil and the depth of the cuttings, which in several instances have necessitated the shoring up of buildings. Several land springs have been discovered, 10 ft or 20ft from the surface which have materially interferred with the progress of the works. Mr Cutts, an Essex Farmer, recently threw open for inspection his connected farmery, an extensive building constructed from designs by Mr F Chancellor of Chelmsford, at a cost, including the machinery it contained of £3,000. The farmery comprises a steam engine of 12 horse power, which at the time of inspection was cutting chaff on the loft, grinding bean and barley meal for the stock with two pairs of stones, working the pulper of mangold wursel, throwing water into a tank which contains 4,000 gallons and conveying it thence to the cattle yard and stables. At times the same engine threshes all the corn and as occasion may require, works a powerful circular saw mill at a bench capable of dividing with the utmost facility large trees into convenient steed boards. At the end of the yard next to the piggery is a steaming apparatus, in which the food is steamed for cattle and pigs and from which, when required, two iron trucks are filled and started on the tram or rail roads which traverse the interior of the building in each direction to take the food to the bullock yards, sheep yards and piggeries' 

We don't know much about John Barber & Son but we do know he was in the middle of happenings with the urban pig ...


Thames Iron WorksThe Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company Limited - founded in 1837 by shipwright Thomas J Ditchburn & engineer Charles John Mare as Ditchburn & Mare Shipbuilding Company. Originally at Deptford but after a fire destroyed their yard the company moved to Orchard Place in 1838, between the East India Dock Basin and Bow Creek. They took over the premises of the defunct shipbuilders William & Benjamin Wallis. The shipyard and iron works straddled the mouth of Bow Creek at its confluence with the Thames, at Blackwall on the west side and at Canning Town on the east side.
From 1847 the company grew considerably and purchased land on the Canning Town side of the River Lea, a ferry service being established between the two sites, as shipbuilding diversified into civil engineering, marine engines, cranes, electrical engineering and even motor cars.
The firm did well and within a few years occupied three sites covering an area of over 14 acres.
HMS WarriorThe company produced iron work for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge over the Tamar in the 1850s.  was the world's first all-iron warship. Launched October 1861, Warrior was the largest, fastest, most heavily armed and most heavily armoured warship in the world.

The HammersIn 1895 employees at the Thames Ironworks formed a works football team, Thames Ironworks Football Club.

This illustrious football team was later grandly renamed West Ham United, whose emblem of the crossed hammers represented the massive riveting hammers used in the shipbuilding trade.

'The Hammers' moved to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.


In the 1850-60s reclamation began on the central section of land within Pudding Mill. The rebuilding of the bank of Pudding Mill River in 1869 allowed occupation of the central part of the site. By the late 19th century Marshgate Lane was exclusively devoted to industries with noxious properties. Industries listed included -

William Eddington Bone Works -

 Benjamin Iles & Co Colour Works,

Alfred Jeffries Rope Works, Brush Works and

John Barber Pig Dealer

T H Harris & Sons

Oil Works 

The majority of the industrial site was occupied at this point. Early industries remained, such as the Soap Works and Wharves, these were joined by

Crown Chemical Works, glue manufacture, the

New Imperial Saw Mills and

Vulcan Wharf Oil Works.


Richie & Sons Jute Factory - decamped in


Howard & Sons - fine chemicals & drugs, bleach & sulphuric acid - manufacturing chemists Kellys 1906


Match GirlsBryant & May - match factory in Fairfield Road,  Bow.
1843 - Company founded by William Bryant and Francis May, to trade in general merchandise.
1850 - They entered into a relationship with the Swedish match maker Johan Edvard Lundström to capture part of the market of the 250 million matches used in Britain each day. In 1850 the company sold 231,000 boxes; by 1855 this had risen to 10.8 million boxes and to 27.9 million boxes in 1860.
1884 - Became a publicly-listed company.
1861 - Relocated the business to a three-acre site, on Fairfield Road, Bow, East London. The original building, an old candle factory, was demolished and a new factory was built in the mock-Venetian style popular at the time. The factory was heavily mechanised and included twenty-five steam engines to power the machinery.
1888 - London Matchgirls' Strike. The strike was caused by the poor working conditions in the match factory, including fourteen-hour work days, poor pay, excessive fines, and the severe health complications of working with phosphorus and was sparked by the dismissal of one of the workers on or about 2 July 1888. Social activist Annie Besant became involved in the situation with her friend Herbert Bryant & May 1911Burrows and published an article in her halfpenny weekly paper The Link on 23 June 1888. This angered the Bryant & May management who tried to get their workforce to sign a paper contradicting it, which they refused to do. This led to the dismissal of a worker (on some other pretext), which set off the strike, with approximately 1,400 women and girls refusing to work by the end of the first day.
1901 - As a result of the strike, and competition from other natch producers (including the Salvation Army), the company announced that their factory no longer used white phosphorus, something reinforced in law when, in 1908 the House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches after 31 December 1910.
1979 - Work moved to Liverpool leaving the Bow factory abandoned.
1988 - The Bow factory was redeveloped as apartments, becoming one of East London's first urban renewal projects.
2012 - The Spark Catchers artwork, in the North of the Park, commemorates the matchgirls' strike.


Spratts Patent Limited - dog food factory which occupied 6 orange-red brick warehouses on the south bank of the canal. The site has an interesting history. In the 1860s it was used as market gardens. From 1873 to 1886 the Post Office directory records a Charles Sevin operating Palm Nut Oil Mills on the site. In 1887 nothing is recorded for the location, then in 1888 the entry reads: Dry Grain Co Ltd, Sevin Charles, merchant. The site was subsequently taken over by Spratts and by the early 20th century this was the biggest dog food factory in the world.


Beckton Gas Works - on the Thames was the largest in the world - Bromley Gasworks - inferior technology and transhipment of coal via barges. Gas, Light & Coke Company bought out Imperial Gas Company. There was an enconomic advantage for smaller factories up the Lea but Silvertown was better for larger units that could avoid trans shipment.


East London Soap WorksEdward Cook & Co - early history of the company goes back to the towns of Norwich and Lynn where two soap works existed during the 1700s. Kellys 1906
Edward Cook experimented in his laboratories to produced fine quality soap from edible fats and the ashes gathered from suitable plants gathered on the Sicilian and Spanish Coasts. By 1801 Edward Cook had two soap works, in Norwich and in Lynn. In 1820 the family acquired the soap works of Mr Darby at 23 Bankside, Southwark and came to London to make 'Cooks Primrose Soap' and Lasso. In 1831 Edward Cook senior died and the business moved to Goodman's Yard, Minories under the title John & Edward Cook. The business had been steadily improving. These premises were sold in 1857 to the London and Blackwall Railway Company for the extension of Fenchurch Street Station. During 1859 the new soap works opened at Bow on the River Lea and was popularly known as 'The Soapery' ... East London Soap Works, High Street, Stratford - soap, tallow and fertilizers.

Edward Cook Greasy Hands'Cooks of London', as it was also known, were early users of the Leblanc process,became synonymous with several brands of both soap and disinfectants during the nineteenth century. During the 1860s and 1870s Cooks had enjoyed success in the UK soap market with Cook's Primrose Soap which became one of the most popular brands of household soap. The firm secured appointments to the King, the War Office and Admiralty. Cook's Primrose Soap won a variety of medals at various exhibitions including the only gold Medal at the International Paris Exhibition 1889 and became known as 'Cook's Gold Medal Primrose Soap'. Other soap brands included 'Throne' toilet soap, a perfumed soap and Cook's 'Cutaneous' soap. They also enjoyed popularity with another branded product called 'Lasso', a hand cleaner designed to remove grease and antibacterial tooth soap. Other brand names included - Cook's Riviera Soap - Cook's Cold Cream & Oatmeal Soap - Cook's Hygienic Tooth Soap - Cook's Savon de Luxe - Cook's Lightning Cleanser.
LassoCooks are often remembered for producing one of the very first antiseptic soaps. Asepso was developed by the company in London in the 19th century. It was one of the very first antiseptic soaps invented that soon became synonymous with alleviating skin infections and reducing bacteria on the skin. More importantly, with its growing popularity in tropical areas in the 1900s, it became known for the alleviation of the effects of prickly heat and became popular in the Far East. They also produced 'Cofectant' (Cook's Disinfectant Fluid) which was deemed the most effective of the disinfectants available on the open market in a report on the standardisation of disinfectants made by The Lancet in 1909.
The history of Edward Cook & Co was detailed in their published company history - 'Soap: its History and Connection with the House of Cooks, London (1915)'.

In 1898 the company was incorporated to acquire the business carried on by Edward Cook & Company. During 1906, due to a sudden rise in the cost of raw materials, several large soap manufacturers joined together to form a Soap Trust or Combine, of which W H Lever was the main instigator. Edward Cook joined the Soap Trust on 25 September 1906. The aim of the trust was to combine different soap companies ... at the same time the price of soap increased and the size of bars of soap decreased! The press was hostile towards the combine and accused the soap manufacturers of chicanery. Lever was portrayed in the press as a repulsive and odious figure. The soap combine broke up weeks later and Lever Brothers suffered serious losses.

Edward Cook & Company Limited was acquired by Lever Brothers in 1910. The company closed between 1946-1951.

Edward Cook & Co were taken over in 1936 by T H Harris & Sons, Marshgate Lane, 1873 - soap. 1929 a subsidiary of Unilever.

Edward Cook - 'The Lea is our highway, that and the railway that runs into our own siding, though we find sufficient road work to justify us in keeping 50 horses and vans in constany use. Steam crane hoist the material onto the wharf and a system of rails serves to bear it to any part of the works. The taollow and fats used in soapmaking however find their way by a steam lift to the top of the main factory where they are started on their evoutionary journey'.


F J Hunt & Co - founded in 1820 soap manufacturers of famous Brown Windsor and White Windsors soaps based at the Bow Bridge Soap Works, Sratford. Advertising their extensive portfolio in 1882.
1896 Kellys Directory locates Cooks and Hunts resolving any confusion  see 1893 map
High Street, Stratford Bow Bridge to Broadway -
north side ... Cooks Road goes north off the high street ... Cook Edward & Co, soap manufacturer
south side ... Hunts Lane goes south off the high street ... Hunt Frederick James & Co (Bow Bridge soap works) and Hunt Jared Terret & Son, bone merchants (Bow Bridge works).
Hunt Frederick James & Co - soap manufacturers Kellys 1906 Bow Bridge Soap Works, High Street
Hunt Jared Terret & Son - animal charcoal manufacturers Bow Bridge Works, High street
F J Hunt & Co Limited was incorporated 2 July 1912 and taken over by Edward Cook & Co one of the associated companies of Lever Brothers, upon acquisition it was converted into a private company with a capital of £1,000.
Geo Hearn & Co another London soap maker was also acquired by Lever Brothers in the same year.


Imp T H HarrisT H Harris & Sons Marshgate Lane were Soap Makers, Tallow Melters and Bone Boilers from Stratford, London. Established in 1829 by Thomas Horatio Harris and Edward William Lilley.
1914 Principals: Arthur Harris, Alec Samuel Harris, Booth Harris (jun.), and Leopold Harris (since 1911). The works cover nearly three acres, with 500 feet frontage to the City Mill.
Incorporated 19 October 1918 (company number 151714) - 'To acquire and take over as a going concern the business of soap makers, tallow melters and bone boilers now carried on at Marsh Gate Lane, under the style of T H Harris & Sons ...'. Also owners of two subsidiary companies the Jolly Boy Company, incorporated 1917, and the Sanagen Soap Company, incorporated 1919, acquired in 1920.
Bought by the African Eastern Co, by 1924 and held 50% of the soap trade in West Africa. In 1929 the African and Eastern Trade Corporation Ltd transferred the holding in T H Harris & Sons Ltd to Lever Brothers.
T H Harris & Sons left West Ham in 1952 and amalgamated with John Knights.The Stratford factory was closed and production was moved to John Knights, Silvertown. T H Harris continued at the Bow site which was leased from Edward Cook.


Cockman Bros & Co - tallow melters, in business since 1905 ... Heron Industrial Estate ... Kellys 1906 70 High Street and Barbers Road

John Wilton, Stratford Broadway, and later Carpenters Road, 1839–96, candles.

James Palmer, Warton Road 1876–1939, candles and later also soap.

Vinolia Baby SoapVinolia Co - soap refiners and makers of Twinko, Vinolia and shaving products. Vinolia Works, Malden Crescent, London & Carpenters Road, Stratford.
1888 business founded, carried on business as Blondeau et Cie, Ryland Road, London N W
1898 Private limited company.
John Wilton Candle Co 1839-1896 became Vinolia in 1898 who marketed their soaps as Blondeau et Cie. The works was closed in 1907 and taken over by Lever Bros. The name ‘VINOLIA’ was painted on the end wall of a building to mark the Vinolia Soap Works here from 1898-1907 when they moved to Port Sunlight. Somehow the name survived two wars!
1899 Issue of shares in the public limited company Vinolia Co Ltd was planned to add to the soap making business to the 'refining' business and the making of its own products for sale.
1906 The ordinary shares of the company were bought by Lever Brothers as part of a plan for amalgamation in the soap industry.
Vinolia Co - soap manufacturers Kellys 1906 Warton Road and Carpenters Road


Odams Chemical Manure Co, North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, 1855, James Odams, originally to make manure from liquid blood. The earliest firm specializing in fertilizers. Odams secured a supply of raw material by opening a slaughterhouse, adjoining his factory, for cattle imported through the Victoria Docks. The firm was taken over in 1920 by the neighbouring AngloContinental Guano Works Ltd.

 AngloContinental, originally Ohlendorff & Co, had been founded in 1873, and remained a German company until the First World War, when it was reconstituted under British control. Taken over in 1937 by Fisons Ltd and closed in 1946.
AngloContinental were making their own sulphuric acid for use in superphosphates. From the 1880s fertilizers were closely linked with sulphuric acid.

 Gibbs, Bell & Co, of Victoria Docks, appears to have started as a vitriol manufacturer about 1862 and to have extended the business to fertilizers by 1866. Probably the predecessor of James Gibbs & Co, later Gibbs Fertilizers Ltd, which apparently ceased c1939.

Frederick S Hempleman & Co, Abbey Lane, later Crows Road, 1866, manure works. Slower to abandon the old blood boiling processes. Survived until about 1912.

J T Hunt & Son, now Hunt's Animal Products, High Street, Stratford, 1868. Escaped from the by law restrictions at Lambeth. Hunt's products included superphosphats, bone meal, and also, from c1883, animal charcoal.

Harrison, Barber & Co, Forest Gate c1886, manure and glue manufacturer. Sugar House Lane, Stratford, 1890. Now part of the Smithfield Zwanenberg Group Ltd.

Alfred JefferyAlfred Jeffery & Co, Marine Glue Manufacturers, Marshgate Lane, Stratford, London, E. Hours of Business: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Established in 1842 by Alfred Jeffery. Speciality: The manufacture of Marine Glue, an invention of the late Alfred Jeffery. This has practically supplanted pitch for vessels' decks, owing to its greater elasticity, and its being better adapted to variations of temperature. Is waterproof and insulating, and is suitable for many other purposes besides filling seams. Can be utilised for waterproofing packing cases. Is also employed in the construction of life-boats. Was specified by Her late Majesty Queen Victoria for the deck seams of the first Royal Yacht, the 'Windsor Castle', afterwards named the 'Victoria and Albert'. Is now specified for similar purposes by leading yacht designers. Connection: United Kingdom, Foreign, Colonial. Telephone: No 357 Stratford. Telegraphic Address: 'Marine Glue, London'.



Rampant Stratford industrialisation became ripe for rationalisation  Unilever M&A activity was during the of the rampant diversity in the .  


The wholesome story of the John Knight family was told and published in 1952 a wonderful read !

And then a superb update was completed in 2020 during the pademic hours by Tim Knight 4th great-grandson of founder John Knight ... what more can we say? 

Old Gravel LaneIn 1817 John Knight a yeoman from a Hertfordshire family opened a Soap Making Factory in Old Gravel Lane, Wapping; three copper pans, eight candle machines. A tyrant but just and fair, the private family partnership progressed to third and fourth generations until 1902. By 1850 the firm employed 150 people producing 2-3,000 tons pa. In 1880 the four partners moved to Silvertown and a better environment (carting of tallow, like night soil, was confined to the dark hours and not wanted in East London. This was a local concern, material supplies came from London butchers and the customers lived in the metropolis. Caustic, rosin and increasingly quantities of lauric oils and fats were imported and location close to the new docks was advantageous. By 1883 Knights were crushing cotton seed, linseed and recovering glycerine. From 1844 'Royal Primrose' was the star laundry soap, winning medals at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Partners wrangled as families did. They were fiercely independent, the first and the best, top quality was the priority, and there was little truck with advertising ... until Willie Lever showed the way to margin & speed.
Lever was a 'disruptive maker of new sorts' with undercutting and objectionable advertising.
Competitors Edward Cook were at The East London Soapworks, Stratford, T H Harris were at The Bow Soapworks, Stratford and Andrew Pears, another family firm, were at Iseworth with up market competition, they were in toilet soaps.
Knights Primrose SoapCompetition was tough and The Soaps Trust didn't help. Rationalisation was a no brainer.
T H Harris purchased Cooke's of Bow in 1911.
1912/13 Knights of London and Watsons of Leeds were big and drawn in to Levers embrace. Offer £300,000 for the business valed at £750,000?
Eventually Lever took a 10% share in 1913 but Knights were a thorn in Levers side until they were the last of the indepedents to succumb in 1920 ... an offer they couldn't refuse.
Interesting soap sales in 1913 - Lever 63,362, Crosfield 31,693, Gossages 18,145, Watsons 31,994, Hudsons 18,286 and John Knights 12,606. With Christopher Thomas 8,919.
Knights Castile launched up market in 19??.
Knights soapmaking, with Crosfields, was transferred to Port Sunlight in 1960.
In 1963 silicate at the Bow factory was moved to neighbour Kights at Silvertown. Glass was transported to Silvertown to make silicate liquors.

Knights Health                                Knights Castile                     

Any corrections and additional information gratefully received contact john p birchall

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