Varnishes, Paints and Inks
In about 1742 Thomas Mander came to Wolverhampton and started in
business as a baker and maltster. He married Elizabeth Clemson, and when
her father died he inherited the family's property at 48 John's Lane
(later called St. John's Street). Thomas and Elizabeth had two sons,
Benjamin, who was born in 1752 and John, who was born in 1754.
After leaving School, Benjamin joined his father's business, as a
baker and maltster. In 1792 he started a new family business on
the same premises, with his eldest son Charles. The new business was
called Benjamin Mander & Son, Japanners, and was a great success. They
would have produced all kinds of japanned goods and tinware, decorating
such things as trays, firescreens, wine coolers, clocks and ornamental
From the March 1893 edition of "The
|John's career started very differently. He was
apprenticed to a chemical company, possibly the alkali works of
William Small at Tipton. After his apprenticeship, he had
acquired enough money to start his own business, and so set
himself up as a manufacturing chemist and druggist, at premises
in King Street. In 1790 John purchased four houses, two in Cock
Street and two at the back of 48 St. John's Lane. He moved his
business there to be close to Benjamin and Charles' activities.
| John's business was also very successful and
further properties were acquired for expansion. The business
soon occupied the land in between St. John's Street and Cock
Street, and about one third of one side of St. John's Street.
Further properties were acquired in 1800 and 1803, and one of
the houses was converted into an engine house, and a tall
chimney was built. John also began to make varnish and colours
for the growing japanning trade, and supplied these to Benjamin
and Charles at cost price.
By 1803 Charles was also making varnish, possibly spurred on
by uncle John. His black 'japan' varnish sold very well. It was
quite cheap and a good quality product. By 1817, Manders varnish
and paint works employed about 30 people and the future looked
very bright. Charles also travelled widely to promote and sell
the varnish. Benjamin died in 1819, leaving Charles in
sole charge of the business.
John's varnish works suffered a set back in about 1824, when a severe
fire destroyed most of the buildings. Several people lost their lives
and the heat was so intense that it melted the glass in the windows of
adjacent houses. Charles was away at the time, and luckily his property
escaped the ravages of the fire. John died in August 1827, at the age of
Since 1790, John had entered a series of successful partnerships and
so it probably seemed to Charles that this was a sensible thing to do.
William Wiley was Charles's chief manager and invoicing clerk, and his
right-hand man. Charles took him into partnership on 17th January, 1835.
Charles had more interest in varnish making than japanning, and he
thought that the partnership would allow him to concentrate on that part
of the business. The partnership was a disaster, as the trust he had in
Wiley was unfounded. Wiley took advantage of his new position, vanished
for days on end and upset many of the workers.
From the ' British Printer' of April 1893.
| The partnership was finally dissolved in June
1836 and Wiley left to start his own japanning business, taking
some of Charles's employees with him in the process.
August, 1840, Charles sold the japanning business to William
Shoolbred, who joined Henry Loveridge, and in 1848 moved from
St. Johns Street to Merridale Works in Merridale Street. For
Charles the varnish making side of his business was far more
profitable than japanning and tin plate and he correctly saw
that the japanning industry was in decline. Tastes were changing
and sales were slowly falling as people began to lose interest
in japanned goods.
Charles was now 60 years old and so had to think about
securing the future of the business for his sons. Ten years
later, Charles retired to Brighton, leaving the business in the
hands of his sons. His retirement was only to last for
three years. He died suddenly of apoplexy in Croydon, on 22nd
|Charles' sons, Charles B. and Samuel S. Mander
now ran the company as partners, under the name of Mander
Brothers. The new company was extremely successful and new
products were introduced. In 1865 the colour works was set up
and the colour and paints proved to be very popular.
Offices were set up in London and overseas depots and agencies
were opened in France, Italy, Canada and Australia. The company
also started to manufacture printing inks, at a time when
newspaper and magazine sales were increasing. The inks proved to
be as popular as Mander's other products and in 1894 the
Wednesfield Works were opened in Well Lane, Wednesfield. The
works were rebuilt in 1908 and were described in the December
1908 edition of 'The British Printer'. The following section is
taken from that description:
With the Ink Makers. Manders' New Auxiliary Works.
As further testifying to the remarkably strong
position attained by the house of Mander-not merely in respect
to varnishes, colours and paints, in all of which directions its
output is of huge proportions, but more particularly in the
printing ink section and its essentials in respect to colour,
varnish and so on-have we pleasure in placing on record some
impressions of the establishment gleaned during a visit early in
Wednesfield Works in 1908.
|The headquarters and chief works are situated
round and about St. Johns Street, Wolverhampton, but out at
Wednesfield, some two or three miles away, is situated a further
large establishment, in itself much larger than most factories
associated with the allied industries. To refresh our memories
in respect to colour, we look in at the Town Well and School
Street Works paying special attention to the department 'devoted
to colour making. These show open, single-story rooms with
gallery, enormous vats at one end, and a long row of huge tanks
of colourful length of the floor.
|After filtering, tramlines
bear the trucks carrying the colour into steam-heated or
The lighter colours, the deeper lakes,
and the darker shades are confined to their respective
departments, and it is very interesting to note how,
after mixing, the development of colours is succeeded by
unnumbered washings of pure water, whilst from beginning
to end is felt the control exercised by the laboratory.
Black Ink Mixing.
The Ink Grinding
| The chemists' department
seems to us to be one of the most striking features of
It controls test by test, all supplies of
goods coming into the works, all results obtained at the
various stages of manufacture, warrants the sale of the
finished article, whilst, above and beyond this, it is
constantly at work on new colours, colour combinations,
new methods of treating colours and oils, of suiting
inks to papers.
|The permanency of colour seems to be an ever
present aim, and, walking out on to the flat roof facing the
laboratory windows, we notice many slips of paper attached to
the windows, all bearing colours under test in some degree for
permanence in connection with atmospheric effects. Some of the
slips are dated nine and twelve months ago.
The Wednesfield Works
On the outskirts of Wednesfield a seven-acre
piece of land, bordered by canal on one side and railway on the
other, easily reached also by the electrical tramway, is the
property of Messrs. Mander Bros., and a very considerable area
of ground is covered by various specially-erected buildings. We
find that since our visit of some years ago the buildings have
been entirely re-modelled and large new departments added. The
firm is in the enviable position of possessing ample
accommodation to carry out its own ideas in respect to the most
desirable arrangement of works, and we are to find that the aims
and ideas of experts have been actually carried out here. The
premises are regarded as the ideal of their class.
|The main buildings run
along the water-side, with others at right angles. The
first are devoted to colour mixing and to ink making, in
fact, forming an ink making plant complete; the other
series of buildings nearer the railway is allotted to
varnish manufacture, also complete. These works are, we
understand, chiefly used for supplying the materials
made up at the Wolverhampton departments.
The Colour Mixing Room.
|A tree-bordered main road sweeps
round two sides of the works area, and affords access for vans
to all parts. Each of the buildings is allowed ample space round
about, and the structures, more particularly the new ink works,
are most substantially built, with stone staircases, concrete
floors, and fireproof generally.
The Can and Drum Store.
|The electric light is used
throughout, and, as at the Wolverhampton works, a
marvellous degree of cleanliness and tidiness prevails,
for although all departments are evidently very busy,
untidiness is never apparent, and many a printing office
with far less excuse for the appearance of its rooms
might take a lesson from the ink maker.
|The general scheme with regard to
these works seems to be the elimination of dry colour from the
grinding rooms, realizing that dust floating in the air and
being deposited on grinding rollers may seriously neutralize the
efforts to provide thoroughly pure and finely-ground colour.
Thus a long room is devoted entirely to ink grinding, a heavy
door shutting off the ink-mixing department with its closed-up
machinery. Printers will appreciate this point.
A low screen across the centre with the driving motors to left
and right divides the floor area. Around and against the walls,
with ample space about, is arranged a continuous series of large
three-cylindered ink-grinding machines, a battery of some
five-and-twenty of large size being already in full operation.
| It is interesting to go from
machine to machine and to note well-known colours in soft,
oily curves rolling away from the pressure of the cylinders,
the white coated operators, each with his magic broad-bladed
knife charming or threatening-whichever you like his machine
into uniform pressure and even flow. Well-known blacks,
blues, and greens in one section are shown as on regular
order for well-known magazines, whilst other colours are
equally popular for illustrated work.
The Varnish Boiling Works.
| The facility for handling
cans, for frequent tests and arrangement
generally, speak of an ideal system. Driving is obtained by short
belts driven from overhead shaft on either side of the room,
power being supplied by a couple of 50h.p. motors.
Contrasted with the roar and roll
of so many grinding machines, the mixing department alongside is
positively restful. Judging by the piping which comes from the
ceiling the tall mixing machines are fed from above, and we find
this to be the case, varnish and dry colours being fed through
their respective channels. This further explains the entire
absence of dust, that is dry colour, in the air. The mixers are
mechanically operated, the cleverly arranged blades of the
paddle mixers making short work of the compounds of oil and
colour. Besides the series of large sizes there are smaller
cylindrical mixers, and we note particularly the curious looking
litho blacks in their steam-heated pans. This department is
devoted to blacks.
An advert for the Mander Series of
Complementary Three Colour Inks.
In the next building across the yard is a department much
more pictorial in effect. Again carrying out the idea of freedom
from dry colour or dust, this room is fitted down one side and
the centre with a series of bins with closely fitting lids. In
these bins dry colours are stored, and the effect is to keep one
colour to itself when the supply is being drawn upon, for, of
course, neighbouring stocks would not be opened at one and the
same time. Along the further side of the wall is a series of
mixers, and we find these to embody some very ingenious ideas in
apparatus for mixing. There are small-sized circular mixers
ready to tackle small quantities of special colour fitted with
scientifically arranged knives which scrape the sides, vessel
and knives being revolved separately. To complete this as a
mixing department, on a third side is a row of varnish tanks
holding the pale, transparent varnish used for mixing colour.
This department, as with the others, is self-contained, and
possesses its own motor for driving purposes.
Stepping now into a large roomy
building, shelved from floor to ceiling along the walls, and
with tables and benches, we find a can and drum store. The
familiar tins in a variety of sizes are arranged in their
respective sections, and all readily accessible. This is not a
tin store, but an ink warehouse, and in spite of the chief
chemist's confidence as to the absolute uniformity of new inks
and those made for some time, it is quite clear that he makes no
mistake as to keeping up substantial stocks of all colours. This
we are glad to see, for we know only too well how commercial
conditions so frequently require the printer to order inks for
immediate use. Here once again we have the assurance that the
laboratory maintains rigid fulfilment to standards, so that
absolute reliance may be placed on receiving the same colour at
any time of ordering.
|The floor above is used as a
storeroom for important sundries such as pomade and
ink-easers. A steam-heated pan for solidifying oil is also
noticed, the odour of the place being rather pleasant than
otherwise. On looking out from the crane platform at the far
end a fine view of the edge-bordered fields is obtained, for
we are really on the fringe of the country here, with all
the real country advantages of fresh air and spaciousness
An adjacent room, the dry black
room, is situated directly over the black mixers, to which
earlier reference is made. The whitewashed walls are rapidly
assuming the artistic mottled effect of a busy chimneysweep's
countenance through contact with the piled-up sacks of carbon
blacks lodged here. The receptacles over the mixing cylinders
are filled from here, and again there is every facility for
minimizing any waste and preventing dust and trouble resulting
The isolation of blocks of
buildings is carried out with a thoroughness which must be the
envy of those confined within small and often cramped areas. To
reach the place of storage where the casks of colour, tins, and
supplies of this character are safely put out of the way, and
yet easy of access, we cross the yard again and enter a long
single story building filled with casks and crates, tins and
An advert for Mander's polish from
The Varnish Side
In totally distinct buildings,
separated by considerable yard space, is carried on the
operations concerned with varnish making. First to the actual
Without referring to the varnish
works in detail, as this department represents rather a
re-organized section than a new works, we may refer to some
impressions gained whilst witnessing the various operations of
The varnish-boiling works show a
long row of pans set in brick with closed fires. A large cowl or
hood is fitted to each to carry off fumes, and conspicuously
placed thermometers record temperatures. Conscientiously
climbing the steps to sniff at the odours each successive one
surely more pungent than its predecessor we are able to note the
great heat used, and to observe the working generally, returning
with an enhanced impression of the infinite care taken to
|At the rear of this building is
one of similar size, the tubing whence escapes the fumes from
the pans being here in evidence, and we are shown a clever
device automatically coming into operation at each pan in case
of fire from any individual boiler. Following the varnish as it
runs off in pipes across the yard to the oil stores, we find on
the second floor of a substantial building several dozen
thousand gallon tanks, each equipped with gauge for showing
depth of varnish contained in the tall cylinders, and with pump
for filling or removal of the contents. Large as would appear to
be this stock, as we are aware from visits to varnish stores,
this represents but a fraction of the tremendous amount of oil
always maturing in the firm's stores.
The various buildings are
disconnected, partly for convenience for manufacturing purposes
and largely to minimise the risk of and the scope of damage by
fire. Expecting to find full provision made to meet emergencies,
for the fire fiend is ever a possible foe where oils are being
treated, we found that every possible safeguard was adopted and
each section provided with appliances for fighting that which is
a good servant but a bad master. The works also possess their
own fire brigade-already tried once on their own area and again
at a neighbouring concern. Whilst we were present an alarm was
raised and instantly men swarmed out of the buildings, each to
his allotted task seizing section after section of hose pipe,
bucket, or "stood by" hydrants exactly where duty required, and
all with a celerity which it would be difficult to surpass.
From the 'British Printer',
A tin of Mander Brothers varnish
of unknown date.
would appear decidedly popular
with the workpeople, and so healthy as to form quite a
sanatorium for those employed at headquarters.
Leaving the works we are struck
by the appearance of a fine new building, an attractively built
school in style, with a handsome villa attached.
Inquiry as to
this led to the production of keys, the opening of doors, and we
found the building to be a messroom for the workpeople. The
floor is coated with a special linoleum-like terracotta coloured
concrete, warm and clean in appearance.
The tables and seats are
painted a pleasant green and with the large cloakroom and
lavatory make up an eminently neat and attractive picture.
To Sum Up
We come away with the impression
that "this is surely Mander-like" - well thought out, well
carried out, sound in conception, finished in every detail. No
wonder the house maintains its place in the confidence of
friends and customers.
Further new works, the Townwell works, in Townwell Fold,
were acquired in 1894 and the Heath Town works were acquired in 1925 -
The Heath Town works were built on an 18 acre
site which was purchased from the Government Disposal Board,
after being used as a wartime munitions factory producing
phosphorous poison gas during the First World War.
The works were officially opened by the Duke of
Kent in October 1931 after three years of rebuilding.
Heath Town Works in 1932.
In the 1920s, Mander Brothers Limited was set up by
Charles' son, Charles Tertius Mander Bart., his son Sir Charles Arthur
Mander, Bart., Gerald Poynton Mander, Sir Geoffrey Le Mesurier Mander
and Howard Vivian Mander.
||(left) A tin of Koreol motor
enamel and (right) A leaflet advertising Mander's Koreol
Varnish, "a practical alternative" to cellulose varnishes
Manders also produced Manderlac cellulose
motor finishes which were quick drying and resistant to fading.
Charles Tertius Mander Bart.
Photograph courtesy of Jennings.
In 1927 Manders became paint and wallpaper merchants, when the
company acquired some 50 depots through the purchase of W. S. Low
Limited's long established distribution chain.
In 1937 the printing ink interests merged with John Kidd &
Company Limited to become one of the largest printing ink
manufacturers in the U.K.
In the same year the public company Manders (Holdings) Limited
was formed, gathering together in one major grouping, all the
specialised companies, now operating successfully at home and
abroad. In 1945 the Wednesfield Works were sold to Griffiths
|In 1961 the company produced
its 500,000th gallon of paint. The photograph shows the tin
An aerial view of the factory in St.
photographs of St. John's Street and the factory.
one on the left, from around the time of the First World War,
is from the staff magazine, 'The Green Can'. The
other is from around 1960.
Another view of St. John's Street,
this time looking in the opposite direction.
The Varnish Department at St. John's
Street Works. From the staff magazine, 'The Green Can'.
images from 'The Green Can'. On the left is
a view of the factory
in 1859, and on the right the colour vats at Townwell Works.
Another view of the colour vats at
Townwell Works, from an old copy of 'The Green Can'.
The company's gas works on the St.
John's Street site. From 'The Green Can'.
The staff at the gas works. From 'The
An old drawing of St. John's Street
Works, date unknown.
The staff in the varnish making shop
in 1888. From 'The Green Can'.
The cellar tanks at St. John's
Street Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
The yard at St. John's Street
Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
Another view of the yard at
St. John's Street Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
The open hearth shop at St.
John's Street Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
The thinning shop at St. John's Street
Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
The yard outside the thinning shop at
St. John's Street Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
Weighing the ingredients at St. John's
Street Works. Courtesy of David Clare.
A Torrance patent grinding mill, made
by Torrance & Sons Limited of Bitton, Bristol. It used a
grindstone to grind the ingredients used to make emulsion
paint. Courtesy of David Clare.
Another Torrance grinding mill.
Courtesy of David Clare.
Another grinding mill, used for red
emulsion. Courtesy of David Clare.
A corner of the laboratory. Courtesy
of David Clare.
||A tin of Matsine, a
transparent flat drying colour which could be used as a wood
stain, a scumble or a glaze.
|In the 1960s the original factory closed, and the site was redeveloped into the Mander Centre, a shopping centre covering 5
acres. The company set up a property division to control the
project, in which retail and office properties were leased.
The Mander Centre opened on 6th March 1968 and contained 134
outlets. It was designed by James A. Roberts who designed the
Rotunda in Birmingham. The new venture formed a secure base for the
company's future activities. The Mander Centre was, and still is
|Read an article on
Printing Ink Manufacture
An advert from the 1920s.
An advert from the 1970s.
|By the 1970's Heath Town works had expanded to cover
an area of over 20 acres and the company employed over 1,000 people.
Mander's products were distributed through 50 U.K. service centres
and agencies throughout the world.
In 1972, Philip Fitzgerald Mander, who had been Chairman of the
public company, died, and the family took a less active role in
the business. The company continued to be as successful as ever,
and following the success of its decorative paints, it acquired
other manufacturing companies, whose products would compliment
|Read how Mander-Kidd
Ink was made
|In 1971 Manders produced
their one millionth gallon of paint. The photograph shows part
of the celebrations.
||Another photograph showing
the one millionth gallon of paint.
Some of the staff. Back row left to right:
Bill Hillier, Arthur Crowe, Ted Pascall, Frank Bache, W. G., Ken
Phillips, Horace Punter, Joe Law, Ben Fletcher, Jim Bradley,
Bert Dwight, Arthur Davies, Ken Bird, Tom Gibbons, ?, and Bob
Middle row left to right: Iris Downing, Mrs. Draper, ?, Joan
Swift, Jim Walker, Hazel ?, ?, Jean Roberts, and Kath
Front row left to right: ?,?, Jack Preston, Jack Whitehouse, and
|In 1973 British Domolac Limited, an industrial paint
company, was purchased, and Mander's Industrial Paints Division was
added to it. The company then started to trade as Mander-Domolac
A photograph of the works from a 1970's
||(left) One of Mander's
better known customers was 10 Downing Street. The famous front
door used to be painted with Manders paint.
(right) paper label, unknown date.
||Heath Town Works in 1984.
|The Works in July 1988 after
the completion of a new 450,000 cubic ft. tin store. This was
part of a two million pound investment at the works, in modern
production equipment and improved storage facilities.
||The photograph shows staff
and volunteers at the Springburn Museum in Glasgow. The museum
acquired the North British built steam locomotive, Garratt 4112
after its withdrawal from service in South Africa. The
locomotive needed repainting. This was made possible by
sponsorship from Manders, who supplied the paint. Manders paints
were ideal for the purpose as Manders used to supply paint to
|In the 1980s Manders acquired QC Colours and
Johnson and Bloy, and integrated them into the company by
forming a new division in 1989 called Manders Liquid Ink
Division. It was headed by Managing Director, John Mackenzie,
formerly of QC Colours.
A new decorating centre was opened at Heath Town in 1990 and
the new headquarters of Mander-Deval Wallcoverings was built on
land adjacent to the works.
|In 1992 an unsuccessful takeover bid from a rival
company, Kalon, led to Manders reviewing its long-term strategy.
The decision was taken to concentrate on the highly
successful printing ink manufacture and so, during late 1993 and
early 1994, the decorative paints part of the business, and the
Mander Centre, were sold.
A tube of artist's oil colour in original
||An advert for Aqualine water
paint. Courtesy of David Wilsdon.
|An advert for Vernasca wall
paint. Courtesy of David Wilsdon.
A 1958 advert.
| Manders also acquired a number of the world's
leading ink manufacturers, including a major competitor, Croda, with
operations in the U.K., Ireland. Italy, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, South Africa and the USA.
In 1994 the Netherlands based Premier Inks was acquired. It was
one of Europe's largest manufacturers of publishing inks.
In the same year Morrison Inks of New Zealand was also acquired to give
Manders a strong world-wide presence.
In 1996 Manders made its final acquisition with the purchase
of a large facility in Sweden which specialised in metal
decorating coatings. Six centres of excellence were set up in
various European locations, specialising in commercial sheetfed
inks, liquid inks, metal decorating inks, news inks and
| The company invested heavily in research and development
to ensure that its products kept ahead of the competition and satisfied
customer's needs. The Wolverhampton factory became the Centre of
Excellence for the manufacture of coldset inks, which are fast drying
inks for use in newspapers. Most of the national and provincial
newspapers used inks that were manufactured in Wolverhampton, and the
company also supplied many newspapers throughout Europe. Printing ink
sales increased from £40 million in 1993 to £160 million in 1997. About
60 countries were supplied through 28 manufacturing and distribution
In 1998 Manders was acquired by the Flint Ink Corporation
of America. This is the largest privately-owned ink manufacturer in the
world. The Heath Town works became the European Headquarters of Flint
Ink Europe, and the remainder of the works closed and has since become
Manders Industrial Estate, which is now home to a variety of companies.
|Read George Cox's memories of
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The Mander Family