John Player (1839-1884) was born in Saffron Walden, Essex. He came to Nottingham in c1862 and worked as a draper's clerk. A few years later, he set himself up in a shop on Beastmarket Hill in Nottingham, where he acted as an agent for Prentice and Co's agricultural manures and seeds. He also sold pre-wrapped tobacco from the shop and as it proved so popular, it soon became his main business. It was during the early 1860's that John Player married Ann Goodacre. They had two sons, John Dane Player (1864-1950) and William Goodacre Player (1866-1959). In 1877, John Player bought William Wright's tobacco factory in the Broad Marsh, Nottingham. He also opened two more shops in Sheep Lane later Market Street (1874) and in Broad Street (1878). His business quickly expanded and in 1881 he bought land in Radford and had 3 factories built on the site. The Castle Tobacco Factory was opened in April 1884 in one of the factories. The two remaining factories were leased to a number of lace manufacturers but by 1900 tobacco was being manufactured on all three sites.
John Player died in December 1884 and for the next nine years, the business was run by a small group of family friends until W G and J D Player were ready to take over the firm in 1893. The business became a private limited company in 1895, with a share capital of £200,000.
In 1901 a powerful association of American tobacco manufacturers launched an attack on the British market. In an effort to protect their business, 13 British tobacco manufacturers joined together to form a single company, The Imperial Tobacco Company.
Although the 13 firms became branches of the Imperial Tobacco Company, they continued to trade under their own names and competed with each other for business. At the formation of the new company, W G and J D Player were invited to join the board of directors.
John Player and Sons Ltd continued to expand during the inter-war years, building two new factories and a bonded warehouse. In 1926, W G and J D Player retired from the board of the Imperial Tobacco Company, but continued to take an interest in the affairs of their father's business until 1932.
Production continued to grow until at its peak in the late 1950's, Player's was employing 11,000 workers (compared to 5,000 in 1926) and producing 15 brands of pipe tobacco and 11 brands of cigarettes.
In 1972 Players opened their new "Horizon" Factory on the Lenton Industrial Estate. At the time, it was considered to be the most advanced factory of its kind in the world. Production continued at the Radford factories until 1974 and 1976 when the No 1 and No 2 Factories were closed completely and all manufacture transferred to Lenton. In 1986, the Imperial Tobacco Group was taken over by the Hanson Trust