Catalogue description British Xylonite Co Ltd, Brantham

This record is held by Suffolk Archives - Ipswich

Details of HC410
Reference: HC410
Title: British Xylonite Co Ltd, Brantham

The records in this collection are a substantial element of the total archive of this multi-site (and ultimately, multi-national) concern originating at Homerton in the present London Borough of Hackney, in 1877.


The collection consists of records of the British Xylonite Company Ltd. from 1877, and B. X. Plastics Ltd. from 1939, accumulated at the Brantham site including site and plant records 1740-1970, administrative records 1883-1941, directors' working papers 1878-1972, production records 1869-1967, technical and laboratory records 1882-1970, staff, wages, work study and welfare records 1877-post 1966, material concerning the history of xylonite 1865-1981, publications 1922-1970, photographic material 1870s-1977, and miscellanea 1905-1945.




HC410/A1 Evidences of Title, etc


HC410/A2 Registers of capital expenditure votes


HC410/A3 Capital votes for improvements


HC410/A4 Plant application books


HC410/A5 Tenders for New Buildings


HC410/A6 Fire Insurance records


HC410/A7 Building Development


HC410/A8 Railway Siding records


HC410/A9 Brantham New Village


HC410/A10 Spartina Grass application




HC410/B1 B X Co (first series)


HC410/B2 B X Co (second series)


HC410/B3 General letter books


HC410/B4 Messrs Hyatt (Homerton)


HC410/B5/1 Merriam family and Directors


HC410/B5/2 L P and C P Merriam


HC410/B6 J S Warburton


HC410/B7 C B Brooke, Junr


HC410/B8 Statements


HC410/B9 Cottages


HC410/B10 Paper Drying Company


HC410/B11 Costs


HC410/B12 Benefit Clubs


HC410/B13 Bexoid


HC410/B14 Letters to Hale End - various Depts


HC410/B15 Letters to outside firms - various Depts


HC410/B16 'Make' Department




HC410/C1 Annual reports and balance sheets


HC410/C2 Secretary's letters


HC410/C3 Papers of C F Merriam


HC410/C4 Managers' Committee (Sproxton, Glover)


HC410/C5 Factory reports (Sproxton, Glover)


HC410/C6 Files - C M Glover


HC410/C7 Company accounts - C M Glover


HC410/C8 Staff Committee - W R Brown


HC410/C9 Staff organisation - E H Lewcock




HC410/D1 Output summary records


HC410/D2 Batch records


HC410/D3 Miscellaneous papers




HC410/E1 Papers of Professor John Attfield


HC410/E2 Formula books and microfilms


HC410/E3 Process and Formula book - Homerton


HC410/E4 Laboratory books - Brantham


HC410/E5 Laboratory letter books


HC410/E6 Description of Xyloidine Dept


HC410/E7 Laboratory/Acid/Synthetic Camphor letter books


HC410/E8 Laboratory and Halac letter books


HC410/E9 Synthetic Camphor letter books


HC410/E10 Laboratory account book


HC410/E11 Synthetic Camphor Plant books


HC410/E12 Temperature and humidity record


HC410/E13 Press cuttings books


HC410/E14 Records re inflammability of celluloid


HC410/E15 Records re W W II German Plastics Industry


HC410/E16 Reprints of technical literature


HC410/E17 Enactments and regulations


HC410/E18 Lecture notes on celluloid


HC410/E19 Competitor review




HC410/F1 Time books


HC410/F2 Time and wages sheets


HC410/F3 Averages of wages calculations


HC410/F4 Work Study - labour analysis sheets


HC410/F5 Production Bonus books


HC410/F6 Office staff weekly wages books


HC410/F7 Sick Fund accounts


HC410/F8 Saving Bank ledgers


HC410/F9 Savings Bank cash books


HC410/F10 Savings Certifcate registers


HC410/F11 War Bank ledgers


HC410/F12 War Savings records


HC410/F13 War Service records


HC410/F14 Holiday(?) Pay book


HC410/F15 'General Bonus Transfer' and dividend books


HC410/F16 1926 Pension Scheme rules and records


HC410/F17 Wages Rate book (laid-off staff)


HC410/F18 Wartime and other wage rates


HC410/F19 Wages Dept letter books


HC410/F20 Works rules and regulations






HC410/H1 Technical and product literature


HC410/H2 'Xylonite Magazine' and 'BXL Review'




HC410/J1 Albums


HC410/J2 Sundry photographs



Date: 1740-1981
Held by: Suffolk Archives - Ipswich, not available at The National Archives
Copies held at:

A microfilm of the Board minutes 1877-1923 is available at Suffolk Record Office.


The copyright position of this collection is complex and involves both B.X.L. Plastics Ltd. and Wardle Storeys Ltd.

Language: English

British Xylonite Company, Hackney, London, 1875-1963, plastics manufacturers

Parkes, Alexander, fl 1862, plastics manufacturer, of Hackney, London

Physical description: 84 Series
Access conditions:

Open to public access, except for material within last 30 years and certain series of records containing personal information concerning employees, which are closed for 75 years from the latest date of each item


Requests for access to recent material, and for publication, to be referred to depositors

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received by Suffolk Record Office 3 February 1981 and 27 April 1988 (Acc. nos. 6070, 6076, 6339, 6372, 8010, 8357, 8424, 8559)

Unpublished finding aids:

The corporate records of the Company are mostly held at the Hackney Archives Dept., Rose Lipman Library, De Beauvoir Road, London N1


Further records of the Company and other constituents of the Bakelite Xylonite Group are held at the Science Museum Library, South Kensington, London SW7


Product catalogues, printed material, photographs and artefacts are held at the Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow


Hackney Archives ref. D/B/XYL; S.R.O. microfilm J 433


Science Museum Library ref. ARCHIVES:BXL


Vestry House Museum ref. W 24.5 XYL

Administrative / biographical background:

The British Xylonite Company could justifiably claim to be the first British firm successfully to manufacture a plastic material in commercial quantities. Xylonite, better known by its American equivalent of 'celluloid', was invented by Alexander Parkes and first displayed in 1862 under the name of 'Parkesine'. Derived from the nitro-cellulose and collodion processes, it was initially used for making domestic articles in substitution for wood, horn, ivory or tortoiseshell. Its subsequent development was closely associated with Hackney, being taken up by Daniel Spill, rubber manufacturer, in 1864 and later by the Xylonite Company at Hackney Wick and the 'Ivoride' Works at Homerton High Street. The founders of the British Xylonite Company, Levi Parsons Merriam and his son Charles, established in 1875 a small business to make combs, imitation jewellery etc. next door to the 'Ivoride' Works; the two works merged in 1879.


The original site being small and unsuitable, it was decided in 1887 to buy land at Brantham on the Suffolk bank of the River Stour and erect a purpose-built factory; finished goods continued to be made at Homerton until 1897 when a new factory was built at Hale End near Walthamstow (its products going by the trade name of 'Halex') which also housed the head office. Other types of plastics were introduced, and in 1938 the British Xylonite Company became a holding company with three subsidiaries: B.X. Plastics making xylonite and lactoid; Halex Ltd. making finished goods, and Cascelloid Ltd. making toys and bottles at Leicester and Coalville. The Distillers Company took a half-interest in 1939 and bought the entire Group in 1961, but in 1963 it formed part of a new grouping called Bakelite Xylonite Ltd. established jointly with Union Carbide, and including plants at Birmingham, Aycliffe and Grangemouth.


Several sales and mergers took place in the 1960s and 1970s, the most significant being the sale of the Brantham and Aycliffe sites in 1966 to British Industrial Plastics, a subsidiary of Turner and Newall Ltd., who were in turn purchased in 1977 by Storey Brothers of Lancaster, formerly a major commercial rival. The Brantham site now operates under the name of Wardle Storeys and until recently manufactured limited quantities of xylonite using traditional processes and equipment.

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