Catalogue description Millbay Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Co Ltd

This record is held by Plymouth and West Devon Record Office

Details of 1011
Reference: 1011
Title: Millbay Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Co Ltd

Records of the Millbay Laundry Group


This accession comprises records of the Millbay Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Co Ltd with records of eight other laundry companies taken over by the Millbay management and retained as bases for subsidiary companies. In addition there are one or two records of Capital and County Laundries, popularly known as Kneels of Exeter, which purchased the Millbay Group in 1972.


The records were deposited by Kneels of Exeter and date from 1811 - 1980. Much material may have been destroyed by enemy action in 1941 when the company's head office was destroyed and the majority of records in the accession were generated around 1950 - 1980 and created by the Company Secretary. The accession is therefore large but rather incomplete, for example, there are relatively few accounting and production records. It should also be noted that poor series of records remain for some subsidiary companies, the survival rate for these papers seems dependent on the period between closure of the subsidiary and deposit of the records.






Memorandum & Articles of Association






Board of Directors Minutes


Steering Committee Minutes


Managing Directors Committee Minutes


General Meeting Minutes


Sales & Production Staff Meeting Minutes


Agenda Books Board & Committee Papers


Reports of Directors & Statements of Accounts




Teignmouth Steam Laundry Co Ltd


Newquay Laundry Ltd


Bude Sanitary Steam Laundry & Carpet Cleaning Co Ltd


Launceston & District Laundry Co Ltd




Share Registers


Returns to the Registrar Of Companies


Records of Individual's shareholding


Registers of Dividends


Circulars to Shareholders


Shareholding Administration




Records of Administrative Function


General Correspondence


Records of the Production Of Resolutions


Records of the Production Of Directors Reports & Annual Accounts






Balance Sheets & Annual Accounts






Miscellaneous Books Of Account




Financial & Accounting Files


Taxation Records






Terms of Employment


Service Agreements


Personnel Records






Senior Staff






Pension Scheme Rules


Pension Files




Papers concerning recognition








Turnover Returns


Service & Maintenance Contracts












Deeds & Associated Papers of Plymouth Properties


Schedules of Deeds


4 Richmond Street


5 Richmond Street


6 & rear of 5 Richmond Street


7 Richmond Street


6, rear of 5 & 7 Richmond Street


8 Richmond Street


7 Richmond Lane West


York Street




Lease Series




Property Books


Property Files




Rating Returns


Property Administration Files


Inventories & Stock Books


Fire Safety Records




Insurance Reports


Insurance Policy Series


Miscellaneous Insurance Policies


Insurance Administration Files




Building Leases & Agreements


Building Contracts




Bills of Quantities


Building Accounts


Construction Files


Plans of Laundry site, Stonehouse, Plymouth


Plans of 81 & 83 Cornwall Street, Plymouth





Date: 1811 - 1980
Held by: Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Millbay Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Co Ltd, 1896-1972

Physical description: 575 Files
Publication note:

A history of Millbay Laundry was written by Cecil Roberts, son of the company's founder, Harold Roberts entitled:- The First Fifty Years of "Millbay" by Cecil R J Roberts (Plymouth 1948). The history is available in the searchroom of West Devon Record Office.

Administrative / biographical background:

Company History


Pre-World War II


Millbay Laundry was originally started by Harold Roberts in around 1885 when he added a laundering service to the family outfitting business. The business operated from houses in Millbay Road and a shed in Martin Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth and soon expanded from offering just cleaning to undertaking dyeing as well. In 1896 with the help of W Oliver Hosking, F Adams and R J Bazeley a limited company was floated - The Millbay Laundry, Cleaning and Dyeing Co Ltd - and a properly equipped factory erected along Millbay Road and Battery Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth.


In 1897 Millbay Laundry opened its first branch shop in Torquay, the company was to concentrate on branch shops and delivery vans to carry out its trade and used such means to extend its business outside Plymouth. There were even outlets in London and Bath as well as Devon and Cornwall in the early years.


In 1922 the company made its first takeover - of the Central Steam Laundry (Plymouth) Ltd, Richmond Street, Plymouth. Although the business itself was unprofitable and sold after 12 months, Millbay Laundry gained a certain amount of property in the area.


The first full-time Company Secretary appears to have been Stanley Marks FIAC appointed in 1931 to cope with the business's growing financial administration. The Millbay Laundry Company Secretary was to retain a central role in the company throughout its future expansion. Many of his original areas of responsibility however became designated to individual specialists - such as the Group Accountant - and each subsidiary company was to appoint their own Company Secretary rather than to be run directly from Millbay as originally occurred.


In 1932 Millbay Laundry purchased its second company, the long established cleaning and dyeing business of Mortimers (Plymouth) Ltd, founded 1773. Unfortunately very few badly damaged records survive of this original business. The company continued to be run by Millbay Laundry until 1958 when it became one of the constituent companies of the Millbay and Nerwquay Laundry Co Ltd.


Millbay Laundry also acquired in 1932 the nearby Eddystone Works, Millbay Road, Stonehouse, Plymouth - a clothing factory run by Tippetts, Son and Co Ltd. The building was modernised and used for all specialised cleaning, dyeing and carpet-beating work.


The company was very badly affected by war damage in 1941. The original Millbay Works was destroyed and the Eddystone Works badly damaged. Work however continued, fulfilling military contracts, in a series of small buildings along Battery Street: The works site was extensively redeveloped after the war to consist of a set of 4 buildings - The Eddystone Works, a reconstructed Millbay Works and newly constructed Battery Street Works and Smeaton Works. A good series of property and construction records survive.


Growth of the Millbay Group


Post-war expansion was fuelled by the opening of many more branch shops and the purchase of 6 new companies. These were:-


Teignmouth Steam Laundry Co Ltd of Station Road, Teignmouth, purchased 1952


Port House Laundry Co Ltd of Alphington Street, Exeter, purchased 1957


Newquay Laundry Ltd of Lanhevor, Newquay in Cornwall, purchased 1958


Bude Sanitary Steam Laundry and Carpet Cleaning Co Ltd of Higher Wharf, Bude in Cornwall, purchased 1958


Plymouth Sanitary Steam Laundry Ltd of Hyde Park Road, Pennycross, Plymouth, purchased 1959


Launceston and District Laundry Ltd of Hurdon Road, Launceston in Cornwall, purchased 1965.


The purchases marked several changes for the company. Prior to 1952 branch shops had been created with their own laundry facilities or local companies purchased and their business amalgamated with that of the parent company. No large independent concerns had had to be run. As such the post-war era saw a change in trading strategy and also in the administration and organisation of the company.


Proposals were rejected for the formation of a holding company and a system of subsidiary companies with a group administration and identity adopted. In 1958 Mortimers (Plymouth) Ltd and Newquay Laundry Ltd merged to become the Millbay and Port House Laundry Co Ltd (it also administered the Bude Sanitary Steam Laundry) and the Teignmouth Steam Laundry changed its name to the Millbay and Teignmouth Laundry Co Ltd. In 1960 the Plymouth Sanitary Steam Laundry became the Hyde Park Laundry Ltd and in 1965 changed its name again to the Millbay and Hyde Park Laundry Co Ltd. In 1965 too the Bude Sanitary Steam Laundry was also renamed to become the Millbay and Launceston Laundry Co Ltd, in the same year it purchased and merged with the Launceston and District Laundry Ltd. A diagram showing these developments follows this introduction.


Each subsidiary company had its own directors, (often made up of Millbay directors and those of the former constituent companies) company secretary and administration. Central control was maintained by a hierarchical series of directors meetings, culminating in the parent company board meeting as is shown below:-


Parent Company Board Meeting


(held monthly)




Steering Committee Meeting


(held monthly from 1968, met the Tuesday before the Parent Company Board Meeting)




Managing Directors Committee Meeting


(held weekly from 1968)




Subsidiary Company Board Meeting


Two of the subsidiaries soon failed to remain viable. The Millbay and Port House Laundry had closed by 1966 and the Millbay and Hyde Park Laundry closed in that year. The remainder of the Millbay Group was taken over by Kneels of Exeter in 1972. The Millbay and Launceston Laundry ceased trading in 1976 and the Millbay and Teignmouth Laundry in 1977.


Kneels themselves were taken over by the Johnson Group in 1978.

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