Catalogue description AYRTON, SAUNDERS & CO., LTD. Wholesale and Manufacturing Chemists

This record is held by National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library

Details of B/AS
Reference: B/AS
Title: AYRTON, SAUNDERS & CO., LTD. Wholesale and Manufacturing Chemists



B/AS/1/1 - 17 Ayrton Link Magazine 1925 - 1959


B/AS/2/1 - 21 Ayrton Review and Other Magazines 1930 - 1967


B/AS/3/1 - 19 General Price Lists 1885 - 1955


B/AS/4/1 - 34 Various Price Lists 1934 - 1968


B/AS/5/1 - 3 Catalogues c.1905 - 1960


B/AS/6/1 - 4 Miscellaneous Price Lists 1930 - c.1960


B/AS/7/1 - 7 Miscellaneous 1918 - c.1960


B/AS/8/1 - 6 Miscellaneous Photographs c.1920 - 1930




B/AS/9/1 - 9 Administration, Legal and Investment 1888 - 1954


B/AS/10/1 - 2 Financial 1886 - 1938


B/AS/11/1 - 2 Operational 1933 - 1956


B/AS/12/1 - 5 Sales 1913 - 1937




B/AS/13/1 - 58 Photographs c.1961




B/AS/14/1 - 2 Administration 1955 - 1971


B/AS/15/1 - 16 Finance 1970 - 1986


B/AS/16/1 - 2 Operational 1956 - 1962


B/AS/17/1 - 10 Sales and Service 1956 - 1985


B/AS/18/1 - 2 Staff and Wages 1924 - 1967


B/AS/19/1 Ayrton Review Magazine 1960 - 1967




B/AS/20/1 - 2 Hand Embossing Machines n.d.


B/AS/21/1 - 4 History, including Export Review File 1962 - 1968


B/AS/22/1 - 7 Price Lists 1927 - 1960


B/AS/23/1 Ayrton Link Magazine 1958


B/AS/24/1 Postcards from World Tour 1958


B/AS/25/1 - 8 Framed Photographs of Chairmen 1868 - 1961




B/AS/26/1 - 7 Administration (including Board Minutes) 1903 - 1991


B/AS/27/1 - 9 Legal 1903 - 1990


B/AS/28/1 - 10 Investment 1903 - 1989


B/AS/29/1 - 20 Finance 1900 - 1990


B/AS/30/1 - 3 Sales and Service 1921 - 1989


B/AS/31/1 - 9 Staff and Wages 1940 - 1988


B/AS/32/1 - 7 Miscellaneous 1937 - 1988

Date: 1885-1991
Held by: National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Ayrton, Saunders and Co Ltd, manufacturing chemists

Physical description: 6 Sub-fonds
Access conditions:

This collection is held in a reserve store and is available by advance appointment only.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in 6 Instalments 1978, 1985, 1991, 1997 and 1998

Custodial history:

Acc. No.: MMM.1978.338







Administrative / biographical background:

Ayrton Saunders was founded in 1868 in premises on Hanover Street in Liverpool city centre. The firm expanded and took premises in Park Lane (Liverpool) and Prenton (Birkenhead) as well as a branch in the Potteries. In the end the firm had to contract and the branches were closed, as did the fine building on Hanover Street, which still stands today (1999).


In 1987 the company was taken over by A.A.H. Pharmaceuticals and in 1990 they moved into new premises on Spindus Road in the Speke Hall Industrial Estate. The firm though was run by A.A.H. from its premises on West Lane, Runcorn.


In 1997 Mr. G.F. O'Brien of Liverpool, who owns a chain of retail chemist shops, purchased the name and runs the expanded business from Spindus Road. On permanent loan this material was deposited in 1978, 1985, 1991 and 1998, with a gift of some papers in 1997. The Director and the Curator of Archives, are most grateful for these records.


On permanent loan this material was deposited in 1978, 1985, 1991 and 1998, with a gift of some papers in 1997.


The earliest surviving archive item discovered to date is 7/1, a circular dated 1878. The extremely interesting series of catalogue/price lists dates from 1885. The 1898 catalogue gives a comprehensive picture of the firm's activities on p.1 as follows:


Designers and Manufacturers of High-Class Artistic Specialities for Chemists and Druggists; Wholesale and Export Dealers in patent Lint, Plaisters, and Cotton Wool, Honeycomb and Turkey Sponges, Surgical Instruments, Trusses, Etc.; Glass Blowers, Hard and Soft Wood Turners; Manufacturers of Round, Square and Oval Boxes, in Paper, Willow and Chip; and of every variety of medical Glass Bottles; and General Dealers in Druggists' Sundries of Every Description: and a fine description is given of the factory on p. 318 (from Liverpool Industries):


There are possibly no premises in the city in which a more varied and interesting series of manufactures is carried on than the above. In fact there is no other firm in the country that absolutely manufactures the same kind and number of articles. The firm was established in the year 1868, since which time the business has steadily increased until the number of hands employed now exceeds four hundred. The members of the firm are Messrs. H. G. & W. H. Saunders, both of whom are actively engaged in carrying on the business, the variety and detail of which is more than any outsider could readily realise. We can, perhaps, give our readers a better idea of what is done at the premises if we give an interesting Account of a visit made by a well-known gentleman. He says:


"I had frequently heard of the interesting manufactures carried on by Messrs. Ayrton and Saunders, so determined one day to inspect them personally, and upon presenting myself at 149 Duke Street, I was introduced to Mr. Saunders, the head of the firm, who, on my stating the object of my visit, courteously took me in hand.


We first proceeded to the basement of the factory, where the heavy machinery was placed, and I was amazed to see how rapidly a willow tree in its rough state was converted into smooth, flexible strips, ready for the finishing process in the upper room; on the same floor I saw the turners' lathes, and witnessed some very clever work in wood turning, in fact was presented with a highly finished specimen. I then saw the powerful engine that found the power for working the whole factory; then to the work-rooms, where I saw a large number of hands actively engaged in box making; the first floor being devoted to round cardboard boxes, the familiar penny pill box being specially conspicuous, surrounded by others of all sizes, many being most elaborately finished.


Then we mounted higher, to the willow box room, and saw the rounds and strips that we had seen produced in the basement converted into white clean-looking boxes. Then still higher, and I was in the square-box room, surrounded by boxes of all shapes and sizes, some perfectly plain others rich with gold and colours. I was particularly struck with a superb display of boxes shown at the Liverpool Exhibition of 1886, and for which the firm received a special award. I was now hurried off to another part of the building, where I was initiated into the mysteries of glass blowing, a number of hands being actively engaged in converting glass tubes and rods into various articles used in the surgery and laboratory. Then to another room, where I found the same activity, but more variety; bright looking girls hard at work fitting feeding bottles, packing and carding aniline dyes, marking ink etc., and preparing many of the specialities for which the firm have a reputation.


I then descended to the store-room for boxes, which contained more boxes than I ever saw before, or expect to see again - thousands of grosses, of all shapes and sizes. Lower still, and I was in the patent room, surrounded by the names so familiar with advertising columns of our papers - cures for everything. Then to the perfumery and fancy goods department, a passing glance at the confectionery room, full of good things; I could have stopped there much longer, but was compelled to hasten on. Now a drop to the basement, where the bottles are stored; here I was perfectly bewildered, the variety seemed endless - bottles of all colours, shapes, and sizes, suitable for all purposes, and I should think enough to stock all the doctors and chemists in England. Another move and I found myself in the perfume laboratory, surrounded by so many delicious odours that I was like a flower garden for weeks afterwards; I was quite charmed with this department.


At the end of another passage I found them busily engaged in making chest protectors, bath gloves, bathing caps etc. then to the sponge department, containing sponges collected from all parts of the world, from the delicate baby's sponge to a monster that I could scarcely lift when saturated with water. The next door I found saws, etc., etc., to assist us in getting rid of any useless limbs, and many other articles used by surgeons and physicians. I again descended and found myself surrounded by pottery of all kinds, all neatly stacked and arranged in lines; pots and jars as used by druggists in endless variety, style and sizes; and then, as a fitting climax to all I had seen, was shown into the sample and show room, embracing specimens of all the varied articles made or sold in the establishment - a bewildering assortment - all trades seeming to be represented, a marked feature of the room being that everything has its place and appeared to be kept in it.


Amongst other things I was struck with the assortment of table glass, cut glass toilet bottles, the familiar druggists' carboys and specie jars, but without their glittering contents, combs, brushes, mirrors, and, in fact, more articles than I could possible mention, as will be seen by mentioning that the trade catalogue of the firm has nearly 300 closely printed pages; and in making by adieux to the firm, I was fair to say that although, as a visitor, everything seemed interesting and attractive, I should certainly not like to be engaged in a business that was apparently such a tax upon one's energy".

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