This list is intended to be used in conjunction with the handlists compiled by Hackney Archives Department and by the staff of the Business Archives Council (see below W 24.5 XYL/2-3) and with a summary list of records deposited at Ipswich compiled by Suffolk Record Office, 1982 (W 24.5 Pamphlet). Company minutes are largely held at Hackney Archives Dept., Rose Lipman Library, De Beauvoir Road, London N.l. those where a microfilm copy is held at Vestry House have been included in this list.
|Administrative / biographical background:
Xylonite was the first artificially made commercial plastic and was developed in England by Messrs. Daniel Spill, H.Leigh Bennett and A.D.Mackay, who together formed the British Xylonite Company in June 1877. The company was the successor to Daniel Spill & Co. in the manufacture of celluloid under the trade name Xylonite, Spill having been assistant to Alexander Parkes, the inventor of celluloid (1864). The British Xylonite Company operated from Spill's existing factory in Homerton and in 1879 it merged with the neighbouring Homerton Manufacturing Company which produced finished goods from Xylonite. A rising demand for Xylonite products, coupled with a serious fire at the Homerton works led the company to build a new factory to manufacture unmoulded Xylonite in 1887 at Brantham on the Suffolk/Essex border.
A site for a new factory to make finished articles from Xylonite produced at Brantham was acquired in 1895 when the company purchased Jack's Farm, then totalling 66 acres at Hale End, Walthamstow. A model factory was opened on 18 acres of this land in 1897 (see local newspaper index). All production from Homerton, together with that from a collar factory at Holloway, was transferred to Hale End in 1900. By the 1920s the company was making other plastic materials, but the bulk of production comprised the vast numbers of combs, brushes, hand mirrors, boxes and fancy goods fashioned from Xylonite. During the Second World War, all production was rigidly controlled by the government and items made at the factory included over 48 million visors for gas masks.
The company was reorganised in 1938 when British Xylonite Ltd. became a holding company with three main subsiduaries: B.X.Plastics Ltd., which produced and sold Xylonite and Lactoid sheets, Halex Ltd., which made finished articles at Hale End, and Cascelloid Ltd., a Leicester based company making finished articles, acquired in 1931.
The Distillers Company of Edinburgh acquired a half interest in B.X. Plastics in 1939, but did not take a direct interest in Halex Ltd. Distillers joined with Union Carbide Corporation of New York, U.S.A. to form Bakelite Xylonite Ltd., (see list Ref.W 24.5 BXL). The new company comprised the British Xylonite Group, which by then had twelve factories, including Hale End. The Head Office building at Hale End, which had been devolving business to an office at Larkswood near Brantham since 1945, was moved to the Brantham district by 1961. The factory at Hale End, with its wide variety of products and correspondingly high overheads, found it difficult to maintain profits. In 1970 Bakelite Xylonite decided to close the factory. Bissell Appliances Ltd, the carpet sweeper manufacturers, continued to use part of the works, as did M. Y. Dart Ltd., who carried on the manufacture of Halex table tennis balls from Xylonite.
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