Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Beecham Group

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Beechams was the family business of Thomas Beecham (1820-1907), a chemist. He was the grandfather of the conductor also named Thomas Beecham (1879–1961).

As a boy, Beecham worked as a shepherd, selling herbal remedies as a sideline. He then started as a travelling salesman or peddler but subsequent success enabled him to open a shop in Wigan.

1840 At the age of 20, Thomas became a market trader in Lancashire.

1842 Company was founded as Thomas Beecham. The first product was Beecham's Pills, a laxative. Beecham sold Beecham's Pills, and other medicines at markets around Wigan.

1859 Beecham opened its first factory in St Helens, Lancashire, for the rapid production of medicines. The factory was the first to be opened solely for the production of medicines.

1875 Beecham was exporting his remedies to Africa and Australia.

1880s The company used fun advertisements to publicise their pills.

1885 Thomas Beecham's company acquires headquarters on the corner of Silver Street and Water Street, St Helens, England.

1887 The company's new factory in St Helens becomes the first in the area to have electricity.

1887 Another branch of the business was founded in USA

1907 Thomas Beecham died, and his sons Joseph and William took over the running of the business.

1913 Production of Beecham's Pills laxative reached one million a day.

Under Sir Joseph Beecham, 1st Baronet (1848-1916) the business expanded but the company remained focussed on patent medicines and engaged little in research.

1924 Public company formed Beecham Estates and Pills Ltd which acquired Covent Garden Markets, owners of various properties in London, and the Beecham's Pills business [1]

1926 Beecham's Powders were launched.

Sometime after 1926 the family connection to the company ended after the company was sold.

1927 The company decided to dispose of its pills business[2]

1928 A new public company was formed: Beecham's Pills Ltd, to acquire the pills business and great majority of shares in the Veno Drug Co[3], maker of Veno's cough medicine and "Germolene" antiseptic.

1938 Beecham bought companies for various products, adding the Lucozade glucose drink and Macleans toothpaste to its product chain.

1939 It added hair products for men to its product chain by buying County Perfumery Co Ltd, manufacturers of Brylcreem

1943 It decided to focus more on improving its research and built Beecham Research Laboratories.

1944 The company was named Beecham Group Ltd.

1945 Beecham Research Laboratories Ltd operated from Brockham Park, Surrey.

By the mid 1950s the group comprised some 100 smaller companies, including a large wholesale grocery business which was sold off later.

In the 1950s to 1960s Beecham in consort with Bristol-Myers developed penicillin derivatives including pheneticillin, then the more potent methicillin (Celbenin). Later these were followed by Ampiclox and others as the group focussed on pharmaceutical development

1953 Company bought C. L. Bencard, which specialized in allergy vaccines.

1957 Company researchers isolated the penicillin nucleus 6-aminopenicillanic acid (6-APA). This discovery allowed the synthesis of a number of new semisynthetic penicillins.

1959 Beecham marketed Broxil (phenethicillin), followed shortly by Celbenin (methicillin) that is active against Staphylococcus aureus.

1961 Penbritin (ampicillin) hit the market, and soon Beecham's facilities were inadequate for the worldwide demand.

A 35-acre complex at Worthing came on line in the early 1960s to produce 6-APA, the base for semisynthetic penicillins.

1961 Employs 14,450 persons. [4]

1969 Acquired Horlicks Malted Milk Co

1971 Beecham attempted to take-over Glaxo, which had a much larger pharmaceuticals business, but was unsuccessful after a Monopolies Commission investigation.

1972 Beecham launched Amoxil, which went on to become one of the most widely prescribed antibiotics.

1981 Beecham introduced Augmentin, an antibiotic used to treat an array of bacterial infections.

1986 Sold various food business to Hillsdown Holdings

1989 The Beecham Group plc and SmithKline Beckman merged to form SmithKline Beecham plc.

1989 Production of "Beecham's Pills" ceased.

2001 SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome merged to form GlaxoSmithKline.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5
  • [2] GlaxoSmithKline website
  1. The Times (London, England), Monday, May 26, 1924
  2. The Times Dec 13, 1927
  3. The Times Jan 27, 1928
  4. 1961 Guide to Key British Enterprises