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British Industrial History

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Hodgson and Simpson

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of Wakefield; the works were at Walton, between Barnsley and Wakefield.

William Thornhill Hodgson started as an iron founder and blacking manufacturer in Barnsley.

By 1815 he had turned to the manufacture of various chemicals. For the next two years he experimented with the production of soda from bleachers' waste but was unable to put his process into practice.

1818 Turned to the production of soap

c.1825 Company established

1833 Thornhill went into partnership with his godson, Edward Thornhill Simpson

1838 Erected a new factory.

1843 Production of sulphuric acid began

1844 Started making saltcake.

1845 Hodgson became bankrupt; Simpson became the sole proprietor. Simpson was then faced with legal action brought by Charles Waterton and Sir William Pilkington.

1850 Although Simpson was ultimately successful, the cost was very high and Simpson sold the Walton works and moved to the Calder Soap Works at Thomes near Wakefield in 1850.

1866 A partnership of Simpson, his two sons, and James Wigglesworth was formed. Simpson was also a partner in Teall, Simpson and Co. who made stearine and refined indigo.

After Edward Simpson's death, the soap-works were run by his sons, Edward and Charles Henry Simpson. Eventually their sons, Edward Thornhill and Charles Harold Simpson, were also made partners.

For many years the company was fairly successful and built up a useful export trade.

By the late 1890s, the firm was beginning to feel the effect of Lever Brothers' activities and the company's fate was sealed by the family's disastrous involvement with the production of a patent steam boiler.

1899 Taken over by Lever Brothers


1906 Under pressure from their banks, the Simpsons sold out to Lever Brothers Ltd. Lever Brothers moved the production of Hodgson & Simpson soap to Port Sunlight

1908 The Thornes works were closed. Charles Henry Simpson and his son stayed in the soap business in a small way, encroaching on the trade marks bought by Levers.

The poverty-stricken Edward Simpson was given financial support by other soap-makers and died in 1914 aged 70 years.

  • Letters

1837 Letter (or advert?): 'VALUABLE DISCOVERY.— NEW MANURE.
Your paper being the organ of the agricultural body throughout the country, I have great pleasure in calling the attention of your readers to a recently discovered manure, which, from its cheapness, portability, and facility of application, proffers a great desideratum to the agricultural community. I shall, perhaps, best serve the public by simply stating the facts of an experiment on the manure in question, especially as the seed time is approaching; and shall have great pleasure, at a future lime, of entering more fully into trials which have been made by myself and friends on different crops.
Messrs Hodgson and Simpson, of Walton, near Wakefield, the discoverers of the Chemical Manure, very kindly sent me a cask of it last spring, desiring to give trial with corn. Not having land exactly requiring manure at that period, a field was kindly offered for making the experiment, by Mr Thomas Yeates, of Carlton Mirnott, near Thirsk. I prepared the seed myself, and it was drilled on part of the field along with the rest. The field had grown a corn crop the preceding year. Mr Yeates gave it a few ploughings, and considered a dressing of manure necessary, as it certainly was, for the ensuing crop.
The field was accordingly dressed with well rotted farm-yard manure, except that part of it sown with the Chemical Manure, which had nothing, excepting it, laid upon it. The barley sown with the Chemical Manure came up with much more vigorous blade, kept its colour better than the rest of the field sown with manure, and at harvest turned off a much better crop. The fact was, it lodged, while the remaining part of the field did not, and Mr Y. assured that the ears of the corn manured with the Chemical Manure were much larger.
This fact seems, beyond doubt, to settle the question of the valuable character of the manure, but it is but one among many proofs of its value, even early after its introduction. The whole expense of an manuring acre of land is but six shillings! 28lbs. of the manure being sufficient. It is applied to the seed, thus securing the whole of the nutrition to the plant. The manure in its paste state is dissolved in water until it becomes of the consistency of thick cream, it is then poured upon the seed, and well mixed, and the seed dried with a small quantity of lime. Nothing more is necessary. So trifling an expense recommends it to the most extensive use. Doubtless Messrs Hodgson and Simpson may be ranked amongst the benefactors of man, if this discovery effects what it proffers to do. — Correspondent Mark-Lane Express.' [1]

1837 Letter: 'NEW MANURE.
To the Editor of the Mark Lane Express,
Sir,—l perceive in your paper of last week, an announcement of a "valuable discovery” of New Manure, from a correspondent of your’s signed "M. M. Wilburn.” In reference to which, I do in the first place acquit Mr. Milburn of all blame in connection with that letter ; but my object in addressing you is to do justice to an individual who Messrs. Hodgson and Simpson know to be the discoverer.
The person I allude to, has spent some hundreds of pounds, as well as much of his time, in bringing the manure to its present state of adaptation and usefulness ; and I have no doubt but this discovery will cause “great revolution” in agriculture, when it shall have been more fully tested, and its merits practically known. The gentleman, however, to whom the public is indebted for it, is Mr. Hopwood Furness, who I now wish to record in the annals of your miscellany, as the original discoverer of the Chemical Manure ; and when his discovery is carried out to its farthest extent, it will, I think, shew clearly that chemistry has much to do with agriculture as a practical science.
I beg to take the opportunity of expressing approbation of the pains you have taken to enforce this subject upon the agricultural world. I have to add, moreover, that Mr. Furness is himself unacquainted with the communication I now make to you, nevertheless I submit this for insertion in the "Mark Lane Express," at the earliest possible period. I remain, Sir, yours respectfully, JOSEPH BOWER, Hunslet, near Leeds, Oct. 5th.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Perthshire Advertiser - Thursday 19 October 1837, and other newspapers
  • The History of Unilever by Charles Wilson. Published 1954 by Cassell and Co
  • Archives of the British chemical industry, 1750-1914: a handlist. By Peter J. T. Morris and Colin A. Russell. Edited by John Graham Smith. 1988.