Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,419 pages of information and 211,648 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Wilkinson Sword

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April 1899.
April 1903.
October 1903.
September 1905.
July 1917.
Dec 1921.
November 1930.
September 1936.
November 1939.
December 1950.
February 1956. SWOE.
1957. Sword-Edge razor Blades.
1957. Revolution Pruners.

as The Wilkinson Sword Co of 27 and 28 Pall Mall (1903), then 53 Pall Mall, London, SW. Factory at Oakley Works, Acton, London, W. (1922)

as The Wilkinson Cutlery Co Ltd of Tudor House, Rathbone Place, Oxford Street, London, W1 - Manufacturers: The Wilkinson Sword Co, of Acton. (1929)

as The Wilkinson Sword Co Ltd of Oakley Works, Southfield Road, Acton Green, London, W4. Telephone: Chiswick 1247. Cables: "Swordproof, London" (1947)

of Birmingham

1772 Henry Nock, who was an acclaimed gun maker, set up the business.

1804 James Wilkinson, who had been an apprentice, became Nock’s partner after marrying Nock's daughter. Wilkinson Sword were appointed Royal Gun makers to HM King George III.

1805 On Nock’s death, Wilkinson inherited the business. His son, Henry Wilkinson subsequently moved the company to Pall Mall and extended the business from bayonet making to sword manufacturing.

1879 By now, the business had moved to bigger premises in Chelsea and became the privately owned company called The Wilkinson Sword Co.

1880 Company incorporated.

1890s Wilkinson Sword steadily expanded its product range. By the turn of the century over 5,000 products were sold, from bayonets and swords to cut-throat razors.

1898 The revolutionary Wilkinson Sword safety razor was introduced.

The company diversified into a number of new products.

1908 The first Wilkinson motorcycles were designed for military reconnaissance by P. G. Tacchi, who was granted a patent for the design in 1908. Demonstrated to the British military, the Wilkinson motorcycle failed to impress the authorities, despite optional accessories including a Maxim machine gun mounted on the handlebars.

1909 After further development an improved model was exhibited at the Stanley Clyde Motorcycle Show at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London. This had a 676cc four cylinder engine and was designated the 'TAC' (for 'Touring Auto Cycle'). An upgraded version of the military model was also exhibited, with a revolver holster fitted to the side of the seat.

1911 A new engine was developed at the Oakley works in Chiswick for the luxury production Wilkinson, which was designated the 'TMC' (for Touring Motor Cycle).

Wilkinson also diversified into light car production around this time and designed an enclosed sidecar with leaf spring suspension as an option for the TMC.

1914 Production of the car and the motorcycle was transferred to Ogston Motor Co

1914 Sword cutlers, gun and equipment makers. Specialities: everything for army or navy officers, outside cloths, guns, rifles, swords, revolvers. [1]

WWI. The company focused heavily on the war effort, with the provision of Armaments. Only about 250 Wilkinsons motorcycles were produced before the war brought the line to its end in the spring of 1916 when the Wilkinson company had to produce thousands of bayonets for the war effort.

After the war Wilkinsons decided to continue to develop the in-line four engine for the Deemster car.

1922 British Industries Fair Advert for Wilkinson's Rustproof Pruners with Sword Steel and Stainless Steel Blades. All parts interchangeable. (Stand No. D.12) [2]

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Safety Razors, Razors, Safety Razor Blades, Razor Strops, Scissors, Hunting and Sheath Knives, Nail Nippers, Sword Sticks, Pruning Shears and Scissors. (Stand No. J.10) [3]

1939 Advert on this page for Razor. [4]

WWII. For the Second World War, Wilkinson Sword manufactured aircraft fire protection systems, commando knives and armoured clothing, including the famous Flak jacket used widely by US army and Air Force personnel.

An anticipated return to razor production after the war was temporarily thwarted by a brass shortage. In the interim, the company expanded its garden tools range before resuming razor production.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Safety-Razors, Pruning-Shears, Nail-Nippers, Ice-Skates, Swords. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. D.1656) [5]

1954 Advert on this page for Garden Shears. [6]

1956 Developed double-edge razor blade using Swedish stainless steel rather than a brass base, which revolutionized the market for razors[7]

1961 Swordsmiths, manufacturing "Wilkinson Sword" razor and razor blades and wide range of "Wilkinson Sword" garden tools. [8]

1973 Merger with British Match Corporation to form the new company Wilkinson Match; bringing the 2 diversified companies together had questionable logic although it would allow Wilkinson to make use of British Match's established distribution networks[9]. The merger was cleared by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission[10].

1973 Howden Group acquired Airscrew Fans from British Match[11].

1974 Lamson Industries acquired Setright Registers from British Match[12].

Wilkinson Match was then taken over by an American company which shortly afterwards became bankrupt.

1987 The Wilkinson Sword Group became a wholly owned subsidiary of Swedish Match.

Some parts of the company involved in match making survive as the Swedish company Swedish Match. Other parts of the merged company involved in shaving products survive, and still use the Trade Name Wilkinson Sword in Europe; and the Snick Trade Name elsewhere.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [3] Wilkinson Sword web site
  • [4] Wikipedia
  • Wilkinson TMC [5]
  1. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  2. 1922 British Industries Fair Advert ccxxiv; and p85
  3. 1929 British Industries Fair p181
  4. [1] History World
  5. 1947 British Industries Fair p299
  6. [2] History World
  7. The Times, 24 May 1973
  8. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  9. The Times, 24 May 1973
  10. The Times, 29 September 1973
  11. The Times, 13 December 1973
  12. The Times, 30 March, 1974