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Page 1 - Introduction
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See also Soap House Yard, Walton.

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Click image to enlarge. Hodgson & Simpson first started production in Walton near Wakefield in the 19th century. After a legal battle with Charles Waterton of Walton Hall, the company moved from Walton's Soap House Yard to Calder Island. There, they continued to manufacture soap until 1906.
■ This picture shows the soap works and Thornes Lock.

In White's Directory, 1853, Hodgson & Simpson are shown as soap boilers at Thornes.

Transcript of the entry of "professions and trades" for ALVERTHORPE (including Thornes) in White's Directory of 1887: Hodgson & Simpson, soap mfrs. Calder Soap Works. According to The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868, artificial manures were also manufactured. See Muck and Brass.

Click to enlarge Hodgson & Simpson's Calder Soap Works continued in production until 1906 and expanded into Liverpool and London. "Perhaps its greatest claim to fame was the gold medal won by the firm at the Great Paris Exhibtion of 1878."
(A History of Walton by Peter Wright).

Click to enlarge Century Soap postcard, commemorating the firm's success at the Great Paris Exhibtion of 1878.
Related to this, see also
■ Golden Pale show card - Gold Medal - Paris 1878.
Approximate size H: 57cm (22.4") W: 45cm (17.7") One of the Golden Pale cards was on sale for £650 in 2015.
■ The Great Paris Exhibition of 1878 (PDF) .- read an extract from Paris Herself Again by George Augustus Sala.(4).

After the soap works closed it became a rope works.

In the end, an emerging giant, Lever Brothers, acquired the company, along with other acquisitions. Later on, Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie of the Netherlands to form Unilever.

Click to enlarge.Calder Island is an island by virtue of the fact that a navigation cut was made by-passing a loop in the River Calder to link up two stretches of navigable river, both of which form part of the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

A Brief History of Lever Brothers (and Unilever)
Founded in 1885 in Warrington as a soap maker. By using glycerin and vegetable oils such as palm oil (rather than tallow) they produced a good, free-lathering soap, called "Sunlight Soap".

By the later 1880s they were doing very well and set about building a new plant at what is now Port Sunlight where they built a 'model village' for their work force, actually this was really quite a large town. The original Lever Brothers soap factory at Port Sunlight covered 56 acres, by 1906 it covered 90 acres.

By February 1895 the factory was producing 1600 tonnes of soap a week and this figure rose to 2400 tonnes a week in 1897.

By 1914 over 60,000 tonnes of soap was being produced. As well as the above listed companies Lever Bros also took over Benjamin Brooke and Co in the 1890s as well as the Vinolia Co. and Hodgson and Simpson. Over the next few years they bought Crosfield's of Warrington, Hazlehurst and Sons of Runcorn and Hudson's of Liverpool. They also expanded into foreign markets in Europe and America.

Vim scouring powder, Lux soap flakes (for washing clothes, but also sold in some quantities to cloth manufacturers) and Lifebuoy soap were all established brands by 1900.

In 1925 Lever Bros bought out British Oil and Cake Mills, one of their main competitors (who made New Pin Soap).

In September 1929 Lever Brothers merged with one of its great rivals the Margarine Union, which was based in the Netherlands, to form a new company called Unilever. This merger led to a number of Lever Brothers factories being closed down but its main factory in the United Kingdom stayed at Port Sunlight.

Refuse Heap A legacy of the Calder Soap Works is the large heap of refuse called the 'Black Ash'. This is situated on the south bank of the River Calder, adjacent to the western portion of Calder Island, and stretches from Denby Dale Road to the point where the river and navigation meet at the western end of Calder Island.

■ More about the Calder & Hebble Navigation here.

Click to enlarge.
View of Thornes Lock on 12th April 2010. The lock is still in use but the old buildings on Calder Island have gone. A leisure centre now stands on the site of the soap works.

Click to enlarge.
Hodgson & Simpson's Invincible Transparent Soap was around in the 1890s. This photograph was kindly supplied by Mr. G. Carefoot, who had bought the ancient bar of soap to use on a military history project.

Click to enlarge.
A bar of Hodgson & Simpson's Bell Brand soap - looking as formidable as an old bar of carbolic.
© John S. Sargent.

Click to enlarge.
Soap out, cars and leisure in.
View towards Wakefield from Denby Dale Road Canal Bridge. The soap works had a large chimney that was reduced in size in the early 1970s. Calder Island (on the right) has now been redeveloped and is home to several car showrooms, a pub and a fish and chip restaurant.
Public Right of Way Wakefield 91 runs along the towing path.
[October 2010]

Click to enlarge.
Hodgson & Simpson, Wakefield, perfume bottle.

Click to enlarge.
Not just soap, the company also made Bull's Eye Wax Candles.

Click to enlarge.
Sweet May
After all the long years that have passed since the days of Hodgson and Simpson, it is still possible to find a full bottle of Sweet May perfume.
[May 2011]
The National Trust also has a Sweet May bottle in its collection.

Click to enlarge.
A free sample from the makers of Invincible Transparent Toilet Soap.

Invincible Soap was around during the 1890s, witness this auction item:
Spinks, Great Britain Stamps & Postal History, Friday 9 May 2008:
1892 envelope used locally in Derby, the front and back showing pale pink advertisement for Hodgson & Simpson's Invincible Soap ("Best in the World"), bearing 1881 1d. [postage stamp].

Click to enlarge.
A Victorian Retailer's Glass Bowl and Cover, inscribed 'Hodgson & Simpson Limited Sweet May Toilet Soap', 21 cm high x 21 cm diameter. This one was available for £250 at the Hemswell Antique Centre on 31st January 2010. Probably a rare survivor from the Victorian era.

Click to enlarge.
Hodgson and Simpson Soap Label, late 19th or early 20th century.

Click to enlarge.
Everybody's Towel Soap
"Save just 12 wrappers to get a free gift!"
■ With this advertisement, only 10 wrappers are required!
[Hodgson & Simpson adverisements]

Click to enlarge.
Hodgson & Simpson's Invincible Transparent Toilet Soap.

Sources include:
1. Wakefield Canal Trail, John Goodchild, Wakefield Historical Publications, 1985 ISBN 0 901869 22 8.
2. A History of Walton, Peter Wright.
3. Charles Waterton, Julia Blackburn.
4. Paris Herself Again in 1878-9, George Augustus Sala, Vizetelly & Co., London, 8th edition, 1884.

© John S. Sargent, 1997 - 2021.  All rights reserved.  
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