Sugg & Co
1837 - 1969
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William Thomas Sugg 1832 - 1907
Welcome to my Web site!
Hello, my name is William Thomas Sugg and I was born on 17th October 1832. I died on 28th February 1907 around 100 years ago and I have entrusted my great grandson, Christopher, with telling you something about my life...
I was born 4th into a family that eventually reached 10 children. Mind you, that's nothing because in my time I had 15 children! Of course things were very different in those days. My father was also called William and he gave me two names so we didn't get muddled but I always wanted to be just William so after Father died I stopped signing myself W.T.Sugg and reverted to William. Of course I didn't realise just how difficult it could make things for the future but at least no-one could mistake William Sugg & Co as being anything but my company!
Our family had lived in Somerset for generations but it was great grandfather John who made the big step away from rural life to the Metropolis. Unfortunately it was because he had failed in business as a grazier and bleacher in Crewkerne! He had, however, one big asset in his young wife. She was one of three sisters of the Faulkner family also from Crewkerne. One sister married a Mr Gibson of Fenchurch Street and the other married a Mr Price of York Street, Westminster, so when things went wrong you can just imagine the three sisters getting together and how John might have been persuaded to follow the others "to seek his fortune". We are talking of a date in the last quarter of the 18th century - around, say, 1785 when John would already have been 55. They remained a close knit family as we find that two of John's children worked for their uncles in London at various stages. The one we are going to follow is my grandfather, Thomas, who was the youngest born in 1771 and, like the other three, lived in Crewkerne before the move to London.
My grandfather, Thomas, must have been a remarkable man. On the basis of the date above he would have been only about 14 when the family moved to London and you can just imagine the excitement for a young person arriving in London. The numbers of people, the noise, the traffic compared with their country life. Of course he would have been expected to work for the family's joint living and it seems that he got a job with Uncle Price in Westminster who was a "tinman". This title was given to craftsmen who worked in metal and produced products of a wide range. In later centuries you would call them "tinsmiths" or "sheet metal workers". As his skills developed he became a fully fledged "ironmonger" and moved to High Street, Hoxton where he set up shop at No.55. Many of you reading this would only know an ironmonger as a shop full of pre-packed nuts and bolts and loads of practical items but, as you might guess if you thought about the name, an ironmonger was a man who dealt in all things metal and practical and made anything that was needed.
By now Thomas had a wife, Sarah, who he married in St John the Evangelist, Millbank in June 1793. Life must have been really tough for the young married couple because when they had their first son Henry, in 1794, they simply could not afford to keep him. It may seem unlikely in your century where so much support is available but, if you had no money then, you didn't eat and an extra mouth could push you over the edge. Fortunately, families were very close in those days and little Henry was adopted by second cousin Sarah who was married to Henry Hatchard and I believe could not have children of her own. They never forced him to change his surname and in due course on the death of his adoptive parents he became the owner of their business - Carpenter & Undertaker of 95, York Street, Westminster. He also became a well respected member of the community, as a collector of taxes and churchwarden of St Margaret's, Westminster.
But I digress! After Henry had been adopted it was another two years before Thomas and Sarah had their second child. Exactly when Thomas made the move to Hoxton I am not sure but it wasn't until he was 36 in 1807 that he laid the foundation of what was to inspire 'my' business.
Post Office London Directory has the entry; Sugg Thomas, gas fitter and
meter maker, 55 High Street, Hoxton) C.S.
I don't intend to tell you any more about the early development of the gas industry other than through the products of William Sugg & Co, as it is well documented elsewhere. However, you now have the link between Sugg and gas. Grandfather Thomas went on to have 10 children with Sarah and unfortunately died in one of the outbreaks of cholera in 1832, his 60th year, the same year that I was born.
(The 1852 Post Office London Directory has 'Sugg Thomas, meter maker and gas fitter at 168 Hoxton Old Town'. We know, however that Thomas died in 1832 so the most likely explanation is that Thomas's third son who was also called Thomas may well have been working with his father and being 34 at the time of the latter's death, continued the business and moved it to the Old Town address. 'Son' Thomas died in 1874 and there is no entry in the 1884 directory.) C.S.
My father, William, was Thomas and Sarah's fifth child and he was born on 23rd July 1803, so he was only 3 years old when his father got involved with gas. It is clear that there was a huge amount of interest in the developing industry and, with the practical nature that seems to run through our family he went to work for "Edges", a meter maker in Great Peter Street, Westminster - no doubt encouraged by his father who as we have seen also made meters. At the end of 1837 he 'started for himself' at 19 & 20 Marsham Street, Westminster where he worked until he died.
(The same 1841 directory that lists 'Sugg, Thomas' also carries "Sugg, Pywell & Co, gas meter manufacturers, brassfounders and gas fitters, 19 & 20 Marsham Street") C.S.
The Original Co-Partnership Agreement of
partnership agreement shows that Father entered into an
agreement with two of his contemporaries:
(We know from
partnership was dissolved by mutual consent
between Craswell Jobling, William Sugg, and William Parsley Pywell trading
as Sugg, Pywell, and Co. brass founders engineers and gas fitters of no 19
and 20 Marsham Street Westminster - 18th December 1840".
it would seem that the phrase "started for himself" was
something of a misnomer
as the business began as a partnership (at the end of 1837 or was it
1838?) called Sugg, Pywell and Co
not becoming William Sugg & Co until the end of
1840. For the purposes of this history I believe it reasonable to
consider the business as dating from 1837 as the premises remained the same.
It would seem likely, however, that there might well have been rivalry, if not competition,
between the William Sugg company and the Thomas Sugg business, by then run
by his brother!) C.S.
William Sugg 1803 - 1858, The Founder.
My mother was Elizabeth Aincham and she and father married in 1826 when father was just on 23. In no time the family began to grow, Robert in 1827, Susannah in 1829, Elizabeth in 1831 and then me, William Thomas, in 1832! I won't bore you with names and dates any further but suffice it to say that my next brother and two of my sisters all died very young, leaving just 7 of us.
The very first issue of the magazine "The Builder" dated 31st December 1842 carries the following advertisement:
"William Sugg & Co., No.19 Marsham Street. Brass and Iron Founders, Gas Engineers and Fitters, Makers of Improved Patent Gas Meters, Manufacturers of every description of plain and ornamental bronze, brass and iron work for OIL or GAS. Fan lights, passage and lantern, plain or ornamental, Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation. Casting for the Trade."
You can see from this that only 2 years after the partnership was dissolved, Father had his sights set high! What it doesn't show you is just how badly things had been going! Of course I didn't know anything about this at the age of 10, although I am sure the atmosphere between my parents was sometimes not very comfortable! What I hadn't realised until some time later was that Father had set the business up as a partnership and must have become very unhappy with the result as less than three months after the dissolution of the partnership there is a further agreement which both Father and Mr Pywell - despite no longer being a partner - sign and seal.
An accountant, Mr William Gould, the third party to this agreement dated 9th March 1841, indicates that he was prepared to take on the responsibility for the Company debts against everything the remaining two partners owned! In addition, the 26 creditors are listed at the bottom of the agreement with their names and the sums that each is owed, varying from 14 shillings right up to 290 pounds 7 shillings and 5 pence to the aforementioned Mr William Gould! The two other signatories are Father and Pywell. The lowly paid Mr Jobling would clearly not add a lot of security to the agreement and he was discounted. In fact Mr Pywell is also not heard of again and may well have been frightened off by thoughts of the poor house. Father, on the other hand was made of sterner stuff and his advert in the Builder, above, less than two years after this agreement tells us that he was going to trade out of the problems. Exactly how they got into such a situation in only four years was never clear but it would be familiar to many small businesses even in your age, especially as the age of banking had yet to provide 'working capital'. When I joined the business it was all over and I don't even know what happened to Mr Gould. My job was to help the business to succeed.
My father had arranged for me to work at the South Metropolitan Gas Company under Thomas Livesey where I learned all about gas supply and appliances. What interested me was the design and technology, the detail of the business. It was clear to me very soon after joining Father that nobody really knew much about how things worked and why. I spent a great deal of time experimenting with how gas burned and why. It seems our efforts began to turn the business around as in 1847, the same year as our last and surviving brother was born, Father took a house in Hanwell so that we no longer lived 'over the shop'. The business actually remained in the original premises for nearly 30 years.
Sadly my father died of cholera when he was only in his 53rd year in the May of 1858 when I was still 25. However by then I had really got my feet under the table and the business passed to me without any complaint! Now was my chance to really do something in this fast accelerating industry.
The Marsham Street Factory
Of course I cannot proceed
further without a little more personal history because the family is so
intertwined with the Company. By the time I took over the business
I had been married for 5 years and we had one son, David William who was
5, one daughter, Lizzie, 4 and my wife, Jane, was pregnant with
what was to be our second son, Walter John, who became known as Jack.
So you see I married not long after my 20th birthday -- and it turned
out to be a big mistake. I have to admit that Jane Parker was one
of those women who is a young man's dream. She was a barmaid and I
was tempted. I am not going into the details here but I will tell
you that David was born just 4 months after we were married.
Unfortunately, my choice of Jane as a wife showed a lack of judgement
for a long term relationship. I was
eventually forced to use a private detective to obtain evidence of her
unfaithfulness. In those days it was only a few years since it had
required an Act of Parliament to obtain a divorce and so it was
necessary to collect the evidence very carefully. I still have the
account from the detective in which he lists all the details of his time
and the costs. It did cost me a fortune but in the end I was
granted a divorce in 1862 with the co-respondent being named as a
One of the important features of my company was our apprenticeship arrangements. In common with many apprenticeships the term was for a period of 7 years and as can be seen in the indenture for one James Connor who commenced his apprenticeship on the 5th September 1869 he was paid 5/- (25p) per week for the first year. The pay progressed by 1/- (5p) per week each year until 1873 when it increased by 2/-per week each year until the 5th September 1876 and as you can see I signed him off as "having served his full time to my entire satisfaction."
By 1866 the Marsham Street works was unable to cope with the amount of business that was coming in and, fortunately, I was able to secure some new premises close by in Regency Street between Page Street and Vincent Street. As you can see from the illustration below I called the premises Vincent Works and this became the heart of the business for nearly a century, albeit with several enlargements.
Vincent Works 1866
The sign indicates the location of our showroom in Charing Cross - 'nearby the Post Office', a description that would mean a lot more in those days than in the 21st century! 1 & 2 Grand Hotel Buildings was just a stones throw from Trafalgar Square and provided a fabulous central location for our friends in the various Gas Company's and the householder who wished to familiarise himself with the latest labour saving products and lighting designs. Trafalgar Square was a great showroom in itself with numerous Sugg lamps mounted on the surrounding walls and on posts at the junctions of several of the major roads where they joined the Square. At the end of the 20th century during the refurbishment of Trafalgar Square, three original William Sugg lamps still in their original positions were refurbished by Sugg Lighting and re-mounted on new cast lamp posts erected back in the Square, whilst a set of slightly smaller scaled versions were designed and manufactured and fitted around the Square on the walls from which the originals had been removed. It has to be admitted that all these fixtures are now operating with electric lighting sources but it is more important that the original Sugg designs can still be seen (even if they are not recognised by the millions who pass through the Square each year.) Let us hope that this website will help to educate just some of those millions!! (Installing a lamp post in Trafalgar Square is in itself a problem as much of the Square is over the Underground station! The 'new' Sugg posts are bolted to 1 metre diameter steel plates just below the original stone slabs! CS.)
This is one of the new smaller scaled lanterns placed on the original pedestals around the wall of Trafalgar Square They are based on 3 original Sugg Lanterns which were refurbished and repositioned on new posts within the square.
Reverting back to 1866 and the move to Vincent Works, I had been working hard with the "Argand" burner, designed originally by monsieur Argand as an oil burner with a circular wick. Having worked previously on plain gas jets, I felt that if I could achieve a circular ring of gas flame with combustion air passing up the centre as well as around the outside in a controlled fashion I would be able to produce a perfect, controllable, luminous bright flame. Many experiments later I achieved my goal and in 1869 the Gas Referees were persuaded by the result to adopt my "London" Argand as the Standard Test Burner for the Metropolis. In my promotional material I was allowed to quote their statement that:
"This burner of Mr Sugg's excels all others."
(The Gas Referees were a body set up to assure the quality of gas production from the hundreds of gas manufacturing plants around the country. Because the variety of coal mined in various parts of the country varied, it was important to be able to check that the gas produced was of a suitable and preferably equal quality which would provide the customers with good quality lighting. To do this the Referees needed a burner which would provide a basis for comparison when burning the different gases. The 'London' Argand was initially adopted for the Metropolis and subsequently is quoted as "prescribed in most Gas Companies' Acts of Parliament.)
This picture is one of a pair taken during a visit to the Beckton Gas Works and is dated May 23rd 1870. Fortunately it carries the names of the gentlemen involved and in one case his job. From left to right it reads William Sugg, T.Page, Evans, Patterson R.H. (Gas Referee), Friedleben, Trewby and Wyatt.
(The Beckton Gas Works became the largest gas works in the world located on the north of the Thames not far from the location of the Millennium Dome - now the O2 Arena.)
Apart from Mr Patterson in the middle who clearly likes to cut a dash in his important position as Gas Referee, the name Friedleben rang a strong bell! My family records showed that William Sugg's first daughter known as Lizzie married a Friedleben so this cannot be just a coincidence! However the gentleman in the picture must be at least as old as William so cannot be the Friedleben who married Lizzie in 1882. It was then that I met Claire, whose mother was born Friedleben making her a great great grandchild of William and his first wife Jane Parker. Claire has done a huge amount of family research and discovered that this Friedleben is Christoph, the father of Carl who married Lizzie, what's more Claire discovered that Christoph was the Director of the gas works in Offenbach, Germany. C.S.
Another family connection provides an extraordinary coincidence with the Beckton Gas Works and the picture with William Sugg above. One of William's daughters, Berthe married into the Duquenoy family and in 2009 I was contacted by Simon Duquenoy who was researching his family history. During our correspondence Simon said that he had a box with an interesting plaque and sent me the following photos:
The plaque says:
It is possible that William was presented with this box at the same time as the visit in which he is photographed above. If the wood was only dug up in 1869 for the foundations their visit in May 1870 must have been during construction.
Since this last comment, Claire who is mentioned above and whose mother was a Friedleben, has found that Mr Evans in the picture was the chief engineer of the Chartered Gas Company who was building the Gas Works. The 'Gas Magazine' reported that "on Thursday June 9th 1870, 180 members and friends went by steamer to visit the new gas works in course of erection at Beckton. Met by Mr Evans he showed them drawings and over the site then entertained them to luncheon. A hearty repast was enjoyed and a toast given to the company."
So it looks as if the small group picture which is just 17 days before this major visit must have been a much more personal one and adds weight to the possibility of the presentation of the yew box.
The Argand Burner is described and illustrated in the Lighting Section - Burners - Christiania & Argand.
This success spurred me on especially in the field of photometrics which is the science of the measurement of light. It is all very well to burn gas to produce light but without knowing what that means there is no way to make comparisons or improve efficiency.
Many years ago I realised that it was necessary to establish a unit for the measurement of light and in 1862, when I had been working on the lighting of the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons, I decided on an observational experiment. I made some pencil markings on a piece of paper and took half a dozen men to read the paper at whatever distance they found convenient. The answer was one ft candle, i.e. one candle at a distance of one foot. This provided me with a basis of comparison for all other measurements of light and, indeed, became the unit in common use.
This commentary is drawn from a paper read to the 'Civil's' by Alexander Pelham Trotter in 1892 on 'The distribution and measurement of illumination' which was attended by William. In the following discussion Mr W.J.Dibden said that Mr Sugg first proposed the ft candle thirty years ago as the unit for illumination. WTS then added several observations from which the one above is drawn. He also commented that the room in question was the only room where he had been able to feel satisfied in the lighting. (This important reference was found for me by Geoff Brundrett - a co-member of the CIBSE Heritage Panel who had remembered reading it on some occasion and finally unearthed it! CS)
Eventually we had an excellent lighting laboratory which was not improved until my grandson Crawford Sugg joined the Company in the 1930's and designed the very clever 'mirror head' device - about which more later! By the turn of the nineteenth century, however, the Company was able to provide a huge range of scientific technical equipment as part of their sales effort and this is illustrated in the Technical Section.
Whilst working on the Argand burner I had not
forgotten the flat flame burner. In my mind there was always room
for both types of burner. The Argand was always going to be more
complicated and thus more expensive than the flat flame burner and was
likely to require more maintenance. The glass chimneys were always
going to suffer from breakage where the flat flame had none.
Original photographs of a selection of Christiania burners. A larger version of this photo is included in Lighting Section - Burners - Christiania & Argand
One of the features that made the Christiania fixtures popular was the beautiful hand painted glassware that I obtained from France.
This was not my only connection with France, as gas lighting was in demand all over the developed world. Paris had adopted gas lighting in 1820 and by the 1870's our burners and fixtures were being used so widely that I decided to open an office in that beautiful city. Unfortunately, the Franco Prussian War which led to the four month Siege of Paris 1870 - 1871 was a major problem! It did however lead to my meeting Marie Jenny Fleurot. (Frances Robinson, granddaughter of William & Jenny who remembered her grandmother well, told me in 1987 that Jenny was actually rescued by William during the siege and she was left with nothing. The siege ended on 27th January 1871 but there were continuing problems and it may well have been after the signing of the armistice but before the arrival of the Paris commune with its own trials and tribulations. CS.), to cut a long story short, we were married in July 1871 just before Jenny's 21st birthday - when I was 38!
We were married twice, once in Paris and once in London to satisfy all sides! Jenny, as she was known to everyone was a very special lady. Of course my French improved enormously and all our children were bilingual. In fact Jenny would chat away in French to her daughters in particular and, when there was anything of importance she would always speak or write in her native language. In due course I became the translator on the many trips that I took to France with the Gas Institute and other groups!
Our family grew, along with the business and we were blessed with 12 children and only poor Robert Pierre died after only 8 months. Our last child was born in 1888 when I was 56.
Jenny remained in contact with her family in Paris and many of our children have the same French names as her family. (Another confusion for the genealogist!) Because Jenny was so much younger than me it was clear that she would live many years beyond me and her family, as well as our own family, were very important to her.
Great grandson Christopher has a substantial computer based family genealogy archive which he started as a card index back in 1969. Much of the early information had been collected by my first cousin John Walter Sugg who was born in January 1835 a little over two years after me (not to be confused with Walter John mentioned earlier). He also married one of my sisters, Rebekah Ann so we were very close. (Yes, his first cousin). John was the son of the Henry I mentioned earlier who was adopted by the Hatchard family and became the owner of their business as carpenter and undertaker. John followed that side of the family and I suspect that his interest in the family history is connected to both his father's adoption and his calling! He carried a small notebook in which he listed all the family members and cousins and second cousins and more that he could record. Fortunately it survived and provided a major starting point for the family archive.
Wages book 1877 - 1882
(One of the few company record books with names that has survived is a hard back wages book dating from Friday August 17th 1877 with 13 names to Friday 30th June 1882 with 30 names. I think this is just the office staff. CS)
(Note the entry for DW Sugg and also for both W Wright and E Wright. This list somewhat disguises the fact that, according to my records at this date Edwin Wright is 17 whilst his younger brother, Walter, is only 11 but apparently earns more than his older brother. David William Sugg, William's first child is 24.CS)
(At this date, 5 years later, there are no Suggs but both of the Wright names have gained an 'S' i.e. ES Wright and WS Wright and this is because they are both the children of Simeon Wright and William's elder sister, Susannah Amelia Sugg, and they became known as the Sugg-Wrights! It is notable that Edwin has gone from 16/- to £1:10s whilst Walter has advanced from £1:15s to £3, retaining his lead over his older brother! Walter was perhaps the more outgoing as, against his name and the three below him is the word 'Travellers' who are the Company Representatives. He still seems exceptionally young as he will be only 16 in 1882.
It was Edwin, however, who was eventually to succeed William on his death which you can read about further down. CS)
I was always determined to record the progress of my inventions by giving lectures and publishing both these and a number of books setting out the development of the many products over the years. The aim was to educate and of course provide both the Industry personnel and the interested private user with the added confidence that leads to increased sales! For the same reason we showed our wares at many national and international exhibitions and won many medals (which also survive into the 21st century.) They were often used in our advertising as another means of confidence building for our customers.
My 1880s headed paper looked like this
MEDALS WON BY WILLIAM SUGG & CO BETWEEN 1862 & 1913
As you can see several
exhibitions are in European cities, one in India and two in Australia -
a long way to go in 1881 especially as it seems they only 'had' one of
the two silver medals awarded! C.S.
To help my staff gain skills in the areas of design I sent many of them to study design at the college in South Kensington and the result can clearly be seen in the aesthetic balance of the many hundreds of lighting products that poured out of the factory some of which can be seen particularly in the Lighting Section - Interior Lamps. Even practical products can be made to look attractive and by displaying them to their best will always sell to the discerning customer even over less expensive products. (See Lighting Section - Burners - Open Flame for a burner display case for example)
Very Early Full Colour Advertising
Illustrating the Improvement Obtained Using Sugg Christiania Burners.
I did spend a lot of money on advertising and promotion and was convinced that this was an essential element of the progress of the Company associated with the production of quality products. Apart from the offices at 19 rue des Pyramides in Paris I also opened offices at Crystal Palace, 33 Bold Street, Liverpool and 409, Keizersgracht, Amsterdam.
I was equally keen that the works staff had as good a life as possible and I think you will agree that these wonderful pictures of the men and the women of the works which were taken by one of the staff with a pin-hole camera and found by Christopher, illustrate a workforce who enjoyed their work. The pictures seem to have been taken at lunch time as you can see the men's sandwiches!
Picture provided by Noel William Sugg, another of my great grandsons - born in the same year as Christopher. The Irish branch of the Sugg family started when my son, Jack, by my first wife decided to leave London for Dublin to take up a managerial post with the then Dublin Alliance and Consumer Gas Company where he worked until he retired. Jack, whose full names were Walter John had 11 children several of whom became officers in the merchant navy and one, Walter Reginald was the advertising manager with the Dublin Evening Mail for nearly 40 years.
Business was hugely exciting, we were now truly famous for quality and attention to detail of all my products. Typical of a third party comment came from Charles Dickens, Jr in his 'Dictionary of London'
Victorian London - Directories - Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 - "Illuminations"
GAS BURNERS.—The argand and fishtail burners, made by Sugg, of Westminster, and supplied by all respectable gasfitters, are unquestionably the best. It is often supposed that if a good fishtail or flat flame burner is employed, it burns equally well whatever shape of globe be used; this is not the case, the best form of globe is spherical, with a large opening, say 3 ¼ in. at the bottom, and 3 ½ in. at the top. Melon or pine shaped globes are bad, saucer shaped are still worse. For reception and bedrooms the opal Christiania shade or globe, with a No: 4 or 5 flat flame steatite burner, gives the best and most agreeable result with the least consumption of gas. The Bronner burner is economical, but must not he used in places exposed to much draught. For basement offices the No. 4 flat flame burner will answer every purpose. The constant complaint of consumers about the “bad gas” either means that the supply of gas is deficient or that it is improperly consumed: with deficient supply it must rest either with the gas company, whose service pipe may be stopped, or with the consumer, whose fittings may be choked up or too small: in the case of bad burners the remedy is an easy one. The comparison on the same chandelier of a No. 5 flat flame burner with 7 ½ .in. Christiania shade, will at once show whether the old burners and globes are or are not of the right kind. And when a good, burner and globe are obtained it is necessary to keep them free from dust, by using a soft duster for the former, and by washing the latter twice a week. It should always be remembered that what the consumer wants and pays for is so much light rather than so many cubic feet of gas. And while the quality of the gas supplied in London does not appreciably vary, it is only by using the best burners, fitted in the best and most intelligent manner that satisfactory results can be obtained.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879
The Formation of William Sugg & Co. Ltd 1881
It became clear that to continue at this level of enterprise the business would require more capital to expand. We had connections all over the Empire and in the New World and, as sole proprietor I had to hold the whole thing together. Of course I had good and faithful staff but it became clear that there was only one course and that I would have to give up the proprietorship of my Company and the expansion would have to be funded by selling shares and converting to a Limited Liability Company. Obviously I had considerable misgivings about this step but I was getting no younger and was persuaded that this would ensure the future of the name and the resulting new Company to be known as "William Sugg & Co Ltd."
The Prospectus for the sale of the business reads as follows:
WILLIAM SUGG & COMPANY
Engineers, and Manufacturers of Apparatus for Lighting, Heating and Cooking by Gas
Mr William Sugg's business with its Goodwill,
Stock-in-Trade, Plant and Machinery, Leases of Premises, and Patents,
have been valued by Mr R.P. Spice, CE., at
£80,000. The Directors have
arranged that the Vendor shall transfer the same to the Company for
£40,000 in Cash , and half the net profits after
£7 per cent. has been
paid to the Shareholders. The other half of the net profits being paid
to the shareholders in addition to the said
£7 per cent.
CAPITAL £150,000, IN 15,000 SHARES OF £10 EACH
FIRST ISSUE OF 10,000 SHARES
MANAGING DIRECTOR and ENGINEER
The well-known business of Mr. Sugg has been established since the year 1838. From that time to the present it has continued to grow until it is becoming inconveniently large for the resources of the present owner, and sufficiently extensive to justify its conversion into a Joint Stock Company. Its customers are to be found in every Country to which the use of Gas has been extended, and agencies are established in most of the principal cities of the world.
The Directors are largely interested in the prosperity of Gas undertakings, and possess a knowledge of the wants of the present time in that respect.
A contract has therefore been entered into on
behalf of the Company, for the purchase of Mr. Sugg's business, both in
England and France, as a going concern, together with the Patents of his
several Inventions, the Leases of the Premises, the Plant and Machinery,
and the Stock-in-Trade, for the sum of
£40,000, and half the
net profits after £7 per cent. has been paid to the Shareholders.
The amount of the purchase-money has been based upon a valuation made by Mr. Robert Paulson Spice, M.I.C.E., of Parliament Street, Westminster, the particulars of which are stated in his Report, a copy of which accompanies this Prospectus.
The net profit will, therefore, be divided as follows:-
First. -- Set aside
£1,000 per annum as a
(The original document then goes on to mention medals won by Mr Sugg at various exhibitions all over the world and then an interesting paragraph as follows:)
The most recent demonstration of the value of his arrangements for street lighting, is in Parliament street, Westminster, extending from the foot of Bridge Street to and including Trafalgar Square; this may be referred to as the best lighted street and square in London, the latter having been carried out by order of H.M.Office of Works.
Mr Sugg's inventions are patented in England , and some in France and Belgium. All these patents will become the property of the Company. The latest inventions are only provisionally registered at present.
Page 3 of the prospectus carries the valuation of the Company by Mr Spice. It starts by illustrating the steady development of the Company by the returns for the last 10 years as follows:-
£16,102 16 11
The profits for 1879 and 1880
appear in Mr Sugg's accounts, which have been well kept , as £7,267 and
£7,382 respectively; which is £3000 more than is required to pay 7 per
cent. on the amount proposed to be called up, and the capabilities of
the undertaking are far from being fully developed.
Mr Spice continues:-
In valuing the entire undertaking
as a going concern, and dealing with the results realised , I am of
opinion, that , for the goodwill, plant, machinery, and tools, leases of
all the premises in London and Paris, the stock-in-trade, and the
several Patents awarded to Mr. Sugg for his inventions, the sum of
£80,000 is a fair price.
He finishes by saying that he appends a certificate verifying the profits for the last two years "and I have only to observe that these profits would have been greater but for the application of revenue to capital purposes."
An agreement was drawn up and signed on 29th
June 1881 between me, William Sugg on the one hand and James Combs
Giffard, Henry Laurence Hammack, Napoleon Edward Byron Garey, Stonhewer
Edward Illingworth and Robert Hesketh Jones as Trustees for a Company on
the other hand, whereby it was agreed that:-
The following day, 30th
June 1881, the first 'Subscribers' - or shareholders as they would
eventually become known drew up the following document:
We the several persons whose names and addresses are subscribed, are desirous of being formed into a Company in pursuance of this Memorandum of Association, and we respectively agree to take the number of Shares in the Capital of the Company set opposite our respective names.
(Total 1312 shares of £10 each)
Dated this 30th day of June 1881
So the Company was sold - or that is how it felt
to me! Shares were registered in the Register of Members from June 30th
The following document was produced as part of what we would now certainly call the ‘due diligence’ information for valuing the business of Mr William Sugg. Entitled ‘The First Schedule’ it would have been considered particularly important because the value of a Company was largely in its ‘rights’ which in this case means the Patents taken out by William Sugg over a period of 13 years.
This copy is taken from a poor photocopy in which occasional numbers are not clear. These have been marked with a question mark.
The First Schedule
Mr William Sugg’s Patents
(The following details are copied from an undated document promoting the Company and could possibly also have been part of the due diligence at the time of the sale or flotation in 1881. It could equally be from a later date but it is important as it describes the various 'shops' and the tasks and products they produce. CS)
INTERNATIONAL GAS & ELECTRIC EXHIBITION,
Even before the event there was much controversy stirred up by 'a rival firm' who considered that William Sugg had been 'unduly favoured' as can be seen in this cutting.
The following incredible 4 page promotional leaflet lists the vast range of equipment shown at the Gas & Electric Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1883 - not only on the stand but, significantly, all over the site including externally!
THE ENLARGEMENT OF VINCENT WORKS.
This wonderful pen & ink drawing of the newly enlarged Vincent Works was, I was always told, drawn by Berthe Francine Sugg, one of William's daughters who was without doubt a talented artist. However It is dated 1887 and carries the initials BW. As Berthe was born in 1878 this would mean that she was only 9 years old when she made this drawing - a prodigy perhaps? The close-up below shows the detail of the front entrance with the postman arriving at the steps.
photograph was taken on the roof of the newly re-built Vincent Works to
mark the jubilee of the House in 1887. There are no less than 11
members of the family in this picture with a number of senior staff, as
Jack the Ripper!
As a reminder of the world
and more especially the London of William Sugg in the 1880's, many
readers will know the name of 'Jack the Ripper' whose name struck fear
into the minds of the population following several murders in the
streets of London in the mid 1880's and who was never brought to book.
Unfortunately it seems that Tumblety jumped bail and fled the country before the trial and thus he was never prosecuted and the 'enthusiasts' have been trying to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper ever since! C.S.
SECTION ON W.T.S. WRITINGS.
Having spent the larger
part of my working life investigating, experimenting and considering so
many aspects of gas and its utilisation I always felt it important to
give lectures and to follow these up by publishing the text to ensure
that everybody in the Industry had the opportunity of following all of
the developments. In addition I have written a number of modest books
putting together much of the information in a more general form for the
edification of a wider public and as a means of promoting the products.
My wife, who is the daughter of a chef, also wrote an excellent cookery
book on and entitled 'The Art of Cooking by Gas' which is liberally
illustrated with suitable cooking appliances all of which we have used
personally. (See the introduction to Cooking with several
comments on Jenny's book) CS
Gas & its Uses
This project was a huge one for the Company as indicated by the advertisement that was placed in Building News the day before the opening on 30th June 1894:
The text reads: Tower Bridge was lit "by
means of upwards of 200 Sugg's patent high-power flat-flame gas lamps.
All the work of supplying and running gas and water mains and supplying
and fixing lamps, ornamental lamp standards and columns, hydrants, tanks
and hand pumps, wrought iron gates and railings has been carried out by
William Sugg & Co."
Even the personalised manhole covers were cast in the nearby Sugg foundry. This picture was taken late in the 20th century and shows a Sugg manhole cover still in place.
One remaining wall mounted fixture is preserved in the museum within the north tower as shown in this picture taken in 1983.
Fire at Vincent Works
The 1900s headed paper looked like this
BUCKINGHAM PALACE LIGHTING 1901
The Centenary Booklet of 1937 described the order to light the exterior of Buckingham Palace in 1901 as a 'Signal Honour' and pointed out that these lamps "may still be seen in the same place today although the actual burners have of course been modernised from time to time." That was in 1937 so it is even more remarkable that they are still in place in the 21st century as can be seen in the illustrations later.
AND IN 1903 ON VENTILATING TORPEDO BOATS
The text below the diagram says:
"Before the introduction of these Ventilators it was impossible to properly ventilate Torpedo Boats when at sea, as the vessels, from the nature of the craft, are so low in the water that, when the weather is at all rough, they are always more or less submerged. To overcome this difficulty special Inlet and Outlet Ventilators have been devised, and with such success that it is now possible to provide a continuous supply of fresh air without the influx of water, and without the attention which is necessary in the case of “goose-neck”, etc. The Ventilators are always in action, with the wind in any direction, and the whole area of the Ventilators is acted upon at the same moment. The arrangements by which this result is attained are so simple that they may be explained in a very few words:-
Under normal conditions, the action of the Outlet Ventilator tends to exhaust the air in the Ventilating Tube, an upward current is produced and the vitiated air is powerfully extracted, while an abundant supply of fresh air enters by the Inlet Ventilator (separate sheet)
Each of the Ventilators is fitted with an automatic balanced valve for preventing the ingress of water, having an upwardly-turned rim or flange, attached to a rod secured to one end of a lever. Should any water enter the head of the Ventilator, it is received in the top of this valve, which momentarily closes down tightly on the top of the ventilating Tube; but, as the rim is perforated with a number of holes, the water runs freely into the space between the inner tube and the case, and the valve rises again immediately (see section). The water escapes by means of a relief valve near the bottom of the outer case of the Ventilator. No water can get down the inner, or ventilating, tube
These Ventilators have been severely tested with the best results. They are substantially constructed, and all parts are firmly secured together by strong stays.”
The Inlet Ventilator is very similar except that the incoming air is fed in through a ring of holes in the underside of a top spun section reminiscent of a gas lamp. It has the same lever arrangement and the nice little float chamber which allows any water in the space between the inner tube and the case to drain out. I really like the final touch of the substantial wing nut and closure plate for manually closing off the whole device should this prove necessary!
1905 ARSON FIRE
Former employee, Joseph Inwood, made an arson
attack on Sugg's Westminster works
THE DEATH OF WILLIAM THOMAS SUGG 19th FEBRUARY 1907
Towards the end of my life I contracted a debilitating illness which prevented me from taking a full part in life. As you can see from the last letter that I wrote to the President of the Institution of Gas Engineers I was unable to walk any great distance for some considerable time. It did not stop me attending the office, however, until Tuesday 19th February 1907 after which I did not return.
William Thomas Sugg died at home in his bed at 'Morningside' just 9 days later on the 28th February 1907 in his 75th year.
June 26th 1906
“Dear Mr President, - I am very sorry that I have been prevented from coming to the meeting of the Institution of Gas Engineers, and that I shall not be able to come to the Conversazione. Since the Gas Exhibition (where I got cold upon cold), I have had a long illness, and the weather has been so generally bad and changeable that I cannot get myself quite right. The last cold weather gave me a bad cold, which I have not got rid of yet; and the weakness caused by this long illness has affected the nerves of the legs, so that I can only walk a very short distance. I am obliged to give up the idea of going with you to Boulogne to serve as one of your interpreters I am very sorry; but I wish you and all the members of the Institution a fine and happy day, and hope you will all enjoy yourselves.
I am dear Mr President, yours faithfully,
Born in Westminster – he always referred to with gratification; and his close connection with the ancient city was unbroken, for at the time of his death he was a Churchwarden of St.John’s.
His father established in 1838 a gas meter and fittings business in Marsham Street, and under him as an apprentice, and in the works of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, under the late Mr Thomas Livesey, he acquired a knowledge of the manufacture of gas and the construction of the appliances used in its distribution.
In 1858 he joined his father, and on the death of the latter in 1862 acquired the business.
He had previously turned his attention to the improvement of gas burners; and had made the first argand steatite-top burner.
He also made in1858 the first burner which might be considered as the standard burner used for the testing of gas in England.
1862 in conjunction with Dr Letheby an improved form of this burner, which became known as the Sugg-Letheby standard burner for 14 candle gas.
On Sept 5 1866 he took out what appears to have been his first patent for “an apparatus for regulating the supply of gas”.
In 1868 another patent was obtained for a similar purpose; and in the following year, one for “improvements in gas burners”.
Mr Sugg was twice married, and he leaves a widow and several sons and daughters. The funeral takes place at two o’clock today, at Streatham Cemetery, Garratt Lane, Tooting; the internment being preceded by a service at the church of the Ascension, Malwood Road, Balham, at one o’clock
ALSO in Gas World an even more personal tribute which will be recorded more fully but ends lyrically
“He was a man, take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again”
“Farewell! Good workman, genial soul, kind heart, open hand. Well hast thou earned thy rest. Thy remembrance will not perish with thee!”
I feel that now we have reached the year of his death in this record, it is no longer realistic to write from the perspective of William Sugg, whose life was so dedicated to the Company. Doubtless, if he is watching from somewhere unfathomable, he will have seen 'his' company grow and change and see products come and go over the subsequent century. Now it is up to me to continue to record what he would have seen for those of us looking back from the future.
Following the death of
William Sugg he was succeeded by his nephew Mr Edwin Sugg-Wright who was
appointed General Manager in 1907 and also Secretary in 1910.
What is not clear behind the bald facts is the part played by William Sugg's wife, Jenny. As mentioned previously Jenny was half William's age when they married which amounted to 19 years younger, thus she was only 56 when he died and still had several of their children at home. Despite the obvious disparity in their ages it would seem that William paid little attention to his personal finances and, in modern jargon, although he owned a large proportion of the shares in the Company, he was property rich and cash poor. It seems that he left his wife very much in the dark as she soon discovered that she did not have sufficient funds for every day living! What was worse it seems that many years before, William had borrowed quite heavily from a relation and had never paid this loan back, seemingly claiming that he did not owe this money. After his death the Company received a claim for the outstanding amount and the Board of the now Limited Company simply passed it on to Jenny.
Jenny Sugg was now of course the major shareholder of the Company and insisted on attending the board meetings. She was clearly a woman of some determination as she told the directors that she would not let her husbands name be dragged down by a financial situation and that she would find a way to pay off the debt. In those days the Company banked with The Bank of England but when she approached the bank they politely advised her that they never made personal loans. At some loss as to what to do she was advised to try her local bank which was Lloyds where she received a very different welcome and an immediate loan based on the enormous value of her shareholding, allowing her to clear the debt and provide funds for her family living. In due course Lloyds became the Company banker, remaining as such until the Company was finally taken over in 1969.
In her powerful position as major shareholder, Jenny knew what she wanted - one of her children as Managing Director! She was also quite clear that she was not going to relinquish any of her shareholding in the Company and that the family would share equally on her death. By the time she reached 69 her son, Philip Henry was Managing Director and one year later also Chairman!
Marie Jenny Sugg with son Philip Henry
before he became Managing Director
Workshops of William Sugg & Co Ltd During the Great War 1914-1918
These 3 pictures illustrate wartime work. They were mounted on the display board shown below, doubtless to illustrate the major war effort of William Sugg & Co.Ltd. - perhaps to shareholders. The overhead shafting was driven by a steam engine in the basement, later replaced by an electric motor. The pure noise level of this amount of shafting and belts must have been terrific.
The text on the left states
"THREE OF THE BRASS-FINISHING SHOPS. In which work continued throughout
the day and night during the war."
To be added here
More historic information detailed by J.W.Lofts who joined the firm in 1880 and thus knew William Sugg for a quarter of a century. He became Sales Manager and in due course was invited to take his seat on the Board in 1920. He resigned his position as Sales Manager in 1933 whilst retaining his seat on the Board and acted as Special Representative and Consultant until the end of 1936 when he retired. He followed his old boss in lecturing and printing lectures which survive and carry much useful information.
Extracts from Public Lighting by Gas by J.W.Lofts Nov 1924
Lamp most generally in use in the 1850’s was of square shape carried in an iron cradle and was glazed in the roof as well as the sides with clear glass.
First improvement introduced by W.Sugg in 1865 was the Nictheroy (later called Camberwell). Square lamp as before but with opal glass in the roof acting as a reflector and in place of the cradle a neat frog.
Nictheroy – Flat flame
burner 5ft/hr 20cp
Journal of Gas Lighting March
All the aforementioned except the two early square lamps were ventilated from the top, that is the air inlet was at the top of the lamp, passing over the heated surface of the reflector, thereby reaching the burner in a heated condition and so keeping the flame hot and not only so but being deflected by the shape of the reflector onto the glass panes ensured the necessary air reaching the burner without draught.
(The preponderance of hats worn indoors is typical of engineering factories of the time. One reason is that the drive belts were liable to break and provide a nasty slap on the head if unprotected! The other reason may well be that the overhead gas lighting acts as a significant source of radiant heat which can be quite uncomfortable if working under it all day.)
CENTENARY YEAR - MORE DETAIL
Development of the Lighting laboratory by P.C.Sugg is detailed under Light Measurement in the Technical Section
The Second World War Years
William Sugg & Co. Ltd had been located in the same area of Westminster close to the seat of power ever since its founding whilst the city grew around it becoming the ultimate target for the wartime efforts of the Nazis.
Inevitably, the blitz in the relatively early
years of the war resulted in a direct hit on the Sugg works, fortunately
at night when the buildings were empty. The photo below illustrates the
significant damage to the blacksmith's shop and the machine shop to the
right. What it does not show is the obliteration of the drawing office
which, as the business grew, had been moved into a building erected on
the flat roof of the factory.
After the war this resulted
in a huge re-drawing task by Eric Petty who joined the company after a
war spent in the RAF. The older
and therefore out of use drawings were naturally considered of little
importance in the scheme of things so were consigned to the wastepaper
basket of history – only literature illustrations remaining to help
future generations reconstruct the past.
(Eric much later joined the follow-on company of Sugg Lighting as our
first draughtsman, for a few years prior to his retirement and told me
that they had collected every print from the factory floor that they
could lay their hands on and his first task at the Company had been to
spend months re-drawing all the relevant drawings. This explains
why no original early drawings exist and a large number of pre-war
product drawings have early post-war dates with the initials EP!)
Bomb Damage in the Blacksmith's Shop and Machine Shop to the right.
The second significant aspect of the war was a huge amount of business in the production of armaments much as had happened in the First War.
The 1/4 millionth Fuze and part of one found by Colin Walton on the battlefield of the Somme in 2010. Carries a W Sugg stamp on the rim.
Wartime as related through AGMs
The following description of the
two William Sugg factories in 1947 was written in 2005 at my request
and, as it turned out, shortly before his death, by Basil Raymond Sugg.
Ray was the
youngest brother of Philip Crawford Sugg, both of course grandsons of William Thomas
Sugg and it describes what he found, on joining the business to assist his older brother with the
development of products after the war. (See also
Warm Air Heating.)
1947 – The two Sugg Factories
(PHS was Philip Henry Sugg, MD and father to both Ray & Crawford Sugg and AAS was his brother, Anthony Aincham Sugg who was Company Secretary)
Going back into the archway and up
the left hand steps lead to an entirely different pair of modern offices
for Crawford’s secretary, Betty (surname?) and Crawford. Through
the archway, the left hand block had a basement completely full of cooker
castings (mainly commercial patterns) salvaged from the Edmonton fires.
The ground and first floor were also stores, containing incinerator
castings, small cooker parts and gas fire spares. No one worked there.
Len Stockton had very severe lung problems, which I believe resulted from the 1914-1918 war. He lived just off Clapham Common South side within a few yards of the old family house “Morningside” in Cavendish Road, which was still quite evident at this time, although it was behind a petrol filling station. Crawford frequently took Len to his home in the evening as no detour was needed, and I always thought of him as a family friend. Unfortunately he died shortly after we started to work together."
(In fact Len was related through marriage as follows. Alfred Leonard Stockton married Aline Margery Friedleben one of 8 children of Elizabeth Clara (Lizzie) Sugg and her husband Georg Friedrich Carl Friedleben. Lizzie was one of 3 children of William Thomas Sugg and his first wife Jane Emma Parker.)CS
"Vincent Works was much larger than Ranelagh Works and had an imposing
façade. (See pictures above.) The entrance from Regency Street was raised by several steps and
there was still a trace of security about it. One had to report to the
office on the right before entering the main doors. This stopped soon
after I arrived. Through the gateman’s office were modern offices for
Tommy Mattock and his secretary,
(As you can see the business was in a pretty parlous state due to lack of development over many years and it wasn't until PCS and his brother BRS tackled the development of what was to become the 'Halcyon' warm air heating appliance and 'selective heating system' that the business and the Gas Industry re-awoke to the second half of the 20th century. C.S.)
Notes from the 74th Annual Report, 30th June 1955 (Several important items introduced with this report including a comment relevant to the item above! CS.)
W.T.Mattock Chairman &
Managing Director (First Occasion)
Must expect a considerable
reduction in the manufacture of armaments during the current year. Hope
that the use of our Crawley factory and progress in gas heating
appliances will continue and so mitigate to some extent at least the
diminution in armament contracts.
Erection of Crawley Factory is now completed and production has already commenced on a limited scale.
New subsidiary company – Sugg
Solar Ltd., - has been formed to whom an exclusive licence has been
granted to manufacture and market the Mars Gas Turbine Engine in this
country, Europe and the British Commonwealth (excluding Canada). The
Solar Aircraft Company has subscribed for a proportion of the Capital of
this new Subsidiary.
Stress this is long term project – first British made engine to be available in 12 to 18 months – commence to earn profits in 2 years
Story of Sugg Solar - a classic White Elephant? - see below. CS. This article provides the basics and has been added here as it has been introduced in this 1955 annual report
of Sugg Solar is a classic of its type. William Sugg had always been an
engineering led business with products developed painstakingly -
sometimes over years. Unfortunately after William Sugg died in 1907 this
approach was steadily lost in the move to a financial led management.
With two World Wars providing a huge amount of MOD business making
armaments it would appear that the directors had no long term plan for
products especially as the mainstay of the business for so many years,
gas lighting, was suffering terminal decline.
And 10 Years Later
Chairman's Statement in the 84th Annual Report for the year ended 30th June 1965
"On the 13th October 1965, Sir
Henry Jones, K.B.E., the Chairman of the Gas Council formally opened the
extension to our Crawley Works and Offices which marked the culmination
of one of the major events in the history of the Company and began what
we believe will be a new era of prosperity for the Company which has now
left Westminster after nearly 130 years."
The original Crawley factory was the section which can be seen with the barrel vaulted roof common to many of the earliest factory buildings on the "Crawley New Towns Commission Estate'.
Having made the huge step from the Victorian factory in Westminster to the extended factory in Crawley New Town and achieved targets such as the production of 1000 Halcyon units in a week and the development of the first low water content boiler known as the Supaheat 50/15, the 'New Era of Prosperity' promised by the Chairman, R.W.Young was not to last for long. Within three years William Sugg & Co Ltd was the subject of a hostile takeover bid from Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd to which it eventually succumbed. Having then taken over International Janitor which was in part a Sugg competitor, the whole lot was put together in a new unit in Birtley Co. Durham with an office operation in Gateshead under the name of Thorn Heating. The Sugg name was consigned to history.
A tiny number of employees eventually moved to the north east but the vast majority considered it to be a step too far, took their redundancy money and found new employment or retired.
A small group of ex Westminster employees including the works foreman, Bill Gould with George Jacques, Jim Creed, Ron Lister and Ernie Clayton joined Chris Sugg and Keith Bouracier in forming a new company which eventually grew into Sugg Lighting Ltd. As a specialist lighting manufacturer producing products including gas lamps, the famous name was saved from extinction and continues today with a Royal Warrant to preserve, refurbish and re-make many of the best products of William Sugg. That's another history!
UNDER CONTINUOUS ADDITION - PLEASE TRY AGAIN LATER