The history of Stoddard International plc, registered in 1998, placed into receivership in February 2005 and liquidated in 2009, can be traced to Arthur Francis Stoddard and the Glenpatrick Carpet Mills, established in the 1860s. In the course of its 140-year history, Stoddard International plc and its subsidiaries enjoyed world-wide markets for their carpets, produced for the domestic and commercial markets. They enjoyed lucrative commissions, producing carpets for luxury liners, government buildings and Royal occasions, and employing artists of international calibre such as Charles Voysey, Walter Crane and Mary Quant.
Arthur Francis Stoddard (1810-1882) was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA in 1810. He became a commissioning agent in a silk firm in New York in 1831 and soon entered into a partnership with Peter Denny, importers, New York which saw him become their agent in London, England. Seeking refuge from a slump in the American market he established himself in Glasgow, Scotland in 1844 as a commissioning agent. Here he became the Glasgow partner in the firm of A & S Henry, merchants and commission agents of Manchester, England, and before long the firm had branches around the United Kingdom.
In 1853, Stoddard moved to Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland where he came into contact with carpet making through the nearby Patrickbank Mill, at that time owned by two brothers, John and Robert Ronald. The Ronalds had set up in business producing block-printed Paisley shawls switching to printed tapestry carpets when the market for shawls declined in the mid-1850s. However, the business was failing and competition through price cutting with J Crossley & Sons of Halilfax who employed thousands of weavers forced them into bankruptcy. Stoddard had also found business slow and cut his ties with A & S Henry in 1862 and retired to his home in Elderslie.
Within a few months Stoddard purchased the Patrickbank Mill from the Ronalds creditors and re-named it Glenpatrick Carpet Mills, and set up as a carpet maker. His experiences in the United States with A & S Henry, and through the business contacts he had established, especially overseas, led him to succeed where the Ronald brothers had failed. By 1867, 75 percent of Stoddard's production was being exported to the United States. By 1870, the company was producing rugs and stair pads and Stoddard himself had patented an anti-moth lining. In 1871, Stoddard took his son, Frederick, and an associate, Charles Bine Renshaw (1848-1918), into partnership and the company became known as A F Stoddard & Co. In 1870, the USA had increased its import tariffs and Stoddard had to look to Europe for new markets. However, Europe soon also imposed tariffs and it was Renshaw who travelled the world establishing the company's foothold in Asia and the Colonies for which he received credit from Arthur Stoddard.
Charles Bine Renshaw was born in Sussex and following an early career as a merchant in London and Manchester he moved to Glasgow in 1868. In 1872, he married Arthur Stoddard's daughter. Following Arthur's death in 1882, he continued the business with Frederick Stoddard until later that year when Frederick sold his share of the business to Charles who became sole proprietor. Renshaw took his brother, Arthur, into partnership in 1891 and when the company was incorporated as A F Stoddard & Co Ltd in 1894, Charles became chair and his brother vice-chair. By the early 1890s, the firm was making tapestry carpeting and stair pads, although the latter were discontinued in 1895 in favour of carpet squares and a large design department ensured a great variety of carpet designs were available. Around this time extensive rebuilding of the works was undertaken with electric lighting being installed and departments were laid out so that products passed from process to process with minimum handling. The company built housing for its workers and at Christmas the workers were entertained on Renshaw's estate.
Renshaw gradually withdrew from the day-to-day running of the works as he became more active in politics. He had been elected MP for Renfrewshire in 1892, having been active in local politics for many years and in 1902 was made a Baronet for his services.
Renshaw expanded the business through the take over of a number of local competitors. In 1918, the company acquired the entire share capital of Ronald Jack & Co Ltd of Paisley, Renfrewshire, and also of Caledonian Carpets Ltd of Stirling. Arthur Renshaw succeeded his brother as Chairman upon his death in 1918 but outlived him by only a few months. After the 1914-1918 War was over, Stephen Renshaw, the son of Charles who had entered the business in 1909, returned from active service to take charge of the company.
In 1947, A F Stoddard & Co Ltd won the commission to provide the carpets for the marriage of H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth, cementing its reputation as a leading producer of high-quality carpets. In 1959, Stoddard's embarked on a period of expansion, acquiring Henry Widnell & Stewart Ltd of Bonnyrigg, Scotland, and establishing a new firm, Glenvale Carpets Ltd. In 1966, the company was granted the Royal Warrant.
In 1970, the company reorganised. The carpet manufacture and trading undertakings were transferred to Stewart Spinners (Galashiels) Ltd which in turn was renamed A F Stoddard & Co Ltd. The company previously known as A F Stoddard & Co Ltd, became Stoddard Holdings Ltd, the holding company for all Stoddard subsidiary companies. Chenille Axminster, established in 1837 by William Quigley, was acquired . The following decade saw a period of short-lived international expansion with the establishment of new international subsidiaries. These were, however, cut back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1980, the Guthrie Corporation Ltd of London and parent company of British Carpets Ltd (previously James Templeton & Co Ltd, carpet manufactures, Glasgow) acquired a £1.5m stake in Stoddard Holdings Ltd. In return, Guthrie Corporation Ltd transferred British Carpets Ltd's subsidiary companies, including Templetons Carpets Ltd, S J Stockwell & Co (Carpets) Ltd of Glasgow and Kingsmead Carpets Ltd of London to Stoddard Holdings Ltd. The Templeton factories in Bridgeton, Glasgow, were closed down in that year and production transferred to Stoddard's Elderslie site.
In 1984, Stoddard Holdings Ltd became a public limited company as Stoddard Holdings plc. In 1988, following the acquisition of the textile manufacturers, Sekers, the company changed its name to Stoddard Sekers International plc . The 1990s and 2000s saw significant financial pressures for the company as consumer fashions moved away from carpeting in favour of wooden flooring. Stoddard's responded to these pressures by focusing on its core carpet market. In 1998, the Sekers business was sold and the company renamed as Stoddard International plc. In 2002, the company closed two production sites, including its headquarters in Elderlie; consolidating production in Kilmarnock, Scotland. However, the financial pressures on the company continued to grow and it went into receivership in February 2005. With no buyer to take the company on as a going concern, its assets were sold, and the liquidation of Stoddard International plc was finalised in 2009.
Sources: Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1960, vol 1 (Aberdeen, 1986) and Stoddard International plc - Company History, on Funding Universe, www.fundinguniverse.com, accessed 31 August 2011.