British Alizarine Co. Ltd.

Scope and Content

The collection includes a complete set of annual reports, but only one volume of Directors' minutes covering 1882-1886; the location of the remaining minute books is unknown. Perhaps the most interesting components of the archive are the record books of the Alizarine Conventions for 1881-84 and 1900-14.

Administrative / Biographical History

British Alizarine Co. Ltd. was a specialist dye-making company, which operated firstly in London, and then at Trafford Park, near Manchester. The company was indirectly descended from the firm of William Perkin, which had been acquired by the partnership of Brooke, Simpson and Miller in 1874. This company's interests had in turn passed to Burt, Boulton and Haywood in 1876, who manufactured alizarine. They closed Perkin's Greenford works and moved production to Silvertown in the East End of London. In 1883 a new company British Alizarine Co. took over this factory.

British Alizarine was created primarily to protect the interests of British consumers of alizarine red dye. The Alizarine Convention, a producers cartel, had been set up primarily by German firms in 1881, and this threatened to raise prices for British dye users. To counteract this, some dyestuff users supported the takeover of Burt, Boulton and Haywood's works to ensure some regularity of supply from a British firm. The Alizarine Convention ended in 1885. In 1900 another cartel was formed by the German companies, and they made an unsuccessful bid for British Alizarine. However, the firm cooperated with the Convention over pricing until 1914.

British Alizarine was always a small company (in 1913, it had 30 employees). It concentrated on making alizarine dyes, and during the First World War, with German imports ceasing, it had an effective monopoly of the domestic market. This made it an acquisition target of British Dyestuffs Corporation, something it successfully resisted. In 1917, the firm's Silvertown works was badly damaged by an explosion, and in 1921 it moved to new premises at Trafford Park, near Manchester. In 1926 the company acquired an interest in British Synthetics Ltd., an azo dye maker. The company expanded its range, but its profits fell in the 1920s, partly because of strong competition from Scottish Dyes Ltd., which manufactured alizarine dyes using cheaper processes. In 1931 British Alizarine was acquired by ICI, which continued to use its name until 1940. ICI continued to manufacture dyes at the Trafford Park site for many years after.