This article, from the June 1907 edition of the Wolverhampton Journal was written by a man who for many years ran the town's largest manufacturing chemists, Reade Brothers. It is a history of an earlier and equally important concern; Mander, Weaver and Company, and also gives an insight into the town's chamber of commerce and its members.

Bev Parker.

An Old Wolverhampton Business

One of the oldest businesses in the County of Stafford is that so long carried on in Victoria Street, Wolverhampton by Messrs. Mander, Weaver, and Company, manufacturing chemists, and for many years since by my firm of Reade Brothers and Company, Limited

This business was originally founded in the year 1773, by Mr. John Mander, a great uncle of the late Mr. C. B. Mander and Mr. S. S. Mander, a gentleman of high reputation, who resided on the Penn Road, in a square red brick house a little beyond Merridale Street, which was long known familiarly as "Gallipot Hall", an evident allusion to the trade carried on by its worthy owner.

The grounds attached to this house were at one time very extensive, and its owner's name was given to the adjoining street known as Mander Street. This house is now occupied by Dr. Brooks, and was formerly by Mr. S. Ingram.

The business was at first carried on in King Street, but was eventually removed to Victoria Street, or Cock Street, as it was called till the visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1866 suggested the propriety of discarding a name associated with the barbarous pastime of cock fighting, and the substitution of the present one.

Mander, Weaver & Company's premises.

Here Mr. Mander secured extensive premises with a large frontage to the present Victoria Street and stretching back to John Street, where they occupied about a third of one side of the street. He found an immediate opening for a large business, both at home and abroad, and commenced to manufacture choice chemicals for the London and Foreign Markets. He was one of the earliest manufacturers of calomel and other mercurial preparations, which at that time found an extensive demand as medicinal agents both in England and other countries.

He devoted himself largely, also, to the production of chemicals used in the arts and manufactures of the world, and founded a trade with the United States which is still continued by my present firm, owing to the high reputation the goods acquired, although as much as forty percent duty is imposed on the goods on their entrance into the States.

Mr. John Mander, though a far-seeing and prosperous manufacturer and business man, was not merely a business man, but deeply interested in religious, educational, and philanthropic movements and a generous supporter of them.

When the first Nonconformist Church established in Wolverhampton, called the Old Meeting House, in John Street, became for a time Unitarian in doctrine, Mr. John Mander strongly opposed such teaching there, contending that the Meeting House was built for the preaching of Trinitarian doctrines, and could not rightly be used for the promulgation of Unitarian principles, while his brother Mr. Benjamin Mander, great grandfather of the present Alderman Charles Mander, who was a trustee of the said Meeting House, interfered to prevent the removal of the then minister of the church (who was opposed by the Unitarian adherents), and commenced a long litigation to wrest the building from the Unitarians who for many years had had possession.

After a lawsuit of 33 years, continued by Mr. Charles Mander (grandfather of Alderman C. T. Mander), the property had to be sold to defray expenses.

We next find Mr. John Mander engaged in purchasing a piece of land at the corner of Queen Street and Market Street, for the erection thereon of a Congregational Church, and Mr. Mander became a prominent and munificent supporter of the church which as soon after built on the site. On his death in 1827, at the age of 73, a handsome tablet was erected in that church to his memory by the church and congregation assembling therein. The tablet reads as follows:

This Tablet,
In permanent remembrance of

The unwearied and munificent friend
of Religion and Education,
is inscribed
By a grateful and affectionate Church
and Congregation,
As a record of Piety, Virtue and Intelligence.

He died August XXII., MDCCCXXVII.

Mr. Mander was joined in his business by Mr. Bacon, a gentleman of fine business skill and of considerable wealth, and the firm traded for some years as Mander and Bacon. Subsequently Mr. John Weaver who, it is believed came from Shropshire, joined the firm, which then traded as Mander, Bacon and Weaver.

Mr. Weaver was a man of great energy and application to business, and developed the trade considerably, opening up connections in Lancashire and Yorkshire, as well as throughout Staffordshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

He was not a man who wasted much sympathy. On one occasion it was reported to him that one of his employees had fallen down a hoist on the premises and been killed. He replied: "Ah! in the midst of life we are in death; is the cart loaded for Birmingham?" and proceeded with his business as usual.

Shortly after Mr. Weaver joined the firm, Messrs. John Mander and Bacon retired, and Mr. Benjamin Parton Mander became a partner in the firm, which then traded as Mander, Weaver and Mander. The last-named retired about the year 1833, and the business was then carried on by Mr. John Weaver as Mander, Weaver and Co.

He died in 1849, and his son, Mr. Frederick Weaver, then continued the business under the old style till the year 1873, when it was purchased by my brother and myself and carried on in new premises in Victoria Street, under the style of Reade Brothers, and later also in the commodious buildings in Cleveland Road, and in works at Cable Street and Dixon Street, Monmore Green, under the style of Reade Brothers and Company, Limited.

The old premises were acquired by Messrs. Mander Brothers, of John Street, whose works adjoined, and who found these additional premises most useful in the development of their business.

Mr. Frederick Weaver was a man of few words and of somewhat reserved and unsympathetic manner, but the writer can testify to a considerateness which perhaps would not have been expected by those who knew less of him. He resided for many years at Beech Croft, Tettenhall, and lived latterly a quiet and retired life. His death took place in the year 1880.

It is interesting to note that in the year 1819, a number of firms in Wolverhampton decided to form themselves into a Chamber of Commerce, and amongst others, Messrs. Mander, Weaver and Mander, subscribed their names. Other firms were: Joseph Tarratt, whose warehouse was well known in Townwell Fold, and whose business was afterwards carried on by the Messrs. Ford: Messrs. Ryton and Walton (father of the late Mr. Fred Walton), of the Old Hall Japan Works.

Messrs. Shaw and Crane, the former a grandfather of Mr. C. E. Shaw, M.P., and founder of John Shaw and Sons, the latter the father of the late Mr. Charles Crane, of the Crane Foundry; Messrs. J. and W. Walker, of the firm now known as T. W. and J. Walker, merchants; Messrs. Earp and Wynn, the former the father of the late Mr. H. S. Earp, of Dunstall, the latter the father of the late George Wynn.

Mr. John Dixon, ironmaster and father of the late Mr. Edwin Dixon, J.P.; William Sparrow and Sons; Wm. Ward, father of the late Mr. Henry Ward; Mr. T. B. Elwell, father of the late Charles and Paul Elwell, and grandfather of Mr. Charles Elwell, of the Economic Coal Company; Mr. Joseph Underhill, father of the late Mr. Henry Underhill and Mr. James Underhill; Messrs. Wm. Briscoe and Son, the grandfather and father of Mr. R. H. Briscoe, of Chillington.

Old Victoria Street.

Messrs. Henry Rogers and Co.; and Mr. Thos. Savage, merchant, of Church Lane, an uncle of the late Mr. Benjamin Savage, and of Dr. Savage, of Birmingham, who was killed in the recent earthquake in Jamaica.

Many of these firms still flourish, showing that the foundations of their businesses were well laid, and that the building up has since progressed wisely.

It may be said of the firm of  Mander, Weaver and Company that in many respects they were distinctly ahead of their time, bringing scientific methods to bear on their manufactures, and showing much enterprise in the conduct of their business. They were, for example, the first persons to manufacture gas in the town, and, when my firm took over their business in 1873, the gasometer and other plant for gas making was still in full operation on the premises.

The lesson to be derived from the firm's history is that skill, scientific knowledge, and energy are an absolute necessity for the maintenance and development of such a business, and that in proportion as these are contributed so will it flourish and extend, and, with fair dealing and integrity added, will remain unshaken and unmoved amidst the chances and changes of the business world.

What a different Wolverhampton the various members of the firm lived in from that which meets our eyes today! When Mr. John Mander commenced business in 1773 the population of the town was about 10,000. For 75 years after this date there was no Corporation, and for a great many years no Gas Company, no Water Works, no system of sewerage, no Borough hospital, no Free Library, no Cemetery, no railways, no Covered Market in the town. When the writer came to Wolverhampton in 1865, the population of the town was about 64,000; there were no tramways, no omnibuses, no public parks. Now we have a population of over 100,000, the electric light, a fine system of electric tramways, two beautiful parks, a spacious Town Hall, ornate school buildings, and immense improvements in all directions.

It is largely owing to the enterprise, skill, and business ability of such firms as have been here mentioned that these advances in the town have been possible, and it is not unprofitable to look back occasionally and reflect on the men and their methods who helped in their day to make the business of the town what it is, and prepared the way for the eminent men who as merchants and manufacturers now lead the commercial life of our town.

May a long succession of such firms be vouchsafed to us, filled with intelligence to devise, and energy to carry out, new schemes of commerce in our midst, while by their knowledge, their probity, their fairness, they uphold the reputation of the town and contribute to its progress and permanent prosperity.

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