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Ref No BP
TitleBeechams Pills Limited and the Beecham Group
Date 1695-1994
DescriptionThe collection contains business and personal records, 3-dimensional objects and audio recordings. There are also documents related to subsidiary companies.
Extent1289 items, 259 files, 127 volumes, 79 bundles and 2 boxes
Level Fonds
CreatorNameBeechams Pills Limited
AccessConditionsOpen to any accredited reader, however SmithKline Beecham still currently use the data within these records so consequently their use is partially restricted.

They may not be used by anyone under the age of 18 years, but may be used by accredited researchers who must provide proof of identity.

If the resulting research is to be published prior permission must be sought in writing from SmithKline Beecham.

SmithKline Beecham retains the copyright for all these records.
AdminHistoryThomas Beecham was born on 3 Dec 1820 in the village of Curbridge near Whitney in Oxfordshire. He left school at the age of 8 and eventually became a shepherd. Beecham began to use his knowledge of herbs in treating animals. By his mid-teens he had established a reputation in Cropredy as an herbalist who could treat all kinds of ailments.

In 1840 Beecham left Cropredy to live with a relative in Kidlington near Woodstock in Oxfordshire. He developed a pill formula, but supplemented his income with casual work as a postman and a jobbing gardener. Eventually he became an itinerant peddler. He carried his pills and cures in a pack from village to village and sold them at local markets.

In 1847 Beecham moved to the North of England. He married Jane Evans at Liverpool Parish Church on 26 May 1847 and they moved to Wigan, Lancashire. Beecham acquired a Medical Licence and produced 4 products - Herbal Pills, Female's Friend, Royal Toothpowder and Golden Tooth Tincture.

In 1857 Beecham opened shop premises in Wigan which enabled him to carry on a mail-order service and removed the need for peddling. In 1860 the Beechams moved to Milk Street, St.Helens. Here Beecham concentrated exclusively on the sale of his pills. The slogan of Beecham's Pills became 'worth a guinea a box'.

By 1863 Beecham and his wife had separated. Beecham moved to Westfield Street, St.Helens. He enrolled as a member of the United Society of Chemists and Druggists in 1864. Thomas Beecham's son Joseph joined the family business at the age of 15. The business became very successful; by 1867 the gross takings were £4,556.0s.10d. Beecham had customers in many parts of the United Kingdom. Following the death of his wife, Beecham married Sarah Pemberton in 1873. By now the business had expanded so much it became necessary to employ full-time staff.

In 1876 Beecham started to erect his first factory in Westfield Street, St.Helens. Beecham's second wife died in May 1877, and he then moved to Hill House on Croppers Hill with his second son, William. Beecham married Mrs. Mary Sawell in Sep 1879. In 1881 the Beechams were living in Mursley Hall, Buckinghamshire. By Aug 1884 57 staff were employed by the company.

In 1885 a new factory was built in Westfield Street, St.Helens, at a cost of £30,000. It contained a machine operated by a water motor which was capable of counting and filling three thousand boxes of pills a day.

In 1889 Beecham gave his son Joseph a half share in the business although to all intents and purposes Joseph had been in control for the previous ten years.

In 1895 Thomas Beecham retired to his final home, 'Wychwood', which he built in Norwood Avenue, Southport. Beecham died on 6 Apr 1907 of pulmonary congestion, at the age of 86, and was buried at the Borough Cemetery in St.Helens.

Joseph Beecham used advertising to bring Beecham's Pills to public attention and he also began to target the overseas market. An example of advertising was a booklet titled 'Beecham's Help to Scholars' written in 1899. It was dispatched on request to schoolmasters, and soon became a standard work, especially for poor children. By 1959 47¼ million had been distributed. Beecham Pills Limited also produced photo-folios, 'oracles' (plain pieces of paper which revealed pictures when ignited) and folios of piano music.

The business became a limited company in 1924 under the name Beecham Estates and Pills Limited. A public company called Beecham Pills Limited was formed under the chairmanship of Philip Hill to acquire the medicinal business. The Veno Drug Company in Manchester was also acquired.

In 1935 Beechams Pills Limited acquired Phosferine (Ashton and Parsons) Limited based in Watford, Hertfordshire. In 1938 Philip Hill bought on behalf of Beechams the businesses of Macleans Limited and Eno Proprietaries Limited. Other subsidiary companies were Iron Jelloid Company Limited and Cicfa Company Limited. Beechams Pills Limited also acquired the products Lucozade and Brylcreem.

In 1943, the company decided to focus more on improving its research and built Beecham Research Laboratories. In 1945, the company was named Beecham Group Limited.

Beecham's Pills, Beecham's Powders, Beecham's Lung Syrup and Lactopeptine were manufactured by Beechams Pills Limited, St.Helens. From 1953 Iron Jelloids, Cicfa, Thermogene and Phosferine also began to be manufactured in St.Helens.

In 1989, The Beecham Group PLC and Smithkline Beckman merged to form SmithKline Beecham PLC. In 2000, SmithKline Beecham and GlaxoWellcome merged to form GlaxoSmithKline.
AcquisitionThe collection was deposited by SmithKline Beecham and is now the property of St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council, Local History and Archives Library who have undertaken to store and conserve it.
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