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TitleA & F Pears Ltd
DescriptionCompany name: A&F Pears Ltd
Former name:
Registered number: 00036529
Date founded: 1789?
Date of incorporation: 28th May 1892
Date of acquisition: 1914
Date sold/struck off:

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The Pears firm is traditionally said to have been established in 1789, although there is no documentation to support this date. The founder of the firm, Andrew Pears, moved from his native Cornwall to London in 1788 soon after completing his apprenticeship to Alexander Hoskin of Fowey, barber and peruke maker. He set up trade in Gerard Street, Soho, at that time a fashionable district of the city. He moved in 1797 to premises at 55 Wells Street, also in Soho.

Hairdressers of the time like Andrew Pears sold a selection of cosmetics, rouges, creams and other beauty products for their clients. But Pears began work on developing a pure soap that would be gentler on the skin than many of the harsh products of the time. By 1807 he had succeeded in developing a method of producing a high-quality amber-coloured transparent soap, using a method described in an early advertisement as a: `curious chemical process by which soap is separated from all the impure and noxious substances with which in its crude state it is invariably united.' [Bell's Weekly Messenger 1810].
The new soap was superior to others on the market, and possessed the novelty of being delicately perfumed. At this time the product was available in squares costing 1s each; large squares perfumed with attar of roses were priced at 2s 6d and gentlemen's shaving cakes also priced at 2s 6d.
Key elements of Pears' production process, developed to achieve the transparency and purity of the soap, have been continued throughout the history of the product. These included the process of leaving the glycerine content in the product, and allowing a long maturing period in hot stoves during which the alcohol in the soap is allowed to evaporate slowly. The famous concave shape of the soap is formed due to shrinking.
For many years the production of the soap remained small-scale and advertising limited, as Pears continued to care for client's hair and compounding beauty preparations. His business began to prosper as his reputation grew, and cheap imitations appeared on the market, although they did not discover the secret formula. Concerned about his reputation for high quality soap, Andrew Pears announced he would sign each packet with `my own quill' in order to discourage imitators (as forgery was illegal, whilst imitation was not).
In 1835 Francis Pears, Andrew's grandson, became a partner, and the concern became known as A & F Pears and moved to new premises at 55 Wells Street. Shortly afterwards, in 1838, Andrew Pears retired. In 1847 Francis Pears moved the concern to larger premises at 91 Great Russell Street, with the manufactory located in a room at the back of the shop. In 1862 a site at Isleworth, Middlesex, located on the River Thames, was acquired, where the Lanadron Works were built. Francis Pears had a house built beside the factory, which was also called Lanadron, named after a small village in Cornwall. At this time less than twenty workers and a single horse were employed on site.


Around the same time as the Isleworth factory was being built, Thomas Barratt came into the Pears Company. He was a young man of 24, a true business pioneer, for whom the art of selling was a matter of inspiration. Mr. Barrett became London manager for his father-in-law. He later became a partner with his brother-in-law Andrew Pears (he married Mary, the eldest daughter of Francis Pears, grandson of the founder Andrew Pears).
Barratt's dynamic vision for the marketing of Pears soap was initially restrained by Francis Pears conservatism and caution. However, following Francis' retirement in 1875, leaving an insubstantial loan of £4000, Andrew Pears assumed the role of running the factory and Thomas Barratt controlled the London Headquarters. Barratt was able to apply his inspired approach to promoting the soap, with such effect that the name of Pears became a household word and Barratt was later hailed by Lord Northcliffe as `the father of modern advertising.'
A price list of 1873 illustrates the growth of the firm, with manufactured products including Pears Transparent Soap in the form of wash balls, scented or unscented tablets and squares, and shaving cakes and sticks, an extensive range of fancy soaps and bar soaps, perfumes and extracts, Pears violet powder, dental products including dentifrice and toothpowder and hair preparations.

On 1 August 1887 new prestigious London premises were leased at 71-75 New Oxford Street. The firm of A&F Pears was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1892, with Thomas Barratt as Chairman. In 1900, Pears soap received the Grand Prix award at Paris.

Shortly after the death of Thomas Barratt in April 1914 the firm of Lever Brothers Ltd acquired the whole of the issued Ordinary capital of A & F Pears, and acquired almost all of the Preference and Preferred Ordinary Capital at later dates. Sir Thomas Dewar replaced Barratt as Chairman of the company.

The takeover process was completed in 1920; this was when marketing and other secondary functions moved to Port Sunlight in North West England but production continued at Isleworth. Production moved to Port Sunlight in the 1960s when Unilever set up a cosmetic development laboratory on the Isleworth site. A major fire on the site completely destroyed the original factory.

In 1952 A & F Pears joined D. & W. Gibbs, and the annual competition Miss Pears was first held in 1954.

See also:

'The Story of Pears' by Edward Ellison; Progress Magazine Vol. 41 No. 227 Summer 1950 pp. 17 - 24

'A Story of the House of Pears' by Robert Pears; Progress Magazine, Vol. 28 No. 178, January 1928, pp. 58 - 62



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