|Description||The early history of the company goes back to the towns of Lynn and Norwich where two soap works existed during the eighteenth century. |
Edward Cook, soap maker, experimented in his laboratories to produced fine quality soap from edible fats and the ashes gathered from suitable plants gathered on the Sicilian and Spanish Coasts. By 1801 Edward Cook had two soap works, one in Norwich and the other in Lynn. In 1820 he acquired the soap works of Mr Darby at 23 Bankside, Southwark. In 1831 Edward Cook senior died and the business moved to Goodman's Yard, Mineries under the title John & Edward Cook. The business had been steadily improving. These premises were sold in 1857 to the London and Blackwall Railway Company for the extension of Fenchurch Street Station. During 1859 the new soap works opened at Bow on the River Lea and was popularly known as "The Soapery".
In 1898 the company was incorporated to acquire the business carried on by Edward Cook & Company. During 1906, due to a sudden rise in the cost of raw materials, several large soap manufacturers joined together to form a Soap Trust or Combine, of which W H Lever was the main instigator. Edward Cook joined the Soap Trust on 25 September 1906. The aim of the trust was to combine different soap companies; at the same time the price of soap increased and the size of bars of soap decreased. The press was hostile towards the combine and accused the soap manufacturers, mainly W H Lever, of increasing prices for less product. Lever was portrayed in the press as a repulsive and odious figure. The soap combine broke up weeks later and Lever Brothers suffered serious losses.
F J Hunt & Company Limited (founded 1820) were soap manufacturers based in the East London Soap works at Bow. On 2 July 1913 the business of F J Hunt was taken over by Edward Cook & Co Ltd, one of the associated companies of Lever Brothers, upon acquisition it was converted into a private company with a capital of £1,000. F J Hunt & Co Limited was incorporated 2 July 1913 (company number 129896). Another London soap maker Geo. Hearn & Co was also acquired in the same year.
Lever Brothers acquired Edward Cook & Company Limited in 1910. The company closed between 1946-1951.
Products and Brands
The name Edward Cook and Co or 'Cook's of London' as it was also known became synonymous with a number of brands of both soap and disinfectants during the nineteenth century. During the1860s and 1870s Cook's enjoyed success in the UK soap market with Cook's Primrose Soap which became one of the most popular brands of household soap. The firm secured appointments to the King, the War Office and Admiralty. Cook's Primrose Soap won a variety of medals at various exhibitions including the only gold Medal at the International Paris Exhibition 1889 and became known as 'Cook's Gold Medal Primrose Soap'. Other soap brands included 'Throne' Toilet soap, a perfumed soap and Cook's 'Cutaneous' soap. They also enjoyed popularity with another branded product called 'Lasso', a hand cleaner designed to remove grease and antibacterial tooth soap. Other brand names included:
Cook's Riviera Soap
Cook's Cold Cream & Oatmeal Soap
Cook's Hygienic Tooth Soap
Cook's Savon de Luxe
Cook's Lightning Cleanser
Cook's are often remembered for producing one of the very first antiseptic soaps. Asepso was developed by the Edward Cook Company in London in the 19th century. It was one of the very first antiseptic soaps invented that soon became synonymous with alleviating skin infections and reducing bacteria on the skin. More importantly, with its growing popularity in tropical areas in the 1900s, it became known for the alleviation of the effects of prickly heat and became popular in the Far East. This is still manufactured today under the authority of CODAA SWITZERLAND AG. They also produced 'Cofectant' (Cook's Disinfectant Fluid) which was deemed the most effective of the disinfectants available on the open market in a report on the standardisation of disinfectants made by The Lancet in 1909.
Further information on the history of Edward Cook & Co can be found in their published company history:
Soap: its History and Connection with the House of Cooks, London (1915). A copy can be found in the archive collection of Edward Cook and Co Ltd held in the Unilever archives under:
Ephemera archive material relating to Edward Cook and Co Ltd is held at the Wellcome Library, London.