Fame in a bottle

George Smith's Mill in Heckmondwike. Picture taken from Spen Valley & Mirfield Illustrated.
George Smith's Mill in Heckmondwike. Picture taken from Spen Valley & Mirfield Illustrated.
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Can any reader’s family archive tell us anything about a Cleckheaton chemical manufacturer by the name of Samuel Reeve?

Mr Reeve started to trade around 1880 from premises in the Rawfolds area of Cleckheaton (his address is variously given as Rawfolds Chemical Works, New Road and Bradford Road, Cleckheaton).

Samuel Reeve's poison bottle. Photograph taken from Rob's Famous Poisons.(www.collectiques.org)

Samuel Reeve's poison bottle. Photograph taken from Rob's Famous Poisons.(www.collectiques.org)

By 1892 he had moved to – and probably built – the Spen Valley Chemical Works at Chain Bar (on a site now under Junction 26 of the M62 motorway).

It is known that in the company’s early years Reeve’s manufactured a wide range of industrial chemicals – mainly for the textile industry but later specialised in various “pharmaceutical” chemicals including several poisons.

In the Victorian era many chemicals which we now regard as being dangerous (for example carbolic acid) were readily available from local pharmacies.

However, at the time, households were poorly lit and there was a spate of fatal accidents caused by the mistaken identity of the contents of bottles!

In the early 1900s chemical manufacturers started to use distinctive shapes and profiles of bottles to identify their poisonous content.

In 1912 Samuel Reeve was granted a British Patent for his uniquely shaped “Poison bottle” – as seen in this photograph.

Today, vintage poison bottles – including Mr Reeve’s - have become collectors’ items that can command several hundreds of pounds at auction!

If anyone knows anything about Samuel Reeve’s company, please either e-mail grylls@dsl.pipex.com or write to the Spenborough Guardian at 17 Wellington Road, Dewsbury WF13 1HQ.

Two companies – or one?

The oft’ quoted Spen Valley & Mirfield Illustrated, published around 1895, lists two companies with the name of Smith located “...at the corner of Church and Thomas Streets” in Heckmondwike.

The first listed is George Smith – a manufacturer of doffing plates (combs for carding machines) and other textile accessories, is said to have been founded in 1861: the company is also listed in the 1897, 1908 and 1927 editions of Kelly’s Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

The second company, belonging to a Mr Leeming Smith, is reported as being both “a corn, hay, straw and fodder merchant” and one of the first manufacturers of hydraulic baling presses: the second activity won Mr Leeming Smith considerable acclaim from near and far.

The company is listed in the 1897 and 1908 editions of Kelly’s Directory at addresses in Kaye Street and Thomas Street respectively.

Were there really two separate engineering companies with the name of Smith operating from the corner of Thomas and Church Streets? Does any reader have information about either George Smith or Leeming Smith and their respective company or companies?The photograph of George Smith’s mill at the corner of Thomas & Church Streets is from the Spen Valley & Mirfield Illustrated.