‘Silver by the Ton’ – a history of Ilford Ltd from 1879 to 1979, the year it was published. Authors were R J Hercock and G A Jones, both prominent employees of the company. There are usually used copies available from Parallax Photographic.
To this date the only substantial history of the company, although now a bit lost in time. Since 1979 the company changed hands on numerous occasions, & after liquidating in 2005 was bought out by a consortium of managers. The current company, Harman Technology, could therefore be considered to be building on the shoulders of long departed giants, after inheriting more than a century of compounded research & development. ‘Silver by the Ton’ is important then, as it remains the only comprehensive history of a UK photo material manufacturer from it’s inception.
The Ilford Story
From 1958, internally generated by Ilford, a brief history of the company up to that point.
Ilford: The Britannia Works and Kodak
From Ilford’s inception there was always strong competition between the company and Kodak. From Kodak’s point of view Ilford was a nuisance, Kodak were by comparison a massive US operation and acquiring Ilford would stamp out the primary competition in Great Britain, on which Kodak had designs. On Ilford’s side, Alfred Harman was suffering physical problems & wavered between either throwing in the towel, or stiffening the sinews & repelling the boarder. This situation was delicately balanced for a decade or so. If Kodak had taken Ilford over, the history of photo manufacturing in Britain would have been quite different.
This account is from the autobiography “Leaves from my Life”, by H Osborne O’Hagan, 1929, solicitor to both companies.
The War Effort of Ilford Ltd
8 page description of Ilford’s WW2 achievements.
Ilford Export Trade Report
A slightly grim report from 1947, detailing the efforts to rebuild the export market in the aftermath of the war. Shortages of materials dominate the picture, & an overall feeling that Ilford regard themselves as relegated to the Cinderella role.
Ilford Biographic Press Release 1959
Typed on airmail paper, what appears to be a biographical press release to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the company.
Ilford’s in-house journal, 4 copies posted here from a set running bi-annually through the 1950’s. The Ilford company had evolved by the amalgamation of smaller companies in the earlier part of the century, so was based across multiple sites, Ilford the town, Brentwood, Park Royal, Mobberley, Watford & Cricklewood. The magazine was an effort to create a family feeling across such a wide spectrum. Very little applies to the work of manufacturing the materials, but the magazines contain a wealth of social detail from the time.
Ilford’s 75th Anniversary in 1954 – commemorated by a big nosh-up at The Dorchester.
Ilford publications from December 1977, & June 1976 detailing the building of, preparations & move to the new Ilford HQ building in Basildon. Simultaneously
equipment and manufacturing were being redistributed around the various sites, and all manufacturing ceased in Ilford, where the buildings were closed down. This period represented perhaps the zenith of Ilford Ltd as an organisation, with 3550 employed in the UK across 4 sites, and 5,500 personnel worldwide.
The reorganisation of the early to middle 1970’s had stressed the Ilford company considerably. Also there had been problems with X-Ray film production, the market for it was buckling, & this had been regarded as a major investment area. Losses were posted in ’76 & ’77, & this financial edition of the house journal from 1977 did it’s best to deliver the message home to the staff that it was no time for complacency.
Original Ilford Locations – Alfred Harman set up his initially small cottage industry in the town of Ilford, which grew into the large manufacturing operation we’re more familiar with. Ilford Ltd, the company, departed from it’s home town in 1983, and relocated to Mobberly in Cheshire. The site is now entirely enveloped by a large Sainsbury’s store, but it is still possible to trace the locations. Excellent exploration from the Photo Analogue site.
Considering the millions of images that were made on the plates and papers minted from the Britannia, and later Ilford factory, it’s perhaps surprising that only one image exists of Alfred Harman, taken in his prosperous later years at his house in Haslemere, Surrey.
Alfred Harman’s Letters
A collection of letters covering the years 1894 to 1902, the last being just after his wife’s death. These are all to Edward Knobel concerning emulsion experiments; this was at the time when he was semi-retired in Haslemere, not making many appearances at the factory but working steadily in his home lab on emulsion improvements.
Harman Loose Ends
There are some curious connections. The first Mrs Harman’s brother was Edward Ball Knobel, who was to become managing director of Ilford, & the 2’nd Mrs Harman was related to him.