Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Bank note and security paper makers, and water treatment engineers, of Fleet Street, London

of Whitchurch, Hants

mills at Ivybridge, Keighley and St. Neots[1]

1712 Business founded by Henri Portal, a young Huguenot refugee, first at the Bare Mill at Whitechurch

1718 Moved his business to the nearby Laverstoke mill.

1724 Henry first made bank-note paper for the Bank of England at Laverstoke Mill, subsequently gaining the monopoly for its manufacture.

1747 Henry died; he was succeeded by his son, Joseph

1793 Joseph Portal died; he was succeeded by his son, John

1848 John Portal died.

WWI The use of paper money during the war in place of gold coinage enormously increased the demand for high-quality banknote paper. Portals aimed to become the leading manufacturer of banknote paper in the world.

1919 Portals introduced the cylinder-mould process for the manufacture of the £1 and 10s. notes.

1919 Wyndham Portal became managing director

1920 The Bank of England gave permission for the firm to manufacture banknote paper for other countries

1920 Company registered, manufacturer and dealers in paper[2]. Started making bank-note paper and security paper for foreign governments and central banks.

The firm expanded its production of commercial paper

1930 The company's commercial papers interests (presumably Portals (John Allen and Sons)) were sold to Wiggins, Teape and Co. Portals concentrated on the manufacture of mould-made and handmade banknote paper.

1931 Sir William Wyndham Portal died; he was succeeded as chairman by his son Wyndham

Late 1930s Introduced a line of security thread into the body of the banknote.

1947 Public company incorporated[3].

By 1949 the firm made watermarked paper for more than 80 different countries and banks of issue.

The Bank of England had acquired 31 percent of the shares in order to protect its interests in its sole supplier of paper for bank-notes[4] The Bank of England had first call on the company's paper and had the right to appoint a Governing Director.

The Overton Mill at Laverstoke, where the bank-note paper was made, was leased from an associated investment trust company. The company also owned T. H. Saunders and Co, which had previously made paper but was then involved in sales.

By 1956 Paterson Engineering Co was a subsidiary[5]

1963 Subsidiary Houseman and Thompson continued to expand with new Zimmite process[6]

1964 Portals Holdings acquired United Fibres from Norcros[7] and F. W. Talbot and Co[8]

1966 Bell Bros (Manchester) 1927 Ltd was a subsidiary which, with Vacuumatic had taken on the manufacturing of Stella-Meta Filters, another subsidiary[9]

1968 Formation of Laverstoke Research and Development Ltd to centralise the group's R&D which was exploring various activities with AERE Harwell, the most interesting of which was said to be reverse osmosis[10]

1970 Acquired Permutit Co after a contested take-over[11]

1971 The engineering businesses generated three-quarters of group sales and 60 percent of profits[12]

1978 Acquired Sulby Engineering Development Co, a private company specialised in book binding machinery based in South London[13]

1988 After 19 years of rising profits, profits fell this year[14]. Had tried to sell the water treatment part of the business but failed to attract takers. Acquired the Paragon Group, which was involved in electrical engineering and whose head became chief executive[15]

1990 Thames Water acquired the water treatment part of the group[16]. The Bank of England sold its shareholding[17]

1990 Portals acquired Bunzl's Crompton subsidiary[18] which produced paper for tea bags and sausage casings from factories in Lancashire and Gloucester.

1993 Had sold Airoil-Flaregas. The company consisted of 2 divisions - paper making, and protection and control[19].

1994 Was supplying bank-note paper to 120 countries[20]. Agreed take-over by De La Rue[21] which subsequently sold all of the non-banknote businesses[22]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wiggins, Teape and Co
  2. The Times, Mar 02, 1920
  3. The Times, Jul 23, 1947
  4. The Times, May 20, 1976
  5. The Times, Jun 29, 1956
  6. The Times, Jul 03, 1963
  7. The Times, Jan 06, 1964
  8. The Times, Oct 01, 1965
  9. The Times, Jul 06, 1966
  10. The Times, Jun 25, 1968
  11. The Times, Apr 28, 1970
  12. The Times, Jun 01, 1971
  13. The Times, Jul 22, 1978
  14. The Times, March 31, 1988
  15. The Times, June 01, 1988
  16. The Times, April 07, 1989
  17. The Times August 05, 1989
  18. The Times, March 03, 1990
  19. The Times, March 18, 1993
  20. The Times, September 08, 1994
  21. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, December 21, 1994
  22. The Times, March 08, 1995
  • The Times, Jun 22, 1948
  • Biography of Wyndham Raymond Portal, ODNB
  • Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, by Dard Hunter