Simpson Brushes History

Once again I’m referring to a thread from a shaving forum started by Gary Young, a member of the family that owned Simpson Brushes. It captures a great deal of the history of their iconic brush company – and the thread itself is a wealth of further information!

Thought this a good first historical thread for Simpson Brushes…

I get asked quite a lot about ‘our old factory’ in Southampton – we never were based in Southampton! I guess this was a ‘cyber rumour’ started a while ago which is still doing the rounds. So I hope you guys will read this timeline and now take this as ‘Gospel’ and the only true record regarding our ownership up until 1990 when David Carter acquired the business.

1919-
1st Factory opened at Macaulay Road, London E6, just off the Barking Road (not far from the home of West Ham United Football Club). Simpson branded brushes made and sold for the first time and our old family brand name ‘Bajer’ still being made and sold. Brushes made from ivory, bone, horn and vulcanite.

1929-
The business grew out of its original location and moved to new premises at 53 High Street, Clapham, London SW4. ‘Bajer’ branded brushes still being made alongside ‘Simpson’ branded brushes with newer brands ‘Simie’, ‘Alexsim’, ‘Simbal’ and the stand alone ‘Wee Scot’ being added, although Wee Scot brushes had been made since 1919.

1938-
‘Bajer’, ‘Simie’, ‘Alexsim’, ‘Simbal’ and ‘Wee Scot’ brand names dropped with ‘Simpson’ being the sole brand name used by the family from now on.

1940-
Due to World War II, Great Uncle Alex moved large quantities of stock (ivory, horn, hair, silver and gold) out of London to one of my grandfather’s houses in Warfield, Nr Ascot, Berkshire (UK).

1941-
Clapham Factory hit by German bombs which wrecked the whole building.

1941-
Agreement made between Coates Brushes Ltd and Great Uncle Alex for Simpson to move lock, stock and barrel to Nimmer Mill to share the factory. Simpson had been the sole maker of Coates branded brushes since they first appeared on the market so it was an easy arrangement. Also Coates were struggling and part of the agreement was for Simpson to buy out Coates within 1 year of moving to Nimmer, Somerset.

1942-
Simpson take over complete ownership of Coates Brushes Ltd.

1957-
My Great Uncle Alex passed away on 4th November. Sole ownership passed over to my Grandfather, Tom.

1961-
My father, Jim, took on the role of General Manager of both Simpson and Coates Brushes. My mum, Cherry, took on the role of Office Manager for both companies.

1979-
First full brush made by me under the supervision of both my Grandfather and Dad.

1989-
My grandfather, Tom passed away suddenly, 23rd December. Ownership passed to my parents.

1990-
Family ownership ceased – both companies acquired by David Carter.

Well that is the basic timeline for the business during the family’s ownership. I am sure there is plenty there that you have not known about previously – especially the other brands that were ours!

Gary

Simpson ’41’ – the beginning of the butterscotch brushes

A long time ago in a land far away …

OK, well maybe not THAT long ago, it was only five years or so ago that I saw this nondescript shaving brush on a large online auction site.

The description was vague and as you can see, the photo was of little help.  I was pretty certain though that it was a vintage, butterscotch Simpson shaving brush.  I took a punt a put a modest bid on – and won!  My first, vintage butterscotch brush 🙂

The butterscotch colour is the result of many years of UV radiation converted the outside, exposed layer of the catalin the handle is made of to phenyl alcohol with that distinct colour.  The butterscotch brushes generally started life as a sort of cream, imitation ivory.

Not only was it a nice, butterscotch coloured brush, when you turned it over it had a label.

In fact, that label looked familiar. I had not only a butterscotch coloured brush, but a vintage Simpson!  Simpson brushes have a long and proud history, since 1919.  The engraved lampe black markings are of the number ’41’ and ‘Pure Badger’ with the same written on the end of the box it came in.

After doing some research across some shaving forums one of teh descendents of the original Simpson family, Gary Young, responded to my questions about this brush at The Shaving Room. Here is what he said:

‘1950s Nimmer Mill made Simpson 40 series brush. And yep, Peter is right that it isn’t one of our old ‘top end’ brushes. Back in the 50s a lot of the 40 series were sold in quantity to the ‘high street’ chemists – eg. Boots.

This looks like it was a ‘private’ sale as the ‘high street’ models were lampblacked with the Boots logo of the day.

The badger hair has ‘bleached’ over the years – normally due to being left on a bathroom window. But, as with our own hair, it tends to ‘whiten’ out over time, especially the coarser pure grade.

Nice little brush from one of our most busy decades so I reckon you had a good little find there.’

I was very chuffed!

Unfortunately the knot was really not in great shape after being sun-bleached.  So I sent the brush off to Simpson for a reknot, in ‘Pure’.  The brush, with a new lease of life, remains in my regular rotation today!