A brief history of the Mander company

A poster for advertising coach and copal varnish by Manders at Wightwick Manor

The story of Mander Brothers mirrors the rise and fall of many of Britain's great manufacturing companies. But it also reveals the business acumen which funded Wightwick and its collections as well as the social care which is synonymous with the Mander name.

A backyard company

The Company traces its beginnings back to 1773 when John Mander started chemical manufacturing producing pigments used in the production of paints and lacquers. His nephew Charles went into manufacturing varnish and was in turn followed by his two sons, Charles Benjamin and Samuel Small. These were the eponymous ‘Mander Brothers’ who in 1845 started to manufacture varnishes in St John Street, where they lived right in the centre of Wolverhampton.

The company expanded on the site and also started the production of paints in 1865 followed by printing inks in 1882. These, and the paints and varnish, were exported all over the world making them one of the largest manufacture of the products worldwide. From 1879 the company was run by their respective sons, Charles Tertius (the owner of The Mount) and Samuel Theodore (builder of Wightwick Manor).  The firm continued to expand such that by 1906 they needed larger manufacturing premises and purchased the Wednesfield Works and the Townwell Works.

The family firm

The Company took the welfare of their employees very seriously and in the 1920's and early 1930's pioneered such things as a Works Council, Contributory Pension Schemes for both workers and staff, the 40hr. Week (1932 - the first such arrangement for workers in the country), a sickness benefit scheme as well as providing sports facilities and an in house magazine called The Green Can. The company supported whole families and often recruited on family ties to current workers. During the Second World War copies of the Green Can were sent to serving employees abroad so they could keep in touch with what was happen back home.

 In 1924 the partnership of 1845 was altered to a limited company, of which Geoffrey Mander was the Managing Director, all the directors were family members. Later, in 1937, it was again changed to Mander (Holdings) Ltd, when it merged its printing inks division with John Kidd & Co. and split the company into Paint, Varnish, Printing Ink and Property Divisions.    

They actually employeed men to watch paint dry!

In the period between the two world wars, although things were difficult, they survived mainly due to their overseas markets and in order to further expand they purchased another factory in Heath Town in 1926 which enabled them to move paint and ink production from the city centre factories. One of the factors which maintained their success was their Research Dept. which was one of the best in the industry. Their main strategy was in the development of printing inks and this continued at the Company's Centres Of Excellence until its final take over.

As a part of the growth of the company it took over paint and printing ink manufacturers and reconstituted itself into four divisions, Industrial Paints, Domestic Paints, Printing Inks and Property. The latter division decided to develop the original factory site in the centre of Wolverhampton in 1964 and built the Mander Shopping Centre, together with an office block.

A global brand with posters in Arabic and English
Mander Brother poster with English and Arabic text

The begining of the end

Geoffrey Mander moved from MD to Chairman of the overall holding company in 1951 where he remained up until his death in 1962 when he was succeeded by Philip Fitzgerald Mander, the last member of the family to hold a board seat (until his death in 1972). After this, although many of the shares were held by the family, no family member joined the Board and the company was run by various ''recruited'' directors.

In 1973 they took over British Dolomac Ltd. and in the late 1980's Premier Inks, Q C Colours and Johnson & Bloy, to increase its manufacturing and marketing capacity. This was followed in 1991 by the take over of Windeck Ltd. At the same time the Company was restructured and became Manders plc.

Take-over and taken-over

Then in 1992 they were subjected to a take-over bid themselves, which although unsuccessful precipitated a rethink about where the Company was going. Printing ink was seen as the way forward and in 1993 the Industrial Paints Division was sold to Croda International and it bought Croda's Ink Division. This was followed in 1994 by the take over of Morrisons Inks and Premier Inks and then in 1996, Klinten. These purchases were funded in the main by the sales in 1994 of the Decorative Paints Division to the Total Group and The Mander Centre to The Prudential Insurance Co.

The Company was now the foremost  producer of printing inks in Europe with worldwide sales and manufacturing facilities and in 1997 became the subject of a successful take-over bid itself from The Flint Ink Corporation of America, a family run business which has gone on to be the third biggest manufacturer of printing inks in the world.