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The heritage of Barber Wilsons


Today Barber Wilsons is recognised throughout the trade as the ultimate source for quality & engineering excellence and remains committed to making each tap to order and offering a bespoke brassware design service.

In 1899 brothers Walter and Frederick Wilson decided to go into business together under the name Wilson Brothers in a small factory in Wood Green, London. The factory was a little basic consisting of a brass foundry and a gas-engine powered machine shop.

In 1905 the original brothers agreed to part company and Walter quickly formed a new alliance with another brother William and a gentleman called Edward Barber. The trio formed a partnership called Barber Wilsons & Company and set-up business from a small factory in premises on what was to become the Crawley Road headquarters right up to the present day. This is one year before Rolls Royce was founded!

Walter made all the original casting moulds in wood he was a true craftsman. He also ran the foundry & factory, whilst Edward Barber looked after the accounts. Unfortunately the other brother William died in 1906 and very soon after Walter sought financial assistance from some friends and bought out Edward Barber. Walter was now Managing Director and four of his friends were appointed as non-executive directors. In the meantime Fredrick went out on his own establishing a a business called Wilson Brothers & Company Limited, based in the original Eldon Road premises. Later this business merged back into what we now know as Barber Wilsons.

Walter was very enlightened for the times and built a skilful loyal workforce many of whom worked for the firm for half a century or more. The firms machinery was designed for hand turning and was belt-driven, powered by an overhead line shaft driven by a gas engine. The moulds for the castings where made from sand and horse manure, that was freely available in those times.

Up to 1914, the business ticked over, making bib taps and pillar valves for kitchen and bathroom use. These sold for about £1 for a dozen. Also manufactured were ball valves, ferret joints and general plumber’s brass foundry. As the years progressed, Walter Wilfred began to make his mark as a salesman. As his contacts and customers grew, the business began to widen its  horizons and diversify into a broader range of products.

When war broke out the firm played its part in the war effort. In 1918 peace time saw the firm return to its traditional business producing water fittings. Barber Wilsons managed to ride out the Great Depression, largely owning to a lucrative contract to manufacture special fittings for what was then London's newly built Dorchester Hotel.      
   
In the later part of the 1930's other members of the family joined the business and the factory underwent a large expansion and grew a large loyal customer base.

The Second World War proved to be the companies most challenging test of all. The London location and the threat of being bombed was significant, so an air raid shelter for the workers was built. The war work was slow coming and brought financial challenges, eventually the work came and the company made a valuable contribution to the war effort. With bombs literally dropping all around them the factory was lucky enough never to take a direct hit. In 1941 at the height of the conflict Walter Wilson died at the age of 81. Following Walter's death more members of the Wilson family joined the firm.

After the second world war Barber Wilsons decided to invest in redundant wartime machinery that was suited to their peacetime business. The investments worked as the demand for water fittings and similar products grew to staggering proportions.

The early 1950s was a time of great change in design and manufacturing, but Barber Wilsons stuck to their roots and missed the "opportunity" to innovate their designs and working practices. By the 1970s Barber Wilson was staring financial crisis in the face with an unsupportive bank. Fortunately a supportive new bank was found and new outside experience was brought into the business.

The late 1970's and 80s brought a wave of nostalgia for the traditional designs that Barber Wilsons had been producing nearly half a century earlier. The firm dusted down their old patterns and began producing their original taps that soon became highly sought after and today account for a staggering 90% of the firms total output.

In 1987 the wheel turned full circle when London's Dorchester Hotel commissioned the company to replace the taps it had first supplied in 1929. By 1988 Barber Wilsons had extended its reach well beyond British shores and involved in the refurbishment of establishments such as the world famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

The year 2005 was the centenary for Barber Wilsons and the year was marked in a very special way. The company received the ultimate accolade for excellence, quality and reliability by being granted a Royal Warrant of the Appointment by Her Majesty the Queen as manufacturers of kitchen and bathroom taps and mixers.

Today with the help of the internet Barber Wilsons reputation continues to spread even further worldwide. You can order your Barber Wilsons products online or over the phone via this website.   

Barber Wilsons - History in the making.