Beatson Clark – the best in glass containers for over 230 years. From its South Yorkshire base- factories at Rotherham and Barnsley – Beatson Clark supplied jars and bottles worldwide.
In the United Kingdom the company is the leading manufacturer of pharmaceutical bottles.
Today, the Company makes probably the greatest variety of pharmaceutical containers in the world-keeping Beatson Clark and Britain ahead in this traditional yet progressive industry.
Through the years the Company has pioneered many changes in glass-making and associated processes-moving in the last 50 years from handcraft bottle-making to a highly automated, technically advanced operation. Beatson Clark has retained its traditional flavour. It is a family firm where high quality flaconage(small, often decorative bottles) and first class customer service are paramount.
200 Years Family Connection
“Glasshouse to be let, either from year to year or by terms. Two glasshouses at Rotherham. One is Crown House and the other a Bottle and Flint house…..”
The advertisement in the Newcastle Chronicle on 10th May 1783 brought a response from a Mr. John Beatson, the head of a well-known family of Beatson, seated at Bentley Grange, near Emley.
It was the start of an association between the Beatson and the Clark families and the company which saw its bi-centenary in 1983.
John Beatson’was desirous of settling’ his son William in partnership with his nephew (and son-in-law0 Robert Beatson. To this end he leased the glassworks premises and purchased the implements of the trade.
From 1783 the business of W. Beatson and Co., appears to have flourished. But it was ten years later when two weddings of special significance to the future of the business were celebrated. The four families involved, Beatson, Close, Clark and Graves, were almost certainly well known to each other.
William Beatson married Martha Close and William Clerk married Martha Graves. These four young people became the founders of a direct family connection with today’s Company president
Dr. Alec Clark and his two sons chairman and managing director David B Clark and marketing director John F.B. Clark.The connection came in 1828 when William Clark’s son John married William Beatson’s daughter Anne. These two people became the paternal great grand-parents of Dr. Alec W. Clark.
As a Company Beatson Clark is a survivor. The proof? Over 230 years of successful trading to become modern, responsible, market-leading organisation of today.
Founded in 1751 as a canal-side glassworks at Rotherham, it became a private limited Company in 1910 after a series of partnerships between members of the Beatson and Clark families.
Beatson and Clark started the change from hand crafted to automatic production in the late 1920’s Stairfoot Works near Barnsley was set up and came on stream with semi-automatic machines in the 1930.
After the Second World War Beatson adopted the automatic Individual Section I.S. machine which revolutionised glass bottle manufacturing. It was a wise choice I.S. units, abeit far more sophisticated, in purpose built factories, are still turning out Beatson bottles, at high speed today.
Automation has been the key to Beatson Clark technical development over the last 40 years.
It’s a period marked by innovation and technical achievement in all aspects of glass container production at the firm.
Beatson Clark took its most significant step towards automation in 1948 with the first purpose built shop in Europe to house three automatic individual section machines at the Stairfoot factory.
Rotherham’s first I.S. shop with two units was commissioned in 1957. Flexibity of the I.S. machine – high speed production of narrow and wide mouth flaconage from 5ml to 2.5 litres- makes it ideal for the Beatson production line.
Improved operating methods, better furnace design and refractory materials yield higher outputs and longer furnace life- all good news for the customer with better product quality and reduced production costs.
Beatson bottles are produced at two manufacturing plants. The Rotherham Works, the site of the Company’s original glasshouse, manufactures amber containers primarily for pharmaceutical use.
Two end fired regenerative furnaces at the plant have a capacity to produce up to 250 tonnes of molten glass a day.
Around one million glass containers produced daily by the nine production lines, passing through highly automated inspection and parking procedures before transfer to warehouse facilities.
Rotherham produced bottle stocks are maintained in modern, airy warehouses. The site also accommodates a specialised export distribution warehouse unit.
At the Moorgate Head Office the accounting, administration, personnel and sales marketing functions are carries out.
AT Nether Heyford is the Company’s Midlands distribution depot servicing deliveries to customers in the South of England.
The Company’s other manufacturing plant is based in Stairfoot, on the outskirts of Barnsley. Stairfoot Works concentrates on the production of white glass containers and unlike the Rotherham plant serves a multiplicity of user industries from pharmaceuticals to toiletries and food to household products.
The manufacturing process however, are largely the same. Two end fired regenerative furnaces, with a capacity of around 250 tonnes of white flint glass a day, feed eight I.S. lines total capacity is approximately one million glass containers a day.
Nearby the Company’s principal warehousing facility stores output from both production plants in readiness for delivery by modern fleet transport vehicles.
The Stairfoot site was acquired by Beatson in the late 1920’s previously operated as a glass making centre for Rylands, the site’s historical claim to fame was the Codd bottle. An ingenious self- sealing container incorporating a glass ball in its neck used for effervescent soft drinks. The Codd bottle brought into English language the term Coddswallop.
The Stairfoot sites houses the Company’s mould-making shop, the mould’s being vital in the bottle-forming process, together with a computerised mould design facility.
Markets and Products
Containers in over 700 different designs and sizes make up the Beatson Clark range. They are used in dispensing and by manufacturers of drugs, cosmetics, toiletries and food.
In pharmaceutical container production Beatson Clark leads the industry, manufacturing bottles and jars in amber and white flint glass for the country’s leading pharmaceutical firms.
Further afield the company exports more than 25 percent of its output to customers in more than 100 of the 140- odd independent states worldwide.
Products are being constantly up-graded to meet customer’s specification and new products being developed to meet market demand. Unusual shapes and sizes are Beatson specialities – computerisation enables designs to be tailored to customers’ requirements in minutes.
Making glass containers is two processes in one – melting and forming. It is a continuous 24 hours a day seven days a week process. Sand, limestone and soda ash, the raw materials for glass, are mixed with ‘cullet’-broken, scrap glass- to assist the melt.
The furnace melts the raw materials into molten glass which is then formed into lumps or gobs and dropped into the Individual Section bottle-making machine. Each gob is formed into a bottle shape by the machine, using cast iron moulds and compressed air. More than 200 bottles a minute can be produced in the I.S. machine.
Careful cooling of the still red hot glass container is required passing it through an annealing oven, the lehr, to remove undesirable stresses.
Finally, quality and dimensional accuracy are checked manually and automatically and the bottle is packed ready for distribution.
Inspection and Packaging
Inspection and packing has made perhaps the most significant advances of all production areas at Beatson Clark.
Up to the 1960’s bottles were inspected and packed by hand, now the process is almost fully automatic with the emphasis on speed, efficiency, reduced costs and higher product quality.
The first step was Beatson’s own development of a handling system for it non-round bottles-matching available market equipment for round flaconage- to carry them through inspection and packing.
Early inspection machines were light screens, plug gauges and the innovative Beatson patented body gauge developed by the Company engineers to check non-rounded bottles for bulges. Beatson’s pioneering research assisted in the development of a scanner to detect bottle body faults.
Bright field analysers, scanners and check detectors followed-picking out body shape defects neck and heel cracks and faults like birdswing, stones, blisters and seeds. High quality Beatson bottles are now ensured by multi-purpose inspection units carrying out all checks at one station.
In packing too development of automation has been rapid. From straw packing, then fibre board cartons, Beatson’s went on to automatic palletising and shrink-wrapping.
The way ahead for Beatson’s is automatic shrink-wrapping of bottles from the annealing lehr, in hygienic packs or onto trays for palletising.
For more than a decade Beatson has been committed to a policy of computerisation.
Initially confined to financial and administrative roles, computers now provide wider management information. Micro- processors too are being widely used throughout the factories in various production functions.
Computerised mould and container design is yet another widely employed technique.
The Company is currently undertaking a major systems installation programme sue for completion in 1985 which will radically change the use of information technology throughout the whole Company.
Beatson Clark is a family firm in so many ways. It has not strayed from responsible, caring attitude both towards staff and customers in its 230-years history.
What better testimony than whole families-fathers-mothers-brothers-sisters- employed by the firm for the whole of their working lives.
Beatson cares enough to continually improve the working environment for its staff, both factories are environmentally ahead of many glassmaking competitors-with work stations being constantly improved.
Employees are given the best protective clothing from overalls to safety goggles, boot and earing defenders often with built in radios.
Recreationally Beatson Clark supports the active sports and social club helping out with galas, sporting events trips and holidays.
Many Beatson employees are involved in Company sponsored training programmes-be it an apprenticeship with day release, a sponsored university degree course and one of dozens of in-house training schemes on a specialised subject.
Better working conditions and safety consciousness have brought a trend of decreasing accident figures. It all adds up to the Company that cares – Beatson Clark.
Beatson Clark became a public Company in 1967 – and is quoted on the London Stock exchange.
This signalled the start of a period of further investment and growth at Beatson Clark.
In the last decade alone Beatson Clark invested £30 million at today’s value in new plant and equipment.
It’s investment programme that will continue as Beatson Clark takes advantage of high technology equipment to improve its quality and service to the customer.
The pioneering spirit has put Beatson Clark to the forefront of glass container manufacturing.
Through its wiliness to accept test and utilise the best technology available, Beatson has climbed to the top and stayed there.
Company priorities always have been faster, lower costs, more efficient production, increasing high quality glass containers and the best in customer service.
A go ahead outlook and caring attitude have made a winning formula for Beatson – it’s formula they intend to use well into the next century.
From a springboard of more that tow successful centuries manufacturing and trading, and through its unbreakable corporate spirit, Beatson is a Company with a bright future.
Memories of Beatson Clark
The 1970’s were boom times at Beatson Clark and the workforce was substantial with an abundance of employee resource across all departments. During the 1960’s and 70’s the factory employed more than 500 workers.
The Community set its clocks to the ‘Beatson’s Buzzer’ which echoed for miles around.
I.S. macjines were responsible for the production of all kinds of glass bottles and jars. Two furnaces fuelled five 6 section machines and three 8 section machines: on some jobs the 8 section machines were able to make over one hundred thousand units during an 8 hour shift.
Up until the mid-70’s the bottles would be inspected by hand and packed on the lehrs. Around 1974 , single lines were put on the lehr ends and automatic inspection equipment added to inspect the faults in production e.g neck faults and body flaws.
A wide variety of bottle and jars were produced. Some examples are medicine , tablet, blood, nail varnish, cleaning product bottles etc for well known brands such as Savlon, Oil of Ullay and Zoflora (to name but a few).
Packing was done by hand up to the late 1970’s when the first automatic packing machunes were introduced. These were called IWEMA-S. As more food jars were made the 1st automatic palletisers were bought by Beatson & Clark by 1980 called Charberger-s. Into the 1980’s newer and more reliable palletisers were procured called Zechetti-s.
Inevitably, automation reduced the need for manual packing thus resulting from job losses. Beatson & Clark went through a number of redundancy periods in the 1980’s and a takeover of the Company by the TT Group.
In the 1980’s rising fuel and energy prices took their toll. 2 lines were initially stood down followed by 2 more, leading to the furnace being tapped, leaving just 1 production shop.
Good job orders were obtained during this period from the food market, with one of the best customers being Coleman’s.
Alas, in 2006; the energy prices put the final nail in the coffin for Beatson Clark Stairfoot Works which subsequently closed.
The effects of what I have described manifested over the years as follows:-
– 1975 (Inspection Department) 64 man shift + 14 machine operators
– At closure, 12 Inspectors + 6 machine operators.
Thos had a massive impact on the local Community. Beatson Clar was a family firm and saw fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands and wives all in employment and all contributing to the local economy.
The Landscape dramatically changed on the 23rd February 2008 at 10 am when the 180 foot high chimney stack was demolished.
Roy Cole, Ex Employee 2018