Xylonite, Ivoride and the establishment of the British Xylonite Company

Daniel Spill is first shown as a private resident at 124 Homerton High Street in 1874, subsequently appearing with a business directory listing as ‘Daniel Spill & Co.’ and described as a manufacturer of Ivoride and Xylonite, both newly coined brand names for the material invented by Alexander Parkes. Spill had come to take on his previous employer’s patents after Parkes’ company was liquidated, and was now starting to produce the material himself at his ‘Ivoride Works’.

Spill Daniel & Co. patentee & sole manufacturer of ivoride substitute for ivory-bone cutlery handles & pianoforte keys, & xylonite, substitute for horn, tortoise shell, coral, malachite, blood stone etc. hardwoods, dontolite, umbrella & stick handles, waterproofs, bookbinders’ cloths, hose pipes, surgical collodion & membranes, Macintosh Lane & 124 High Street, Homerton E

In 1877, Spill had settled on a new company name and established the British Xylonite Company at this address. While Levi Parsons Merriam set up the Homerton Manufacturing Company next door at 122 on the High Street to collaborate with Spill and make finished goods from the new material – with an initial intention to make imitation coral jewellery.

The two companies fused in 1879, at which time Spill was involved in a law suit over patents in the United States (with the Celluloid Manufacturing Company of New Jersey) and Levi Parson Merriam was running the company back in Homerton together with Ernest Bennett.

After some tough years, sales finally grew in 1885 as the company found a market for cuffs and collars made from Xylonite-coated fabric – this ‘easy-to-clean’ innovation suited the growing numbers of office workers in Victorian Britain.

By 1887, a new factory site for manufacturing Xylonite was needed and the company built the Brantham Works on the coast of Suffolk, with a train line connecting the two factories to enable finished goods, such as combs and knife handles, to be made in Homerton.

Ten years later, the company had outgrown its Homerton home and moved to newly-built factory in Hale End, Walthamstow in 1897.

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