William Douglas & Sons Ltd

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Founded in 1888 by William Douglas and his sons, Tom, John and Loudon. A contract with a Glasgow company provided them with the opportunity to apply shale oil techniques to the lowering the temperature of lard so that it could be controlled and packaged. Around the turn of the century, Douglas supplied anything and everything for the meat trade, issuing a 400-page encyclopaedia covering all aspects of meat production – machinery and equipment, meat processing, the chemistry of the pig, butcher’s clothing, swine fever, ingredients and recipes for national and local speciality meat products. The company’s industrial refrigeration business sprang from their supplying thermometers and cold stores in the 1920’s.

The company’s efforts in WW2 were of substantial value, Two cold stores were built for the Ministry of Food, each with a capacity of a quarter of a million cubic feet. A large number of ice-plants were made for the War Office, many of these twenty tons per day plants being sent out to the Middle and Far East.

After the cessation of hostilities, Douglas decided to enter the liquid handling market, with a system based on the Douglas Pump an exceptionally accurate measuring instrument. This was so successful, particularly in the food industry, that a separate Bulk Handling Division was formed.

William Douglas & Sons Ltd and Baker Perkins had been associated for some time both technically and commercially prior to the acquisition in 1959. Many Baker Perkins plants in biscuit and other food factories incorporated Douglas equipment for the automatic handling in bulk of the fats and liquids used in production. During 1961, Douglas merged with Alfred Porter & Co Ltd. Owned by a Mr. Crook, Alfred Porter had an agreement to sell the Trane Compressor - a high quality refrigerant compressor made in the USA. – for which William Douglas wanted exclusive marketing rights.

By 1962, the rate of growth was such that Douglas had outgrown its premises in Putney and Sunbury and plans were in place to re-locate to a new £350,000 factory in Basingstoke.

Before the move to Basingstoke, Wm. Douglas & Sons were producing:

• Refrigeration compressors, cold stores for factories and ports, chilled water and glycol plants and plants to chill and freeze all kinds of meat and foodstuffs.
• Animal and poultry by-products plant used for the conversion of inedible residues (including feathers) to feed meals, fertilisers and tallows.
• Margarine, lard and shortening plants for the bakery, biscuit, flour and confectionery trades.
• Chocolate, glucose, syrup, malt extract and edible oil storage and distribution plants.
• Bulk storage and distribution installations for solvents, paints, oils inks, resins and other liquid products.

Colin Joyce has provided his recollections of his time with William Douglas & Sons Ltd.

“In mid-1964, after 18 months at Gainsborough with Rose Brothers, I accepted the position of director and chief accountant at William Douglas at Putney. In accepting this post l was told that it was the intention to merge this company with Rownson Conveyors and to re-locate the merged businesses to a new factory being built in Basingstoke.

Stan Bennett has provided his recollections of working with the firm:

•  The Putney premises were at a location known as Douglas Wharf, now occupied by 'The Boathouse' (a pub).

From research conducted by the Baker Perkins Historical society

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Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020