110 years of history is something special.
The partnership of Wood Mitchell was formed in 1901, the dawn of the twentieth century was a time of change. The funeral of Queen Victoria took place in London and King Edward VII opened his first parliament, oil was discovered in Texas and William McKinley began his second term as US President as Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as Vice President.
The founding partners were James Wood, who had been a salesman for another Stoke-on-Trent printers, John Brunt, Henry Brunt and Herbert Mitchell, a headmaster. The business was started at Oriel Works, Park Street, Hanley as Lithographic, Letterpress and Bookbinding Printers. These premises, built in 1886, were sold to the new partnership in 1901 by a branch of Bemrose and Sons of Derby and London.
The new business were fortunate to take over some machinery and existing printing contracts from Bemrose providing a base from which to establish themselves in the local area. They were not short of ambition and a handwritten note on 5th March 1904 includes decisions to send samples to the forthcoming Exhibition for London (1908) and to enquire about the St Louis Exhibition (30th April 1904 to 1st December 1904 hosting 20 million people).
The company of Wood Mitchell & Co Ltd was incorporated in December 1904 and a copy of the minutes from that date see John Brunt elected Chairman, Herbert Mitchell secretary, a Mr Albert Allerton solicitor and Lloyds Bank Limited “hereby authorised to honour cheques, Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes drawn, accepted or made on behalf of the Company”. They were on their way.
By 1913 they have customers in London including Harrods, T. Goode & Co, Mappin & Webb and Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road and are accumulating some significant local customers including Wedgwood, Doultons and Johnson Brothers.
John Brunt dies in 1910 and although knocked back, they produce their best set of results for the year to December 1913. The Great War has an impact on the marketing ambitions of all companies and turnover and profits suffer although this awful time does not stop them opening a shop in Nottingham in 1916. The shareholdings belonging to John Brunt’s estate and Henry Brunt are purchased in 1919 and James Wood dies after an accident in a taxi cab in London in 1923.
Herbert Mitchell manages the business and the necessary quorate of 4 directors are all Mitchell by name. The years from 1923 to 1929 through the Great Depression are clearly a struggle and in 1933 as things are picking up at long last, Herbert Mitchell dies.
So ended the involvement of a great man who had seen the company through 30 years of extraordinary global events. His second son Herbert Eric Mitchell, who served in the Great War, succeeded him and his eldest son Reginald Joseph Mitchell went on to design the Spitfire just in time for the advent of the Second World War.