Ref no38169
TitleRecords of W D & H O Wills Limited, tobacco manufacturers
Date17th century - 20th century
DescriptionThis large collection of around 5,000 items includes: Articles of association; advertising material including cigarette stiffeners and collectable cards, posters, photographs and sponsorship material; Correspondence including letter books; records relating to conferences and exhibitions; Staffing records; Deeds and property records; Financial records including annual reports, journals and ledgers; Various records relating to subsidiary and associated companies; Historical material relating to the history of the company; Archive files relating to general and specific aspects of the company, its products and its history; Records relating to the Hartcliffe factory; Published journals relating to the industry; Legal papers; Minutes including boards and individual commitees; Manufacturing records including records on brands flavours and processes; Records relating to company operations; Press cuttings; Printed books and booklets relating to the company, Bristol, the industry and specific types of tobacco; Records relating to the company collection of pipes; Photographs including buildings, people, machinery and vehicles; Records of plant and property; Price lists; Records of royal visits including photographs; Share records; Sales records; Stock and purchases records; Records relating to the Wills family.
LevelCollection
Extent113 shelves
Administrative historyW D & H O Wills was a major player in the tobacco trade, based here in Bristol and impacting on many individuals as large employer and on Bristol's industrial landscape of large factories.

In 1786 Samuel Watkins, one of 14 tobacconists in Bristol, took Henry Overton Wills into partnership, the firm initially being known as Wills, Watkins & Company. The undertaking became Wills & Company in 1789, Lilly & Wills in 1791, and Wills & Ditchett in 1803. Wills was joined by his two sons William Day Wills and Henry Overton Wills II in 1815, and with their father’s death in 1826 and the retirement of Samuel Ditchett in 1830, they took control of the firm. The brothers then went into partnership with Frederick Ricketts and after his retirement in 1843 the company was finally re-titled W.D. & H.O. Wills. In 1901 Wills allied itself with 12 other family-run tobacco manufacturers in Britain to form Imperial Tobacco Ltd in order to combat the increasing influence of the giant American Tobacco Company. Each individual company became a branch of the overall company. In 1920, Imperial Tobacco accounted for 72% of the UK tobacco market.

In 1889 the company employed over 1,000 workers in the city, with several local factories including East Street in Bedminster (opened 1886) and an export branch factory in Ashton Gate (opened 1900). By 1975 it had transferred all cigarette production in Bristol to a new factory in Hartcliffe until that was closed in 1991.

For a more detailed company history, see "WD & HO Wills and the development of the UK tobacco industry 1786-1965" (Bk/327) and various items within the printed books and pamphlets series (38169/PB/6)
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsNone
Related materialRecords relating to other tobacco companies which joined under the Imperial Tobacco umbrella are mostly held at the local archives for those individual firms, although there is some material relating to some of these other companies within this collection.
Custodial historyCollection deposited by Imperial Tobacco in 1982. Minor additional deposits in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2013, mostly from Imperial Tobacco but also including some deposits from individuals relating to the company. At the time of the original deposit, further items such as advertising, marketing, packaging samples, photographs and artefacts relating to the both the company and tobacco generally were deposited with Andy King at Bristol Industrial Museum (now M Shed).
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