The British Xylonite Company could justifiably claim to be the first British firm successfully to manufacture a plastic material in commercial quantities. Xylonite, better known by its American equivalent of 'celluloid', was invented by Alexander Parkes and first displayed in 1862 under the name of 'Parkesine'.
The original site being small and unsuitable, it was decided in 1887 to buy land at Brantham on the Suffolk bank of the River Stour and erect a purpose-built factory; finished goods continued to be made at Homerton until 1897 when a new factory was built at Hale End near Walthamstow which also housed the head office. Other types of plastics were introduced, and in 1938 the British Xylonite Company became a holding company with three subsidiaries.
The Distillers Company took a half-interest in 1939 and bought the entire Group in 1961, but in 1963 it formed part of a new grouping called Bakelite Xylonite Ltd. Several sales and mergers took place in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Brantham site operated under the name of Wardle Storeys and until recently manufactured limited quantities of xylonite using traditional processes and equipment. The company went into liquidation in January 2007...