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Yardley Article

Updated: May 26

Written 03/01/20


YARDLEY LONDON CELEBRATES ITS 250TH ANNIVERSARY AS WE REMEMBER YARDLEY'S IN BASILDON

YARDLEY London, that legendary purveyor of perfumes, soaps and toiletries will celebrate its 250th anniversary this year. The company which was once called Yardley of London is one of the oldest brands in the history of perfume, toiletries and cosmetics. It has been awarded ‘Royal Warrant of Appointment’ six times, starting with Edward, Prince of Wales in 1921 then including the Queen and the late Queen Mother and most recently, in 1995, Charles, Prince of Wales. At the end of January 2020 it will be 21 years since Yardley of London closed its doors at its site in Basildon. The last man to leave was security guard Roy Davis. He locked everything up and put the key through the door in January 1999. Unfortunately the company had got into financial problems in the mid-1990s and it went into receivership in 1998 after a year of marketing attempts to try and turn around its then old-fashioned image even though it had swapped Helena Bonham Carter for supermodel Linda Evangelista to front its advertising campaign. This resulted in the Yardley brand being acquired by Wella, but since then it has been acquired by the Lornamead Group and after this Wipro Enterprises. A few years after Twiggy, a household name, fronted Yardley’s advertising campaign the east London manufacturing company relocated to Basildon in 1966. The large factory occupied about 19 acres of land on the Pipps Hill No. 2 Industrial estate. Within its grounds it had a recreation area which included tennis courts and a football pitch. Roy’s mother was working there when they celebrated their 200th anniversary at the Albert Hall in 1970. Yardley’s really was a family affair for Roy who started working there in 1976: it was where he met his wife Brenda and later four of their children worked there. Brenda Davis, who lives in Laindon, told me about the privileges of working for Yardley’s. “We had our own staff canteen which was heavily subsidised, where our long service awards dinners were held, along with big social events. Downstairs we had our own social club with a snooker table and darts. Dances were also held there. The social club was open at lunchtimes, every night and at the weekends!” Deb Conner, who now lives near Billericay, recalls that one of the perks of the job was buying cheap products from the reject shop. She also remembers taking part in five-a-side football games. “These were interdepartmental matches, and then they’d go to the bar. As it was such a nice place to work people liked to meet each other after and have a drink.” Yardley’s had a football team and at lunch time the company provided a coach service to and from the town centre. On site they had two nurses on duty and a doctor once a week along with a chiropodist. Brenda proudly remembers that “if you weren’t well we had a company car or a taxi to take you home. It was a lovely company to work for!” Roy remembers two strikes for equal pay: “Everybody from the factory was out the door, only the office staff and security stayed in. They blocked the ‘goods in’ entrance and outside the main entrance, they were booing and shouting abuse at us. Brenda was on the picket line a couple of times. It lasted more than a week both times.” Roy also remembers Marian McCabe who sadly lost her life in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

“She was a mere snip of a girl and used to wear her Liverpool gear to work. Her funeral came past Yardley. All the girls came outside and I put our three flags at half-mast.” Alison Moyet worked at Yardley’s. She was part of Yazoo then embarked on a very successful solo career. Brenda recalls that someone would shout out “Alison give us a song!” Then everything stopped in the area so they could all listen to Alison’s beautiful voice. Deb Connor started work at Yardley of London in the summer of 1971 when she was 15. She started off in the canteen but a job in the post room came up and they let her go to college one day a week to finish her studies. She then got promoted to being a typist for the laboratory technicians, typing up perfumery formulas. She left at 18 as she wanted to work in London but a favourite memory of hers at that time was being part of the team who promoted McLaren’s Formula One team. Yardley of London became McLaren’s first title sponsor in 1972. Deb has fond memories of herself and her older sister being part of half a dozen Yardley girls who would wear mustard hot pant suits with long boots, they’d go to Brands Hatch and Silverstone promoting McLaren. She remembers that they had one of their Formula One cars in the state-of-the-art reception area at that time. Deb was welcomed back to Yardley’s in 1979 at the age of 23. She started typing in the laboratories for Mr Towers the laboratory manager and was soon promoted to a production assistant. She climbed up the corporate ladder to become a production manager and was in charge of skin care products. She would often go to meetings at Marks & Spencer and travel to Europe for exhibitions. Deb stayed at Yardley’s until 1990. Tracy Elphick, who now lives in Southend, remembers Yardley’s with great affection: “I’d say the most important thing was the friendships, I know so many groups of people who have made life-long friends from there, more like family! Everyone always had time for each other and cared about them.






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