Tyne and Wear HER(15492): Newburn, Ever Ready Battery Factory - Details
Newburn, Ever Ready Battery Factory
The American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company was formed in 1914. The American side was sold to National Carbon, later Union Carbide, together with a brand that later lost a letter and became Eveready. The two businesses were linked for many years. The British could use the Ever Ready name in Europe, and adopted the Berec name elsewhere. The Americans used Ucar when they sold in Europe. By the end of the 1960s Ever Ready had 90% of the British battery market. There was a vast research laboratory in Tottenham, north London. Ever Ready bought Superpila in Italy and Daimon in Germany. It built an enormous factory in 1968 in Tanfield Lea, County Durham, employing ex-miners. Women were only employed on the factory floor from 1988. The factory at Tanfield Lea produced zinc-carbon batteries. A long-life alkaline battery was made by the laboratory in 1973 but it never went into production, which proved to be a mistake. Other factories included Dawley, Four Ashes, Maldon, and Park Lane, Wolverhampton. The company's Head Office was in Whetstone, London N20. In 1977 British Ever Ready sold its stake in Mallory, which made Duracell alkaline batteries. By 1977 Tanfield Lea was sending almost half its output to Nigeria. When the import licence was cancelled, 500 people had to be made redundant. A factory set up in Hong Kong but run from Britain was a failure. The company name was changed to Berec, to sound more international. This was also a mistake. In 1978 they set up an alkaline battery factory at Newburn and started developing a zinc-chloride battery (launched as 'Silver Seal') at Tanfield Lea. In 1981 Berec was taken over by Hanson Trust, and changed the name back to Ever Ready. It closed the Tottenham laboratory and the work was taken over by Tanfield Lea. The Advanced Projects Group at Abingdon (which developed bromium and lithium batteries) was sold off. Soon after, the workforce was cut from 2,900 to 2,000; 314 of Tanfield Lea's 940 jobs were shed. In 1993 Hanson announced it was selling Ever Ready to Ralston Purina (a pet food company which became the biggest battery manufacturer in 1985 when it bought US Eveready from Union Carbide). Factories at Telford and Wolverhampton were closed. Newburn's workforce was slashed from 205 to 30. Zinc-carbon battery production all but stopped and Blue Seal was imported from Indonesia. Tanfield Lea survived as a centre for zinc-chloride (Silver Seal) production and developed a Ucar battery for Germany. The US company had two alkaline battery factories in France and Switzerland, which were much bigger than Newburn. Newburn was closed in 1992 because it was under-invested and production costs were higher. Ever Ready is now a part of Energizer Holdings. The company closed Tanfield Lea, its last UK factory, in 1996. Ever Ready also made torches, bicycle lamps and radios (until the 1980s).
David Bowen, Sunday 23 June 1993, Assault and battery: The fall of the Ever Ready empire: a classic tale of British decline, The Independent; www.independent.co.uk/news/business/assault-and-battery-the-fall-of-the-ever-ready-empire-a-classic-tale-of-british-decline-by-david-bowen-1494225.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Ever_Ready_Electrical_Company; http://www.eveready.com; http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Ever_Ready_Co_(Great_Britain)