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Read Holliday

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Read Holliday was the first son of Abraham Holliday and Mary Read and he was born on 15 September 1809 in Bradford. He referred to himself as a chemist and founded the business Read Holliday manufacturing dyestuffs and chemicals in 1830 at Tanfield and then, as the business grew, the plant moved to bigger premises at Turnbridge, Aspley in 1859.

Although census records show Read’s occupation as a chemist, he lacked the formal training in chemistry but he read technical publications and applied what he learned to expand his product range. He began to produce ammonia salts, washing powder, soda ash, Epsom salts and dye products.

In 1845 Read started by buying waste coal tar from the local Huddersfield gas works and distilled ammonia to sell on to textile mills for wool scouring, becoming the biggest distiller in the north of England by 1860. He received a patent for an improved naphtha lamp and the ‘Holliday Peerless Lamp’ became widely used. By now the company had six plants in northern England as well as one in Bromley, London and a warehouse at Holborn Hill.


Read married Emma Copley on 29 July 1839 at St Peter’s Church, Leeds. They had eight children, five sons and three daughters – Thomas (1840), Charles (1842), John (1846), Edgar (1848), Eliza (1848 – 1856), Mary Edith (1850), Robert (1856) and Betty (1849).


When Eliza died at the age of nine, Read became concerned about the environmental conditions of the Turnbridge area and built a new home, Lunn Clough Hall which was a palatial family residence and had 34 rooms.

By 1861, Read was offering violet, red, and blue artificial dyes for sale and gained several patents. Then in 1864 the company became the first producers of aniline and aniline dyes in the USA, when sons Charles and Thomas Holliday set up a factory in Brooklyn. Later, a subsidiary company was set up in Montreal, Canada.

Read retired from the business in 1868 and the business, now known as Read Holliday and Sons was run by his sons Thomas, Charles, Edgar and Robert until 1890. Under their leadership, the company developed dyestuffs and chemicals and became one of Huddersfield’s major industries complementing the textile trade by 2

exploiting the Yorkshire coalfield for both fuel and the coal tar from which early dyes were distilled.

In 1890, Thomas Holliday became Chairman and Managing Director of Read Holliday and Sons and his brother Robert Holliday took over the chairmanship of the firm when their father Read died in 1897. By 1899 the firm was near to bankruptcy because of competition from lower priced German dye manufacturers. Profits in their New York branch were also falling, however, in the same year the Boer War started the War Office granted a large contract to the firm to manufacture picric The Holliday Family Businesses.docxacid for explosives. In 1901, when Lionel Holliday was 21 years old he joined the Board of Directors of Read Holliday and Sons.