The history of the first 200 years of E.V.Naish Limited makes for a fascinating read; it is a story of ups and downs, successes and disasters.
The Naish connection with textiles dates back to 1800 when William Naish started experimenting by shearing textiles. The agricultural textile industry was suffering around this period and gangs were roaming around and destroying machinery. On 24 November 1830, both the Quidhampton Mill and the mill in Crow Lane, currently where Wallgate Limited is located, was attacked and considerable damage was caused.
It is believed that after 1830 William Naish continued in the textile trade and he was listed as a clothier in Penny Lane in 1839, and in 1842 as a cloth manufacturer in Russell Street.
The 1840s appear to have been a period when the Crow Lane buildings were repaired and machinery installed to make use of the existing water wheel. When William's father died in 1852, he took over and now in Crow Lane. Trade was poor and new ideas were needed.
By 1858, William had started experiments with pressed felt. Very soon experiments for producing piano felt, especially hammer felt took place. Pressed felt manufacture was obviously the future and this became a time of steady expansion.
In 1867, a new mill was built. This is the only remaining building today from the 19th century and may soon disappear. William decided this mill should not be a water mill, but should be steam driven.
Soon the mill was known as E.V.Naish. The firm was producing good quality piano felts, and was becoming well known internationally for its standard of product.
Jump forward 100 years or so and things changed once more! The felt business would soon struggle through changing market conditions, but a new offering was imminent. 1975, the family started Wallgate Limited.
Then and now
Continuous innovation and rapid transformation have been themes throughout Wallgate's history, which the company traces to the 1970s with the invention and installation of the first all-in-one hand wash dryer in the UK.
1972 was an extremely important year; it marked the start of diversification.
By chance, there was space in a derelict old steam engine building which was rented out to an employee Halstead Knight, who had been making small engineering parts. Halstead was an inventor, but had no marketing knowledge. He experimented with the principle of heating water by electricity directly from the cold. The danger aspect was seemingly ignored and hair raising product developments would follow with the potential for an electric hand washing machine was there for Halstead to see.
Halstead devoted all his time to this and a marketable product was produced in a remarkably short period. And in 1975, Wallgate Limited was set up to develop the product.
Wallgate invented and patented the world's first all-in-one hand wash dryer. With economic use of water and power, these quickly became a hit for public conveniences, schools, leisure centres, restaurants, supermarkets, pubs and clubs indeed anywhere there was a need for efficient hand washing. With Halstead's perseverance it was beginning to pay off and by 1980, Wallgate was beginning to show profits. A viable hand wash dryer appeared and the future looked exciting.
The idea of the Wallgate hand wash unit emerged from the acceptance and popularity of warm air hand dryers in toilet facilities. This concept, however, was capable of improvement by combining it with soap and warm water dispensing, together with a wash bowl in an integrated basin. The idea was quickly patented. It soon became apparent that the market extended to any public or commercial situation where there was a need for hand hygiene.
By 1982, after considerable development work, the hand wash unit had become well established and accepted as a standard toilet feature. Many markets played a big part in Wallgate's increasing sales, including hospitals, offices and the fast food trade.
Interest was developing from other sectors, and in particular laboratories and 'clean rooms'. New models were designed to meet these new customer requirements, and as a result Wallgate products began to be specified by many international drug companies resulting in two export distributors who specialised in this market being set up in Spain and Italy.
Eventually after carrying out hand wash servicing and installation work, a department was needed to offer after sales care. Two years later, a 5000sq ft purpose built factory was completed to meet the needs of rapid expansion.
1981 was a real landmark year for Wallgate. The company's structure was re-organised and during the early 1990s, the new solid surface Polyester moulding production line was streamlined. Money was invested in expanding the technical department's design CAD facilities, increasing Wallgate's ability to produce tailor-made products and win tenders for larger construction projects.
The years that followed saw products updated and in some cases replaced; the moulded classic hand wash machine was revamped both internally and visually, and a new button operated model was later developed.
In the late 1990s, under a new expansion strategy plan, the moulded product range was extended to include a new granite vanity unit and hand dryer system.
Eventually the opportunity to supply private prison construction projects arose in 1997. This resulted in the development of new electronic sinks, electronic showers and a new solid surface WC pan with a patent application on the tooling.
Now, some 40 years on, Wallgate continues to grow and develop, working hard to manufacturer robust, innovative washrooms for virtually markets in all continents.
With a team of 50 experienced factory staff, and its worldwide network of partners, the order book seems as healthy as ever. And, still with the imagination and perseverance seen in Halstead all those years ago, Wallgate are looking strong and set to continue as the market leader.