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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/39 1 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: R R Browne. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Acheson family had a few textile connections, and indeed Jeremy Acheson worked in a n ancillary trade - boxmaking - for most of his life. After an unfulfilling career in accountancy. Mr Acheson joined R R Browne in 1961. Browne's was based in an old weaving factory off Amelia Street The firm was founded at the turn of the century as a stationery and printing business. Mr Acheson worked under Harold Brown - son of the founder. Although Brown's served other trades including the crystal, greetings card and food industries, the firm relied heavily on the textile trade. Their two major customers were Spence Bryson and Blanes. These customers were in the handkerchief business, where packaging and presentation were key. Browne's also did some work for M&S. Browne's had dabbled in printing handkerchiefs, but by the time Mr Acheson joined the firm the cloth printing had all stopped. They also did a little headed paper and label printing, but the bulk of their work was printing paper for covering boxes. Most of the boxes were constructed from Dutch strawboard, which arrived in flat sheets. These sheets were cornered, creased and assembled on site. The boxes and matching lids were then covered with paper and stored rigid. Browne's also made transparent acetate lids. Boxmaking was very seasonal and the firm needed huge storage areas. Many of their customers expected Brown's to store boxes for them and to deliver over a fixed period, or on request. At capacity production Browne's could make 4 - 5 million handkerchief boxes per year. With their screen printing machines, Browne's could not print more than 2 colours. Dispensing boxes for thread were also produced for York St Thread and Campbell's of New Mossley. Given the fact that shipments were costed by volume and not weight, it was rarely profitable to sell rigid boxes overseas. Browne's employed a full-time designer and also bought in ideas from outside. Browne's produced a lot of novelty boxes for Spence Bryson including beer cans and cigarette packets. In more recent years Browne's diversified into supplying flat packed cartons with flaps that could be folded into shape by the customer. The carton itself had to be printed, whereas the rigid boxes were wrapped in printed paper. This required considerable investment in new machinery. The carton business was also considered distinct to the box trade, and Browne's found it difficult to break into this market until they appointed a retired carton salesman as an agent. Although the firm remained profitable, profit margins were narrowing all the time. Browne's was taken over by Henry Campbell's after Harold Browne refused to sell the property, which backed onto Aerocrete (another Campbell firm) alone. Mr Browne was guaranteed a Directorship until he retired. On Harold Browne's retirement, Mr Acheson was appointed MD. Business remained difficult and several rival firms went out of business or amalgamated. W & G Baird approached Mr Acheson to see if he would act as MD for their new acquisition McCaw Stevenson & Orr - a significant player in the boxmaking industry. Mr Acheson encouraged Bairds to buy Browne's from Hanson and combine the two. Mr Acheson became MD of the resultant MSO Ltd in 1983. The firm is still in existence today. In very recent times concerns about recycling and conservation began to enter the business. Mr Acheson encouraged his customers to use cleaner, greener products made from sustainable resources with a considerable measure of success.