Ayrton Saunders was founded in Liverpool in 1868 by Mr. A.H. Saunders, a partner in a London Pharmaceutical Wholesale House and Dr. F. Ayrton, a former deputy Coroner for Liverpool. Due to its railway system and marina, the city of Liverpool was a thriving hub for distribution, shipping, importing and exporting, making it the perfect location to introduce a new business. It should be noted that although Dr. Ayrton’s name remains in the title, he sold his shares 10 years after founding the company due to health issues. After his passing in 1889, A.H. Saunders’ two sons continued to carry on their father’s business and vision based on quality and innovation. Since its establishment, Ayrton Saunders received much praise for continuously improving itself, its products and its dedication to being a modern, customer focused company.
The business was originally set up on Cornwallis Street but due to steady expansion, outgrew the premises and relocated twice – the first relocation being Duke Street. In 1899, Ayrton Saunders purchased a plot of land on 34 Hanover Street and began to build its site from the ground up. Even after the build, more alterations had to be made to the building due to commercial demand.
Images drawn by: Gosia Krupa
At this time, the company manufactured and exported the following: cod liver oil emulsion, antiseptics, anti-rheumatics, anti-asthmatic pills, anti-inflammatory drugs, surgical instruments, round, square and oval ‘penny pill’ boxes, every variety of medical glass bottles and many more. During 1902 and 1903, Ayrton Saunders acquired Henry Gilbertsons Ltd. and W.H. Kemp & Sons and established itself as a Limited Company in 1909. This same year, W.H. Saunders became the company Chairman and proudly installed the company’s first phone. W.H. was very well liked by all who came into contact with him. Being an avid traveller, W.H. spent much of his time abroad, so much so that he was talked into writing and publishing a book about his adventures by friends and colleagues. His book, “Roving the World” was published in 1924. Through cultivating positive and fruitful relationships with clients overseas, W.H. established the foundations of Ayrton Saunders’ modern export trade.
By 1918, Ayrton Saunders was employing 1,000 people due to high consumer demand. In 1921, a fire ravaged most of 34 Hanover Street including a huge portion of the Ayrton Saunders building. Surprisingly, the tragedy of the fire transformed into a blessing for the company. Having lost so much of the building, Ayrton Saunders received a complete renovation from the ground up. Before the incident, Ayrtons was around 50 years old and had experienced such a high spike in production demand that the premises were no longer functional enough to meet the market needs. The renovation process took 14 months and in May of 1922, the company revealed its new 90,000 square feet of modern floor space. This renovation included more floors and a completely state-of-the-art building.
After a blitz bombing in 1942, Ayrton Saunders became the only surviving pharmaceutical wholesaler on Hanover Street. The arrival of the National Health Service in 1948 as well as the use of ethical medicines by Doctors limited the production of sundry items and pushed the company to become increasingly wholesale focused. During the 1950s, Ayrton Saunders was delivering to many different parts of the UK while also employing 25 representatives.
One hundred years after establishment, the company’s work in Liverpool was being carried out from three premises: the headquarters at 34 Hanover Street, which housed the offices and distribution centre; the production plant and laboratories on Duke Street and the export department and garages on Park Lane. Ayrton Saunders became a well-known name in many parts of the world; 60% of their products were exported to Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam.
In 1987 the company was taken over by A.A.H. Pharmaceuticals and in 1990 they moved into new premises on Spindus Road in the Speke Hall Industrial Estate. The firm though was run by A.A.H. Pharmaceuticals from its premises on West Lane, Runcorn.
After years of successful operation, restructuring, challenges and development, Ayrton Saunders was bought in 1997 by Mr. G.F. O’Brien of Liverpool, who owns a chain of retail chemist shops. Almost 150 years since Ayrton Saunders was established, we are building our future based on our rich heritage and solid values. By continuing the path to being an innovative pharmaceutical company that our founders paved, we are striving to fulfil the evolving needs of our patients as well as other clients.
Today, Ayrton Saunders consists of 3 integral and essential parts:
1. Ayrton Saunders: heritage with intellectual property portfolio
2. Pharmasol Ltd: contract manufacturing and product development
3. JM Loveridge: UK distribution service