In 1837 Robert Spear Hudson opened a shop in High Street, West Bromwich. He started making soap powder in the back of this shop by grinding the coarse bar soap of the day with a mortar and pestle.
Before that people had to make soap flakes themselves. Hudson’s product became the first satisfactory and commercially successful soap powder. Despite his title of “Manufacturer of Dry Soap” Hudson never actually manufactured soap, but bought the raw soap from William Gossage of Widnes.
The product was popular with Hudson’s customers and the business expanded rapidly.
In the 1850s he employed ten female workers in his West Bromwich factory. The business was further helped by the removal of tax on soap in 1853.
In 1875 Hudson moved his main works to Bank Hall, Liverpool, and his head office to Bootle, while continuing production at West Bromwich. Eventually the business in Merseyside employed around 1,000 people and Hudson was able to develop a flourishing export trade to Australia and New Zealand. At this time Hudson was using unprecedented levels of advertising to help sell his soap powder, employing professional artists to produce striking posters.
Hudson’s son, Robert William, took control of the company following his father’s death in 1884.
In 1908 he sold the business to Lever Brothers who ran it as a subsidiary enterprise during which time the soap was manufactured at Crosfields Ltd. During this time brand names such as Rinso and Omo were introduced.
The Hudson name was retained until 1935 when, during a period of rationalisation, the West Bromwich and Bank Hall factories were closed.