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Who Was Alfred Bagnall?


Pictured: Alfred “Harry” Bagnall, Alfred Bagnall and Albert Bagnall

Alfred Bagnall founded the company in 1875 and steered the business in the right direction before handing the company over to future generations.

Alfred Bagnall was born in Penkridge, Staffordshire.  He started work at only 9 years old as a farm labourer, working long hours for little pay.  He later moved to Birmingham, where after trying his hand at a number of jobs, he found himself at the Saltley Railway Carriage and Wagon Company.  It was here that he picked up a paintbrush and started painting railway carriages.

He married Sarah in 1870, who was born in Saltley, Birmingham.  In 1873, they moved to Charlestown, near Bradford, where Alfred worked for Mr Andrew Marshall, Master Painter for fivepence per hour.

It seems that the painting trade was as seasonal then as it is now, as during the winter of 1874 work was scarce, so Alfred moved employers and started working for Master Painter, Mr David Hutton, in Briggate, Shipley.

Around this time, a firm of contractors, Messrs. Bayliss & Gripper, started to build wooden huts for their workers prior to building the Railway lattice girder bridge over the River Aire, in Charlestown.  Alfred Bagnall assisted the joiners in building the huts and was then asked to canvas and paper them.  Mr Gripper then asked Alfred Bagnall to quote to paint the newly constructed bridge.

It was on March 13th, 1875 that Alfred Bagnall with a colleague called Cornelius Lupton signed to undertake their first painting contract over a 6d stamp. This job marked the formation of the company we know today.

Alfred Bagnall understood that this project was a challenge but was known to say “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Won!”……this was indeed a great venture.

The partnership between Alfred Bagnall and Cornelius Lupton did not last long, as Mr Lupton was very untidy in his work so the partnership was dissolved in 1875.  Alfred continued with the business and invited a Mr Robert Walker Quarmby to join him in 1877.

It was shortly after this that the company recruited their first apprentice, a Mr. Walter Unwin, but no fixed date has been recorded.  (The earliest company’s records show an apprentice, Fred Spencer, winning an award in 1899 from the Yorkshire Master Painters’ Federation).

Bagnall & Quarmby (the original B&Q!) enjoyed a good working relationship, with high standards being achieved in graining, signwriting, gilding and all other decorative work.  The business was profitable and orders were placed by many of the Railway companies and Government departments of the time.

Accounts of the time show:

Paperhanging                    6d per piece

1 x top whitewashing     1s/-

2 Dozen W.Brushes         £2/4/-

1 dozen paint cans           5/6

Sadly, Mr Quarmby died in 1890, and at this time, Alfred Bagnall paid Mr Quarmby’s executors for his share of the company.

Alfred Bagnall remained active in the business for nearly 40 years.  He was a hard taskmaster but remained a perfect gentleman who had the welfare of this wife and family at his heart.

The business was formed into a Limited Liability Company with a capital of £10,000 in 1911.

The company executed very extensive contracts for the War Department, Air Ministry, Office of Works, and Public Bodies, extending from Cork to Belfast, Isle of Wight to Scotland and even hospitals in France.  Notable contracts included:

  • Ford Works, Dagenham
  • Austin Motor Company, Birmingham
  • St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Nurses’ Home, London
  • Naval Training College, Ipswich
  • The Empire Stadium (Wembley), London
  • And, Handforth Dye Works, Bradford.

Alfred Bagnall retired from the business to spend more time on his farm at Grange-over-Sands.  The business was then managed by his son Alfred Bagnall, known by everyone as Harry, who said “My father left us a legacy which is our bounden duty to honour and fulfil.”

145 years later Alfred’s legacy remains strong and continues to service a wide range of companies across the UK.  And the company’s motto remains true “No job too large and none too small.”