WH Burford and Sons Ltd

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

WH Burford and Sons Ltd

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1878 - 1957


William Burford founded his soap and candle-making business at Grenfell Street, Adelaide in 1840. He took his two sons, Benjamin and William, into partnership in 1878 and the firm became known as WH Burford & Sons. In 1885 the business transferred to Sturt Street, where, under the directorship of William Burford (jnr), it flourished. Apart from making candles and soap and rendering tallow, WH Burford & Sons began manufacturing other products such as glycerine, blacking, soda crystals, washing blue, lubricating oils, fire kindlers, egg preserver, starch, cornflour and dried gluten. In 1887 the firm purchased the Apollo Works at Hindmarsh and in 1888, Frearson Brothers’ printing business, also in Hindmarsh. Other branches were established at Broken Hill, Port Pirie, Kadina, Port Augusta, Mount Gambier, and at North Fremantle and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia so that, by the time of the first world war (1914-18), WH Burford & Sons dominated the soap and candle market in most of the southern and western part of Australia. A large portion of the Sturt Street factory was destroyed by fire in 1919 which prompted the construction of a more modern factory at Dry Creek. The Dry Creek factory opened in 1923 and became the centre for Burford’s operations in the Adelaide area. In 1924 J Kitchen and Sons in Melbourne and Lever Brothers in Sydney merged with WH Burford & Sons to form Australian Producers Co-Partnership Ltd (renamed Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd in 1932, Lever Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd in 1944). The activities of the individual companies were coordinated by a General (Central) Management Board, comprising representatives of Lever Brothers in Balmain, the Kitchen interests and Levers Pacific Plantations. Unilever developed in Australia from this basis. During the 1930s WH Burford & Sons and J Kitchen and Sons undertook a far-reaching rationalisation scheme. It originated in 1928 after a disastrous fire in the Kitchen factory in Fremantle. Burford’s, Kitchen’s main rivals, were turned to for assistance. Kitchen’s goods were made at the Burford factory, then packed and sold by the Kitchen organisation. The scheme worked well and, in 1932, the Directors of both J Kitchen & Sons and WH Burford & Sons formed a new company, Soap Distributors Ltd, to control the manufacture and distribution of both companies’ products in southern and western Australia. By 1937 all Burford-owned factories were being run by J Kitchen & Sons Pty Ltd. In 1945 Unilever began a period of rationalisation, diversification and integration in Australia. From 1948 production at the Burford factory in Adelaide was wound down and in 1956 Unilever (Australia) Pty Ltd (UAPL) took over Lever Associated Enterprises Pty Ltd as the holding company for all Unilever’s Australian interests. Factories owned by the operating companies, including Burford’s, came under its control. Unilever (Australia) bought out WH Burford & Sons completely in 1957.


Adelaide, South Australia; Fremantle, Western Australia

Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

cleaning compound manufacturing; soap and detergent manufacturing

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

Burford, William Henville (1807-1895); Burford, Benjamin (c.1843-1905); Burford, William (1845-1925)

General context

Relationships area

Access points area


Control area

Authority record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Prepared by Margaret Avard, August 2012




Riches, Arnold (1944): History of J Kitchen & Sons; Taylor, Herbert R., 'Burford, William Henville (1807–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/burford-william-henville-1851/text2147, accessed July 2012; 'Burford, William (1845–1925)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/burford-william-13902/text24779, accessed July 2012; State Library of South Australia (www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/adelaide/factory/factory.htm) accessed July 2012

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