Beecham Group

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The Beecham Group plc
FateMerged with SmithKline Beckman
SuccessorSmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline)
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
ProductsPhenethicillin, Methicillin

The Beecham Group plc was a British pharmaceutical company. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Founded by Thomas Beecham who opened the first factory in St Helens, Lancashire in 1859, Beecham focused on marketing the business by advertising in newspapers and using a network of wholesale agents in northern England and in London, rapidly building up the business.[1] In August 1859 he created the slogan for Beecham's Pills: "Worth a guinea a box", considered to be the world's first advertising slogan, which helped the business become a global brand.[2]

Beecham, after having merged with American pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beckman to become SmithKline Beecham, merged with Glaxo Wellcome to become GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK (and later, Haleon) still uses the Beechams brand name in the UK for its over-the-counter cold and flu relief products.[3]

Early history[edit]

Beecham began as the family business of Thomas Beecham (1820–1907). (Beecham would become the grandfather of music conductor Thomas Beecham, 1879–1961.) As a boy, Beecham worked as a shepherd, selling herbal remedies as a sideline.

He later became a travelling salesman or peddler full time. His first product was Beecham's Pills, a laxative, in 1842.[4] Subsequent success enabled him to open a shop in Wigan in 1847.[5] Beecham opened its first factory in 1859, in St Helens, Lancashire, for the rapid production of medicines.[4] In August 1859, Beechams created a slogan for Beecham's Pills: "Beechams Pills: Worth a guinea a box", which is considered to be the world's first advertising slogan.[2] First appearing in the St Helens Intelligencer, the Beechams adverts would appear in newspapers all over the world, helping the company become a global brand.[2][6] The phrase was first said to be uttered by a satisfied lady purchaser from St Helens, the founder's home town.[6][7] Under the founder's son, Sir Joseph Beecham, 1st Baronet (1848–1916), the business expanded, but remained a patent medicine company and engaged in little research.

Expansion and diversification[edit]

In 1924, Philip Ernest Hill (1873 - 1944),[8][9] who made his money in real estate, acquired control of Beecham.[10] Under his leadership, the company bought up other companies for their various products and for their marketing infrastructure, acquiring the Lucozade glucose drink and Macleans (toothpaste) in 1938, and, at the same time, introducing the Ribena blackcurrant drink.[11] In 1938, it also bought the company selling Eno which had an extensive international presence.[10][12]: 253  By purchasing the company manufacturing Brylcreem the following year, the company added hair products for men to its offerings.[4]

In 1943, Beecham decided to focus more on improving research and built Beecham Research Laboratories at Brockham Park, Surrey. In 1945, the company was renamed Beecham Group Ltd.[4] in 1953, Beecham acquired C.L. Bencard, which specialised in allergy vaccines.[4]


In 1959, Brockham Park became famous when Beecham scientists there discovered the penicillin nucleus, 6-APA (6-aminopenicillanic acid);[13] This discovery allowed Beecham, working in tandem with Bristol-Myers, to synthesize a number of new semisynthetic penicillins. Beecham marketed Broxil (phenethicillin), followed shortly by the more potent Celbenin (methicillin), which was active against Staphylococcus aureus. The group continued to focus on pharmaceutical development, producing further semi-synthetic penicillins. However, when Penbritin (ampicillin) came on the market in 1961, Beecham's facilities were soon inadequate for the worldwide demand for the drug. A 35-acre (140,000 m2) complex at Worthing came on line in the early 1960s, to produce phenethicillin, followed by the ability to produce 6-APA, the base for semisynthetic penicillins.

The company continued to add products, and acquire other companies, through the 1970s and 1980s. In 1971, the S. E. Massengill Company was acquired. Beecham launched Amoxil (amoxicillin) in 1972, which went on to become one of the most widely prescribed antibiotics.[4]

In 1973, Aqua-fresh toothpaste was launched, and in 1977, the Sucrets brand was acquired. Augmentin, an antibiotic used to treat an array of bacterial infections, was introduced in 1981.[4] The Aqua Velva and Geritol brands were acquired from J. B. Williams in 1982.

Later history[edit]

In 1986, the Beecham Group sold its numerous soft drink brands including Tango, Top Deck, Corona, and Quosh, as well as the UK franchises for Pepsi and 7 Up, to Britvic.[14] The same year, Beecham acquired Norcliff Thayer from Revlon.

As the turn of the century approached, there were more significant mergers. In 1989, The Beecham Group plc and SmithKline Beckman merged to form SmithKline Beecham plc.[4][15] In 2000, SmithKline Beecham and GlaxoWellcome merged to form GlaxoSmithKline.[16]

A history of the company, Beechams, 1848–2000: From Pills to Pharmaceuticals, written by Thomas Anthony Buchanan Corley, was published in 2011.[17]


Consumer healthcare[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The man behind the eponymous Beechams Powders gets blue plaque". The Business Magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "Anniversary of the first ad slogan". The Herald. 5 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Get powerful relief from cold & flu symptoms with Beechams". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Our history – GSK". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  5. ^ Thomas Beecham at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  6. ^ a b "When Beecham put St Helens on the map". St Helen's Star. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  7. ^ Ratcliffe, Susan (2011). Oxford Treasury of Sayings and Quotations. Oxford University Press. p. 478.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Philip E. Hill".
  10. ^ a b Tedlow, Richard S.; Jones, Geoffrey G. (2014). The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing (RLE Marketing) Volume 25 of Routledge Library Editions: Marketing. Routledge. pp. 110–111. ISBN 9781317663010.
  11. ^ "SmithKline Beecham: History" Archived 20 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, History of Advertising Trust
  12. ^ Wilkins, Mira (2004). The history of foreign investment in the United States, 1914-1945. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674045187.
  13. ^ Batchelor, F.R.; Doyle, F. P.; Naylor, J. H. C.; Rolinson, G. N. (1959). "Synthesis of Penicillin: 6-Aminopenicillanic Acid in Penicillin Fermentations" (PDF). Nature. 183 (4656): 257–8. Bibcode:1959Natur.183..257B. doi:10.1038/183257b0. PMID 13622762. S2CID 4268993.
  14. ^ "Carbonated drinks: a report on the supply by manufacturers of carbonated drinks in the United Kingdom, Chapter 8 para 8.51" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  15. ^ "Profile: SmithKline Beecham". BBC. 18 December 2000.
  16. ^ "The Glaxo SmithKline merger". BBC News. 17 January 2000.
  17. ^ Corley, T. A. B. (29 March 2011). Beechams, 1848-2000: from Pills to Pharmaceuticals. Lancaster: Crucible Books. ISBN 978-1-905472-14-7.
  18. ^ "Beechams Powders - Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC)". Retrieved 19 November 2016. Beecham's Powders is a cold and flu remedy sold in the UK. The medicine is a white powder wrapped in a paper sachet. The powder is mixed with water and then drunk in suspension. The active ingredients are caffeine and aspirin, the effects of taking this remedy are the lowering of body temperature, reduction in aches and pains, along with a mild return of energy. This medicine is often used by people who need to continue working despite having a cold or mild flu.

External links[edit]