May & Baker

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May & Baker was a British chemical company.

It was started by John May and William Gerrard Baker in Wandsworth, London in 1839.[1] They initially specialized in the manufacture of chemicals derived from Mercury and Bismuth. Over the years they diversified into other chemical fields including Photographic, Pharmaceuticals, Agrochemicals, and chemicals for Research and development.

The company was bought by Établissements Poulenc Frères (later to become Société des Usines Chimiques Rhône-Poulenc) in 1922,[2] and subsequently moved to Dagenham, East London, although they continued to trade under the May & Baker name until the 1980s.

During this time they branched into pharmaceuticals, with one of their major discoveries being Sulphapyridine (M&B693) in 1939. This compound was used to treat Winston Churchill's bacterial pneumonia in 1942[3] — his condition was extremely poor prior to the drug's application.

Post-war, May & Baker expanded into many countries round the world, particularly those in the Commonwealth, and comprised three divisions, Pharmaceuticals, Fine Chemicals and Agrochemicals. The 1960s were a boom time for the company, unofficially known as 'the Brittox Years' after one of its world-leading agrochemicals. There were agrochemical manufacturing sites in Sweet Briar Road, Norwich, Barton Moss in Manchester and Belvedere in Kent, a research station at Ongar in Essex and a Head Office at Regent House in nearby Brentwood.

The Agrochemical division also contained Environmental Products (amenity horticulture) and Garden Care (retail), the latter being sold to Pan Britannica Industries (Sumitomo Group) in 1991. A subsidiary, Hortichem, was based in Ongar.

In 1999 the company was split — the Dagenham site (now just Pharmaceuticals), merged with Hoechst and changed the company name to Aventis, and also instigated the loss of R&D at the site in July 2000. The Norwich site became part of Bayer Agrochemicals. The Nigerian subsidiary, bought out in 2002, remains as May & Baker Nigeria Plc.[4]

Later on, a further merger with Sanofi-Synthélabo in 2004, changed the Dagenham site owner to Sanofi-Aventis. In 2009 Sanofi-Aventis announced their intention to close the Dagenham plant by 2013.[5] Sanofi's plans to turn the former site into a state-of-the-art science park were put in doubt by a lack of funding from Boris Johnson's Growth Fund.[6]


The original works club still exists as The May & Baker Club,[7] and still uses the original M&B logo made using the old symbol for Mercury, surmounted with a five-pointed star. They also host a football club of the same name.


  1. ^
  2. ^;nePoulenc-SA-Company-History.html
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  4. ^ "May & Baker Nigeria Plc". Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Sanofi pulls out of Dagenham". pharmafile. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Sanofi's Dagenham Science Park legacy in turmoil as Boris Johnson denies funding". Barking and Dagenham Post. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  7. ^