BAC Cataloguing Grant for Business Archives

BAC is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2023 cataloguing grant for Business Archives is the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) for cataloguing the archives of The Addis Collection. HALS is part of Hertfordshire County Council.

BAC was pleased to have received many applications with a very high standard of entries. After much discussion, the judges came to a unanimous decision and felt that HALS application clearly outlined the importance and uniqueness of the Addis collection, the level of research interest, and potential of the collection once catalogued.  Collaborations and outreach activities are planned, and a clear and realistic project plan was presented.  These elements satisfied the judges that the cataloguing project would provide value for money and have a lasting impact. 

The family firm of Addis Ltd relocated to Hertford from Hackney in 1920, 140 years after William Addis started making toothbrushes. During the 73 years they were based in Hertford, they became a market leading manufacturer and seller of toothbrushes and other brushes in the UK and worldwide and later diversified into housewares. They were a major presence in the town as an employer of over 800 people and a provider of housing.  Their factory on Ware Road was a distinctive local landmark; the Grade II listed frontage remains standing.

The records held at HALS, consisting of over 150 boxes, were transferred from the company following the closure of the Hertford factory in 1993 and are currently only partially listed. They contain a great deal of material about the various activities of the company while they were active in Hertford including, most notably, the advertising and social history of the toothbrush. During this period, the company developed the Wisdom toothbrush brand and moved from manufacturing toothbrushes made from wood and brush to nylon and plastic. Records in the collection include early examples of merchandising tie-ins with well-known characters and testimonials from Prisoners of War

The records will aid local history research for other areas as it includes details of predecessor companies in Sunderland, South Wales and Suffolk and in its own earlier history in London and subsequent development of another toothbrush factory at Haverhill, Suffolk. However, Addis had an international reach and reputation as shown by the inclusion of records of subsidiary companies in Australia and Scandinavia.

As well as cataloguing the records to a high standard and publishing the catalogue on their website at, HALS are planning a programme of public engagement and outreach in partnership with relevant local organisations and individuals. Activities will focus on themes of advertising history, technological change, health and sustainability.  The project will open up the archive to the wider community through events, and community archive activities for Herts Memories website.  This will produce further content through collaboration with volunteers and local history societies.

HALS will also be developing workshops aimed at KS2 and KS3 students based on the Science, and Art and Design Curriculum, which will form part of their long term education offer.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Executive Member for Education, Libraries & Lifelong Learning, Caroline Clapper, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding and look forward to the benefits it will bring to our local community, including the events and education activities that this project will make possible.

“Cataloguing these records will open up previously unknown archives that contain a rich resource for social and business history. This is a piece of Hertfordshire history that everyone can relate to.”

BAC is proud to support this project, particularly at a time of increased pressure on resources when the need to develop, promote and encourage greater use of such valuable business collections has never been more important.

For more information about Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) please follow this link:

Previous winners of the grant

2022 - Arts University Bournemouth

2021 - FHALMA

2020 - West Sussex Records Office

2019 - Northern Ballet

2018 - Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust

2017 - British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT)

2016 - Lancashire Archives

2015 - University of Manchester Library

2014 - Gloucestershire Archives

2013 - West Sussex Record Office

2012 - Durham County Record Office

2011 - Norfolk Record Office

2010 - Dorset History Centre and The National Railway Museum