Sir Benjamin Scott (1841-1927)

Sir Benjamin Scott

Written by David A Cross

Occupations: Industrialist and Politician

The Founding of the Firm

The Scotts of Carlisle were descended from a family of Quakers in Caldbeck, where an inscription of 1695, recording a John Scott (1668-1757), is carved above the doorway at Low Brownrigg farm. The firm of Hudson Scott Ltd. was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Scott, who was born in Caldbeck in 1764, who was a ‘printer, bookseller, stationer and seller of patent medicines’, in a ‘commodious house in the market place’ (CP).  Some of his early printing work included a collection of psalms of 1802 and a handbill, after the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, rallying citizens to organise relief for the widows and orphans. Scott’s range of services and goods demonstrates the eclectic activity of small businesses before the rising population led to the founding of more specialised shops. In 1810 appeared Scaleby Castle, a poem, written by the military surgeon Sir Joseph Gilpin (1745-1834; DCB) about his family home. In later years, these premises were often known as Jollie’s, as Francis Jollie (d.1820), the editor of the Carlisle Journal (est. 1798), the Carlisle Chronicle (est. 1807) and the Carlisle Patriot (until 1832) had arranged with Scott to print his newspapers.

Benjamin’s nephew Hudson Scott (1808-1891), also born in Caldbeck, took on the firm in 1832 and established a steam driven cylinder printing press. In Liverpool in January 1840, Hudson married Elizabeth Ellwood (1812-1892), the orphaned daughter of Jacob Ellwood (1767-1825), a merchant of Liverpool and his wife Ann Bigwood.  Elizabeth had been born in Holme Cultram. The couple had two sons, Benjamin Scott (1841-1927) and William Hudson Scott (1842-1907) and two daughters, Eliza (1846-1942) and Lucy (1848-1875).  Also in 1840 John Benson (1804-1870) became Hudson’s partner, the firm becoming Scott and Benson, from 1842; then they moved to 11, English St. In 1844 they published their Handbook of Carlisle, which advertises their bookbinding skills and in 1846 they printed The Life of John Hatfield, Forger; the sensational local tale of the seducer of the ‘Maid of Buttermere’ (qqv).

Hudson Scott’s also used the lithography process, invented by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) of Prague, which had been patented by 1818 and exploits the immiscibility of oil and water; images being drawn with greasy ink on large smooth slabs of limestone, from which the sheets are printed. The contemporary Carlisle Directory states, rather hyperbolically, that Hudson Scott ‘revolutionised the process of printing from the flat stone’.  Little of their early ephemera has survived, but it is recorded that they produced office stationery, circulars, bank cheques, dividend warrants and publicity material, well designed posters, show cards and in the early days, sticky paper labels to be attached to plain tin boxes. As these labels were easily torn off during handling, national experiments with printing colour on tin boxes were explored from as early as the 1830s. As the business grew, Elizabeth Scott kept an eye on the workforce, establishing clothing clubs, mothers’ meetings and Gospel clubs.

Benjamin Takes over the Firm: The Third Generation

In 1868 Benjamin and William took over the firm and their parents moved to reside at 2, Brunswick Street, but still took great interest in the business.  Other printers across the country were becoming metal box makers and some metal box makers were becoming printers, in a marriage between the two skills. In 1890, for their Golden Wedding, Hudson and his wife were presented with an illuminated address by his staff.  He died the following year on 11 February 1891, being said to have had an untiring interest in his workers, and being also a strong supporter of the Temperance movement.  He left an estate of £5,661. 

By the late 19th century, industrialisation had raised the incomes and disposable wealth of many people and a ‘tide of amelioration’ carried more working class families ‘towards a level of minor comfort and luxury’ (Reader) of which they had not dreamed. The resulting mass consumer market, led firms to realise the importance of protective packaging. Hudson Scott boxes, with colour printing in as many as twelve colours, were an attractive way of raising the profile of branded goods in grocers’ shops. 

Soon the brothers needed more space for the expanding business, so they moved in 1869 from English St to more extensive premises in James Street, where they also began to fabricate boxes. Being young and ambitious they were keen to spot opportunities in the nationally expanding market. In Carlisle they collaborated successfully with Jonathan Dodgson Carr (1806-1884) (qv) of Carrs Biscuits (est. 1831), a relationship initially founded in the Quaker meeting house.

Family Life

This success enabled Benjamin to marry Sarah Ann Hope (1847-1877) at Warwick Bridge on 2 April 1874. Sarah was the daughter of Joseph Hope (1808-1873), a wine merchant of Rickergate, and his wife Mary Ann Castle (1819-1900), the daughter of George Castle (b.1791) of the Inland Revenue.  Benjamin and Sarah had only one child, Maud Hope Scott (1875-1947) but sadly, Sarah died in 1877 when Maud was only two years old.  Benjamin Scott remained a widower for the rest of his life. At some point before 1891, Benjamin and his daughter moved to Linden House, Stanwix where he lived with three servants until his death.  Maud Scott later married her second cousin Edwin Nicholson (soon to be Scott-Nicholson) (1873-1931) who became a director of Scotts.

Benjamin’s brother William Hudson Scott married Alice Newall (1853-1889) in Kensington in 1881.  Her father John Newall (1818-1888) was a Parliamentary agent.  They had one son, Cedric (1883-1969), who married ‘Didi’ Macgillycuddy (1888-1984) and two daughters.  Lucy (1884-1951) married Thomas Harker (1879-1946) and Gertrude (b.1885) remained unmarried.  The family lived at Red Gables in Chatsworth Square, built for them in 1885 by George Dale Oliver (1851-1928) and had access to the central gardens in this ‘London Square’. In 1889 Alice died and William’s second wife was Louisa Owen (b.1858), daughter of Matthew Owen of Heaton Norris, Lancashire.  They married in 1891 and had no children. After several years William was in declining health and moved from Red Gables, to High Moss, Portinscale, where he died in 1907.  The inscription on his tombstone at Crosthwaite, by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851-1920; ODNB), states he was ‘always thinking generous things of his fellows and putting into action…….the cheery interest of his heart’.

Further Technical Developments

Hudson Scott’s eventually developed chromolithography for printing on tin sheets.  In 1876 they began to engage with transfer printing on tin plate and crucially, in 1877, they took on Henry Edward Baber (1838-1929) as manager.  Baber had learned about the lithographic advances during time spent in Paris. The new Scott premises accommodated a rising number of clerks, artists, engravers, lithographers and tin box makers, totalling a workforce of 200 by 1882. Five men, including a foreman and five apprentices, toiled in the litho department, with a litho machine, five steam presses, two small hand presses and a copper plate press.  So the orders flowed in for containers for biscuits, chocolate, cigars, cigarettes, tea, coffee, cocoa, confectionery, cake, pastilles, mustard, pharmaceuticals, soap and even Jack Daniel’s whiskey. The resident artists designed the tins, the printers transferred the designs to tinplate and the box makers made the tins; all this was now done in house. They also continued in their traditional printing of large show cards for biscuit manufacturers, small paper circles used on the ends of cotton reels and ‘tramway tickets in teens of millions’ (Leader).

Thus they offered a complete service and published regular catalogues of the tins in stock, with an eclectic range of designs including: playing cards, wild animals, flamingos, great artists, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Dresden figures, Japanese women, Delft Blue tiles, the Taj Mahal and celebratory designs for coronations and jubilees (Tullie House; V and A collections).  Among the firm’s popular artists were Thomas Bushby (1861-1918) and Paul Greville Hudson (1876-1960) (qqv), both of whose work in lithography was of fine quality. 

Hudson Scott’s were members of the Tin Box Manufacturers’ Association, which attempted to regulate competition.  In 1890 they employed 370 people.  Many large firms including Cadbury’s and Reckitt and Colman were by now making their own plain tins, but plain stock tins, in a range of sizes, were a lucrative line, being useful to a wider range of customers.  In 1892 the firm turned over £55,000 and £150,000 ten years later.  In 1898 Hudson Scott’s became a limited company in 1898, capitalised at £130,000.

Involvement in Local Politics: Six Times Mayor

Benjamin Scott was elected a Liberal councillor and appointed a magistrate and is remarkable in having the record of being elected mayor of the Carlisle six times: in 1884, 1890, 1891, 1901, 1910 and 1912.  (This record has only been achieved by mayors of Bristol, Oxford, Christchurch and Faversham and only surpassed by mayors of Huntingdon, Stratford and Market Rasen.)  He laid the foundation stone of the Tullie House Institute of Science, Literature and the Arts (now Tullie House Museum) in 1892, which is still prominent beside the 19thc entrance and was presented with the ceremonial mallet (Tullie House). During the Boer War (1899-1902) Scott’s were contracted c.1900 by Cadbury’s to produce boxes of chocolate bearing Queen Victoria’s head and her greeting to the troops in South Africa. For this work the firm was awarded a royal warrant.  In 1901 Benjamin and his brother William paid for the allegorical bronzes on the plinth of Sir Thomas Brock’s statue of Queen Victoria in Bitts Park, Carlisle. In 1904, soon after the cessation of hostilities, Benjamin was knighted by Edward VII upon the recommendation of his political adversaries, a rare phenomenon.  The court dress he wore is preserved at Tullie House.  In 1906 he was honoured with being voted a freeman of the city and was presented with a silver Arts and Crafts casket (Tullie House), made by Edith Brearey Dawson (1862-1929).

In 1913 the Carlisle Journal referred to ‘the seductiveness of the neat tin box’ with its well-designed decoration which might contain soap, tobacco, talcum powder, or chocolate’.  The boxes were made in a variety of intriguing and fancy shapes and once empty, were useful for storing handkerchiefs or gloves or otherwise became collectible ornaments in themselves.  There was a growing demand for boxes of all kinds and Messrs Hudson Scott and Sons Ltd before the 1st World War had established a good business, was one of the oldest firms in the trade and held ‘the first place of the kind in the country’.  By 1914 they were a key city employer with the main office and works upon a five acre site in Carlisle with the telephone number ‘Carlisle 16’.  (This low number, in the early days of switchboards and telephonists, is a sure sign of how they kept on top of new technology). 

Improvement to the Welfare of Workers

The majority of members of the work force were women and the pay was calculated by piecework.  However, factory hours were reasonable and the management gradually took a practical interest in the physical and mental welfare of the work force. Under the influence of their fellow Quakers, Richard (1835-1899) and George Cadbury (1839-1922; ODNB), who had established excellent conditions at Bourneville in the 1890s, Scott’s employed Eleanor T Kelly (fl.1900-1930s; qv), a graduate lady welfare officer, from 1906.  Gradually, working conditions improved, subsidised meals were available and holidays with pay were established.  Furthermore a doctor visited twice weekly for free consultations and in 1911 a Holiday and Convalescent Home opened.  Nonetheless, wages were relatively low and in 1911 there was a strike but there is no evidence that the employees benefited; by 1914 they numbered 1150.  Though based in Carlisle, Hudson Scott offices were established in London, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool and in 1911, even in Paris.  By this date Miss Kelly had been poached by the retail and manufacturing chemist Jesse Boot (1850-1931; ODNB) at Nottingham; she became nationally influential and was later the president of the Welfare Workers Association.

The management strove to reduce repetitive work deemed ‘unattractive’, which encouraged the workers to maintain good quality goods to meet ‘the approbation of the public’. Many of the men signed up early in the 1st World War for military service and married women were readily able to take up these jobs, as the Scott’s arranged for a crèche at the factory to take care of children.  Designs of the tins at this period included images of Rheims cathedral, the Cloth Hall, Ypres and the Dardanelles.  

During the First World War

In 1915 the munitions crisis and the Defence of the Realm Act promoted by David Lloyd George (1863-1945; ODNB) led to the production of cases for bombs and shells.  The demand for Scott’s products rose even further during the war and they diversified to produce food containers, mess tins, water bottles and ammunition boxes.  This involvement flew in the face of the family’s pacifist Quaker origins and eventually led to their being asked to leave Carlisle Quaker meeting.  During the hostilities, metal toys from Germany had ceased to be available, so Scott’s filled the gap by making toys at a converted Workington factory, including grenadier soldiers and trucks for trains.

During the war Sir Benjamin Scott was deputy mayor and a member of Carlisle Citizens’ League involved with fund raising, military recruitment and the provision of housing for refugees, to whom he offered four of his own workers’ cottages in James St. 

Final Years: The Founding of Metal Box Ltd

Following discussions from 1919, in very different trading conditions, several firms including Scott’s discussed amalgamation and eventually in 1922 established Metal Box and Printing Industries Ltd.  At that date they were advertising ‘high class decorated tin boxes’ for the manufacturers of a remarkable range of products and the Hudson Scott contribution to the Metal Box turnover was £379,000, which had risen to £412,000 five years later.  Sir Benjamin died on 10 July 1927 but the firm continued to go from strength to strength under the chairmanship of Frank Nutter Hepworth CBE (1872-1957) and more recently operated as Carnaud Metal Box Bevcan.

Sir Benjamin Scott was described in 2008 as ‘one of Carlisle’s most eminent Victorians’ (News and Star) and he left an estate of £145,360 to his daughter Maud Scott-Nicholson (qv).   She commissioned John F. Mathews to design gates to the cathedral precinct in his memory.  This wrought iron memorial, modestly unlabelled, features a delightfully lively woven willow screen with heraldic and gilded foliate details.


  • Rhoda Bickerdyke, The Dawsons: An Equal Partnership of Artists, Apollo, November 1988
  • David Carter, Carlisle in the Great War, 11
  • David A. Cross, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, 2017, 139, 140
  • Grace’s Guide 1914
  • Hansard, 21 May 1858 vol.150 cc1022-4
  • Isaac Pennington, The Ancient Principal of Truth or the Light Within Asserted, 1672
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  • Sydney Towill, The History of Carlisle, 1991, 116
  • Angela Wollacott, ‘Maternalism, Professionalism and Industrial Welfare Supervisors in World War I’, Women’s History Review, 3:1 (1994), 29-56
  • Cumberland Pacquet, 2 July 1799
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  • Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 14 September 1927
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  • CW2 vol. 41, 20
  • Tullie House website
  • V and A online catalogue