The Snuff Tobacco Reference

The Joseph and Henry Wilson Snuff Concern

Two Sheffield brothers named Joseph Wilson (1803–1887) and Henry Wilson (1807–1880) entered into partership and together established production of snuff tobacco at Westbrook Mill in 1833, both having earlier been involved with the Wilson family snuff concern a stone’s throw away at Sharrow Mill.1

But the fraternal business partnership would not endure ten years, and it was dissolved on 1842-04-25 with Joseph Wilson selling his interests in the snuff enterprise to his brother Henry Wilson, who continued with the business.2

Henry Wilson had already in 1830 married his first cousin Elizabeth, née Pearson (1809–1895), and together they had, in order of birth, son Henry Francis Wilson (d. 1843), daughter Elizabeth Harriet Thompson, née Wilson, son Alfred Wilson (b. 1839), and daughter Lousia Ellen Harland, née Wilson.3

Henry Wilson died on 1880-11-16,4 and management of the firm was taken over by his widow Elizabeth Wilson along with their son Alfred Wilson and their son-in-law William Thompson.3

The company was incorporated as Joseph and Henry Wilson Limited on 1895-05-07.5 Elizabeth Wilson died later that same year on 1895-11-04, and having outlived both her sons the ownership of the company passed through the female line to the Harland6 and the Thompson7 families, with the latter family ultimately selling their interests to the former in 1913.8

The First World War was hard on the firm: though by early 1918 the volume of orders was massive and actually in excess of production output, the firm was forced to sell its snuff at prices fixed by the government Board of Tobacco Control that did not meet the costs of production, meaning that the mill was operating at a considerable loss.9

Tragedy occurred on 1952-12-11, when company directory John Wilson Harland (d. 1952) died in a flying accident while piloting a plane on a military excersize.10 This wrecked his elderly uncle Albert Harland’s plans for the company succession, and concerned with securing its future he sold Joseph and Henry Wilson Limited to the Imperial Tobacco Company in 1953.1

In 1981, the Kensington brand was launched in an attempt to appeal to the younger demographic,11 and 1983 and 1984 saw the firm acquire or control by way of Imperial Group, their parent company, the famous snuff tobacco brands that are Dr. Rumney’s, Fribourg & Treyer, and Illingworth’s.12 13 14 By this time, Joseph and Henry Wilson’s S.P №1 blend was one of the most popular in the UK, and, according to Imperial Group, the Joseph and Henry Wilson range of snuff products accounted for 46 percent of the domestic British market.15 But the most significant event of the decade came in 1989, when Imperial Group had the Westbrook Mill facility vacated after more than one hundred and fifty years of occupation and moved snuff production for the Joseph and Henry Wilson business to the Imperial Group’s Ogden factory in Liverpool.15

In 2006, Imperial Tobacco Group restructured its manufacturing operations, consequently shutting down the Ogden factory16 and contracting snuff manufacture for Joseph and Henry Wilson Limited to Leonard Dingler (Pty.) Ltd. of South Africa.17 Some years later production would return to England, where manufacturing was taken up by Wilsons & Co. (Sharrow) Ltd. at Sharrow Mills (J. Hanson, personal communication, 2023-01-12.)

Imperial ownership of the Joseph and Henry Wilson brand came to an end in 2015, when this brand and others were sold to Mac Baren Tobacco Company A/S of Denmark.18 19 Despite the sale, Imperial Brands retains control of the Joseph and Henry Wilson Limited corporation.5


  1. The History of the Imperial Tobacco Company. Alec George Gordon Cunningham. Page 20. Digitised version
  2. Dissolution of partnership. National Archives. Archived 2022-09-27
  3. The Wilsons of Sharrow: The Snuff-Makers of Sheffield. Mark Hamilton Freer Chaytor. Page 86. 1962.
  4. Record of probate for Wilson, Henry Esq. Wakefield Register. 1880.
  5. Document of incorporation for Joseph and Henry Wilson Limited. 1895.
  6. Snuff scenting process agreement. National Archives. Archived 2022-09-27
  7. Snuff scenting process agreement. National Archives. Archived 2022-09-27
  8. Agreement for sale of "A" Shares. National Archives. Archived 2022-09-27
  9. Letter by Albert Harland, Joseph and Henry Wilson Ltd., to a Mr. Robinson dated 1918-02-25.
  10. ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 20999. Archived 2022-09-26
  11. Tobacco. A Year for Aggressive Marketing. Sonia Roberts. Issue 1981-08; Pages 14–18. 1981. Digitised version
  12. Key British Enterprises 1987. Dun & Bradstreet Ltd. Volume 2; Section 1.1377. 1987.
  13. Tobacco. Recipes for Success. Issue 1983-05; Pages 19–22. 1983. Digitised version
  14. Tobacco Reporter. Markets are ‘up to snuff’. Jacques Cole. Volume 111; Number 7; Edition 1984-07; Pages 25–28. 1984. Digitised version
  15. The Imperial Story. Page 27. Digitised version
  16. Manufacturing Restructuring. Imperial Tobacco Group PLC. 2006. Archived 2022-09-26
  17. Supply Chain Analysis at Swedish Match, South Africa. Hans Nilsson. Chapter 6.2; Pages 47–48. 2007. Digital version
  18. Mac Barens køb af Imperial Tobacco Groups (”ITG”) portefølje af pibetobaksbrands samt udvalgte fintskåret og røgfrie tobaksbrands. 2015. Archived 2022-09-27
  19. Mac Baren Acquires Brands from Imperial Tobacco. Kevin Godbee. 2015. Archived 2022-09-27