Colouring in the past

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The oldest paint manufacturer in Leeds looks all set to challenge the market leaders. Sharon Dale reports.

Its legion of fans will tell you that there is nothing quite like Farrow and Ball, with its depth, durability and array of creatively-named colours.

But the hugely successful brand has a new rival thanks to a chemist who has taken over the oldest paint manufacturer in Leeds.

Four years ago, Jonathan Wain was looking for a new challenge and a search led him to the premises of Hicks and Weatherburn. Jonathan, a former chemist, had built his career as a technical manager with a global coatings firm and was looking to acquire a similar company.

“I came across Hicks and Weatherburn and was hooked in by its remarkable heritage, which dates back to 1741,” recalls Jonathan.

He has since relocated the business to a new manufacturing site in Meanwood, streamlined the production process and developed a new range of premium, eco-friendly interior paints inspired by his love of the Yorkshire countryside.

As a keen rambler and photographer, he drew inspiration from his pictures of Yorkshire landscaps and from the demand for depth of colour.

“One thing I’ve picked up on since working in the high end paint sector is that there’s a lot of talk about depth of colour. In this context, the term is meaningless because a layer of paint on a wall is two-dimensional and doesn’t have any depth visible to the naked eye.

“What’s critical is the choice of colour and its hue and that’s where nature can be truly inspirational.

“The colours that we find soothing and attractive in our environment are often the same tones we choose for our homes, which goes a long way towards explaining why soft neutrals are so popular.”

Jonathan’s background as an industrial chemist meant he quickly got to grips with the technical side of the business.

“Paint making is a bit like cooking at room temperature, it’s blending the right ingredients in the optimal proportions and not skimping on their quality. Dispersion is the key and one of my aims has been to manufacture extremely well-dispersed paints.

“I’ve enjoyed developing new products to create an artisan paint range with the same high performance qualities as the top interior decorating brands.”

The names on the Hicks and Weatherburn colour card provide a whistle stop tour of some of the region’s best known beauty spots. Buttertubs, Hawes Cream and Kilnsey Crag are soft neutrals that echo the tones of the landscapes that have inspired them. More adventurous interior designers might venture towards the richer hues of Burnsall Heather, Malham Tarn and Strid, strong colours that evoke the county’s bold character.

As well as the domestic market, the firm also supplies theatres and companies involved in building sets nationwide.

n Hicks and Weatherburn paint costs 2.5L Dead Flat Matt £30; 2.5L Extra Durable Matt £35; 0.75L Interior Water Based Satin & Eggshell £20.


Weatherburn and Hicks: A History

When William Hicks acquired Miers & Co in 1881 from Elizabeth Miers, the company already had a long trading history. He renamed it Hicks & Weatherburn Paint, Colour and Varnish Manufacturers. It is now the oldest manufacturing company in Leeds. Jonathan Wain has spent many hours digging through the company archives and researching at Leeds library. The earliest record is in the 1790 Leeds Directory, where it is listed as Painters & Guilders of Vicar Lane and was the only paint manufacturer in the city at that time.