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N&C celebrates 140 years in business

Congratulations to TTA member Nicholls and Clarke, which is celebrating 140 years of trading this year. Established in 1875, the company started life servicing the capital’s building trades from the heart of London in Shoreditch High Street.

N&C have developed over the last century and a half, surviving two World Wars, inter-war depressions, recessions and evolving into the business it is today. N&C has grown in many directions over the century as manufacturers, distributors, retailers, exporters and tiling contractors, supplying over 60,000 products nationwide and internationally.

Where it all began…

In 1875, Samuel Nicholls founded the business as glass, lead, oil and colour merchants, which he expanded in the 1880s to include sanitaryware and architectural Ironmongery.

At the turn of the century, Nicholls & Clarke continued to strengthen through inventions and innovations. The firm began experimenting with ready mixed paint, leading to the invention of the first emulsion paint. The later involvement in supplying tiles developed following the company manufacturing fireplace surrounds.

Key dates in history

In 1958, N&C developed ready-mixed tile cement, an industry innovation, which eventually resulted in the company distributing tiles on a large scale and manufacturing adhesives. Today, the tile business operates from seven distribution centres and a total of 17 retail showrooms nationwide, in addition to a manufacturing plant at Stoke-on-Trent.

In the early 1970s the sanitaryware department began offering products designed for the elderly and disabled as well as producing its own specialist equipment under the name Phlexicare. This focus led N&C to design the world’s first raised height toilet pan, half-height shower doors and the RADAR lock for exclusive toilet facilities for disabled clients.

This area of business, like many others, had developed into a leading brand operating on a wide scale across the UK and internationally. A number of core Phlexicare products are manufactured at the factory in the Czech Republic.

With a breadth of invaluable experience and expertise developed over 140 years, Nicholls & Clarke has flourished into major UK manufacturers, distributors and retailers of building products with a successful exports division. The history of Nicholls & Clarke is broad and reflects the social and economic history of the country.

Learn more about N&C’s history — and see timelines and items from the archives — at