The Leicester Magic Polish Co Ltd

The Magic Polish Company was set up in the 19th century and based in Leicester and latterly traded from premises in Western Road near to the railway arches off Braunstone Gate (still extant). It was founded by Richard Potter in 1891. Richard Potter had been a manager and president of the Equity Society in its early years. He left to found the Magic Polish Co Ltd, although it is believed he returned briefly later to help when Equity had a financial crisis, resigning for a second time in 1909, when he held the position of president.

Magic jet stainThe company made high quality wax polishes for boots, dubbin, red wax polish for floor tiles, black lead polish for fire grates, lavender perfumed polish, black enamel paint and they were also one of the first to use aerosol cans for their products. Although it was a small family business and did things the old-fashioned way, it was quite innovative being at the forefront when it came to new ideas. One of their initiatives were window cleaning products containing DDT used for polishing around window-frames and so killing flies. The company produced a polish containing silicon which was a another new innovation back in the fifties. They marketed ‘Magic’ and ‘Quickshine’ polishes. They also marketed a system of shoe stretchers which went out to private purchasers, but the bulk of their output was to Woolworths with whom they had a large contract, and without which they would probably not have been able to continue for as long as they did.

Employee Brian Rowe relates: “I became an employee of the company in 1959 on my demobilisation from the army, and was employed as a ‘Van Driver/Packer’. My Austin van was garaged in one of the railway arches adjacent to the building, the arch next to it being the store for sacks of wax and other materials

There were absolutely no machines at all in the factory. All the mixing of the ingredients was done by hand as was the filling of the tins, and that, in itself, was very interesting. There were, I think, three women in the filling department, and the process started by them laying out in rows, the empty tins on long flat-topped benches, perhaps fifty tins at a time, with the lids off, of course. Then they ladled out of a copper the molten polish into a jug and poured the mixture into the tins with great rapidity and skill, never overfilling, refilling the jug as necessary until all the tins were full. Then about an hour or so later, when the polish had set they picked up a pile of lids, perhaps a dozen or so, and went along the line, putting them on, again very rapidly. (We in the Packing Department always knew when they had got to that stage as it sounded like several horses clip clopping along). Then they packed the tins in two-dozen piles and wrapped them in brown paper before placing them on a rack, ready for when we needed them for an order.

I remember that one day the man who formulated and mixed the ingredients for the polishes, and who was also the Boiler man (at that time, the factory had one of the usual tall chimneys), tested various proprietary brands on a piece of slate, and our polishes beat them all hands down. I often wondered, in later years, whether Goddards knew that to be the case, and were worried about the competition.”

The Potter family-run business was taken over by J.Goddard and Sons Ltd in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Goddard’s Silver Polish set up shop in Leicester as J Goddard and Sons Ltd in 1839. The Goddard’s range provides products to clean and protect your gold, silver and platinum as well as brass, copper, pewter, chrome and many others. The company was acquired by SC Johnson in 1968.

Magic metal polish
Photo: Advertising Antiques Ltd
Magic Dubbin yellow
Photo: David Pratt
magic yellow dubbin
Photo: David Pratt