Beecham Group

The Beecham Group plc
Industry Pharmaceuticals
Fate Merged with SmithKline Beckman
Successor SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline)
Founded 1859
Defunct 1989
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Products Phenethicillin, Methicillin

The Beecham Group plc was a British pharmaceutical company. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Beecham, after having merged with SmithKline Beckman to become SmithKline Beecham, merged with Glaxo Wellcome to become GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK still uses the Beechams brand name in the UK for its over-the-counter cold and flu relief products.[1]


Beecham's Clock Tower built in 1877, the building still stands in St Helens, Merseyside today serving as the College Administrative centre.

Beecham was the family business of Thomas Beecham (1820–1907), a chemist. He was the grandfather of the conductor also named Thomas Beecham (1879–1961). As a boy, he worked as a shepherd, selling herbal remedies as a sideline. He then started as a travelling salesman or peddler.

Their first product was Beecham's Pills, a laxative, in 1842.[2] Subsequent success enabled him to open a shop in Wigan in 1847.[3]

Beecham opened its first factory in St. Helens, Lancashire, for the rapid production of medicines in 1859.[2] Under Thomas's son, Sir Joseph Beecham, 1st Baronet (1848–1916), the business expanded, but remained a patent medicine company and engaged in little research.

In 1924 Philip Hill, who made his money in real estate, acquired control of Beecham.[4] Under his leadership, Beecham bought companies for various products and their marketing infrastructure, acquiring the Lucozade glucose drink and Macleans in 1938 and, at the same time, introducing the Ribena blackcurrant drink.[5] In 1938 it also bought the company selling Eno which had an extensive international presence.[4][6]:253 By buying the company manufacturing Brylcreem the following year, it added hair products for men.[2]

In 1943, it decided to focus more on improving its research and built Beecham Research Laboratories.[2] In 1945, the company was named Beecham Group Ltd.[2]

In 1945, Beecham Research Laboratories Ltd. operated from Brockham Park, Surrey.

In the 1950s to 1960s, Beecham, in consort with Bristol-Myers, developed penicillin derivatives: first phenethicillin, then the more potent methicillin (Celbenin). Later, these were followed by ampicillin, cloxacillin and others, as the group focused on pharmaceutical development.

In 1953, it bought C.L. Bencard, which specialised in allergy vaccines.[2]
In 1959, Brockham Park became famous when Beecham scientists there discovered the penicillin nucleus, 6-APA (6-aminopenicillanic acid);[7] this discovery allowed the synthesis of a number of new semisynthetic penicillins. In 1959, Beecham marketed Broxil (phenethicillin), followed shortly by Celbenin (methicillin), which is active against Staphylococcus aureus.
In 1961, Penbritin (ampicillin) hit the market, and soon Beecham's facilities were inadequate for the worldwide demand. A 35-acre (140,000 m2) complex at Worthing came on line in the early 1960s to produce phenethicillin, followed by 6-APA, the base for semisynthetic penicillins.

In 1971 the S. E. Massengill Company was acquired.

In 1972, Beecham launched Amoxil (amoxicillin), which went on to become one of the most widely prescribed antibiotics.[2]

In 1973, Aquafresh toothpaste was launched.

In 1977, the Sucrets brand was acquired.

In 1981, Augmentin, an antibiotic used to treat an array of bacterial infections, was introduced.[2]

In 1982, the Aqua Velva and Geritol brands were acquired from J. B. Williams.

In 1986, the Beecham Group sold its numerous soft drink brands including Tango, Top Deck, Corona, Quosh, as well as the UK franchises for Pepsi and 7 Up, to Britvic.[8] The same year, Beecham acquired Norcliff Thayer from Revlon.

In 1989, The Beecham Group plc and SmithKline Beckman merged to form SmithKline Beecham plc.[2][9]
In 2000, SmithKline Beecham and GlaxoWellcome merged to form GlaxoSmithKline.[10]

A history of the company, Beechams, 1848–2000: From Pills to Pharmaceuticals, written by Thomas Anthony Buchanan Corley, was published in 2011.


Consumer healthcare


See also


  1. "Get powerful relief from cold & flu symptoms with Beechams". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Our history - GSK". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  3. Thomas Beecham at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. 1 2 Tedlow, Richard S.; Jones, Geoffrey G. (2014). The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing (RLE Marketing) Volume 25 of Routledge Library Editions: Marketing. Routledge. pp. 110–111. ISBN 9781317663010.
  5. "SmithKline Beecham: History", History of Advertising Trust
  6. Wilkins, Mira (2004). The history of foreign investment in the United States, 1914-1945. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674045187.
  7. Synthesis of Penicillin: 6-Aminopenicillanic Acid in Penicillin Fermentations F. R. Batchelor, F. P. Doyle, J. H. C. Nayler & G. N. Rolinson
  8. Carbonated drinks: a report on the supply by manufacturers of carbonated drinks in the United Kingdom, Chapter 8 para 8.51
  9. "Profile: SmithKline Beecham". BBC. 18 December 2000.
  10. "BBC News - BUSINESS - The Glaxo SmithKline merger". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  11. "Beechams Powders - Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) - (eMC)". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
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