Our History 1860 to 1900

In 1860, Henry George Stephenson moved from the North East of England down to Manchester, the power house of the industrial revolution. He rented a stall on what was then known as Salford Flat Iron Market and began selling pottery made by Wood and Sons. Once a week he would make the pilgrimage to Stoke on Trent to collect his wares.

In 1868, H.G. Stephenson moved into the newly built Barton Arcade on Deansgate. In these early days, business was focused on the retail market through the supply of such famous names as Doulton, Wedgwood, Aynsley, Woods, Maddocks & Thomas Webb Crystal, alongside our own ranges of pottery sourced in Limoges, France. Suppliers were becoming more professional, with rail replacing transport via horse & cart or canal.

Further retail shops were purchased in Manchester in Piccadilly, St. Anne's Square and Cross Street alongside a site in Lytham St. Annes; very fashionable amongst the Victorians for their summer holidays. It was at this time that H.G. Stephenson began to look to supply new sectors: hospitals; rail companies; breweries & hotels amongst others. The company enjoyed a prolonged period of success, allowing H.G. Stephenson to move to a substantial dwelling in Broughton, where he got on with the business of siring eleven children!

1900 to 1960

1900 saw the company registered with Companies House. Business continued to thrive up until the advent of the Great War, which brought a major recession and severely limited supply due to lack of labour & diversion of product for the war effort.

In 1918, H.G. Stephenson died. Supplies remained scarce after the war & embezzlement by a family member put the company in difficulties. A loan by way of shares purchased by a distant relative helped ensure our future.

The recession of the 1930s forced the closure of all but the Barton Arcade shops & the steadying hand of Earnest Stephenson, the 6th son of H.G. Stephenson, kept the company afloat through difficult times. Having come into the business in 1932, Harold Stephenson, the third generation, joined the army at the start of the Second World War and was sent to fight out in Burma. In 1943, the business was forced to close for the remainder of the war, following a bombing raid causing the partial destruction of Barton Arcade.

Re-opening in 1945, supplies of anything more than plain white earthenware & basic glass remained virtually impossible to find until the 1950s; a period of stability & growth.

1961 to Present

Stephensons retail shops were sold off to Lawleys (now lost in the Waterford Wedgwood group) in 1961. Ernest Stephenson semi-retired at the age of 75, leaving the running of the business to Harold. Michael Stephenson, current Managing Director, joined in 1963 & focused much of his attention developing a full product range suitable for the catering & licensed trades. Michael Stephenson also set about consolidating the fragmented ownership of the business back under the control of only a few active members of the family.

The need to improve efficiency, through increased warehousing on one level, prompted the move from Barton Arcade to our current premises, Kennerley Works, in 1968.

Through the 1970s & 80s, we developed our strength with the independent trade, alongside servicing some significant national brewery contracts including Boddingtons, Greenalls, Yates' Wine Lodges, Scottish & Newcastle and many others.

The 1989 Beer Orders changed the on-trade landscape for good and through the industry consolidation of the 1990s, the company concentrated its efforts developing strong relationships with regional brewers including J.W.Lees, Frederic Robinson & Daniel Thwaites, this in addition to growing our presence in the independent on trade & sectors such as education, hospitals, care homes & leisure.

The 5th generation has since entered the business: After seven years working in London for companies including Ernst & Young & Computacenter, Julian Lewis-Booth joined in 1998, followed by Henry Stephenson in 2005. Henry spent five years at Sainsbury's, latterly as Senior Buyer for spirits, then two years in the whisky industry at William Grant & Sons prior to joining.

Stephensons, is now a progressive, modern distributor with an unrivalled experience of the market that is set on offering its customers the very best in service and value for money for the next 140 years!