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The Brush Blog

Innovation in Brushware...Part 2

In the early part of the 20th Century the North East was an area of heavy engineering with shipyards, foundries and of course coal production being commonplace. Additionally the local ports were busy with merchant ships constantly needing replenishment. Cottam began to specialise in industrial and marine supplies and because of this was given government assistance to obtain supplies during the second world war.  Production was therefore maintained during this most difficult of periods.

Towards the end of the 1950’s as Cottam continued to grow it became quickly apparent that the factory buildings were totally unsuitable for modern production.  With a central location in Sunderland close to significant areas of heavy industry it was decided to rebuild on the existing site rather than move to new premises.   Work on the new factory began in September 1960 and was completed in July 1962 without any break in production, although at times things got fairly desperate!
In 1963 Sunderland Corporation started to clear the adjacent residential property offering an opportunity for further expansion taking the Cottam site to some 22,000 square feet.

Meanwhile the original family company, then known as Samuel Cottam (Brushes) Ltd had moved back to the Hendon area of Sunderland.  The company was experiencing financial problems and in 1966 the firm was acquired by Cottam Bros Ltd and amalgamated into
the Sheepfolds premises.  A further acquisition in 1978  saw Samuel Woodcock & Sons Ltd of Sheffield being brought into the Cottam Bros stable, although it was not until 1980 that the operations were moved up to Sunderland. 

The 1970’s saw the development of the company capabilities into the defence sector.  Led by George Cottam, the company began to manufacture products for the army, specialising in tank and artiliery cleaning equipment.  Today this work still continues, albeit on a smaller scale, with contracts in the UK and overseas.

The 1980s saw the expansion of the company into further premises on the Sheepfolds site, strengthening the production facilities, then in 1994 a new warehouse and additional office facilities were purchased in an adjoining street.  The internal space then covered over 40,000 square feet with additional timber yards and outdoor storage areas expanding the capabilities.

In 1976 David Cottam joined the company after having earlier qualified as a Chartered Accountant, David’s astute management of the company finances continues today and has created a financially strong position from which the company can grow.  

Current MD, Ben Cottam, officially joined the company in 2002 after graduating in engineering from Sheffield.  Having been around the factory and the brush business his whole life, Ben took over as MD in 2005, and is now the 6th generation of the Cottam family to be at the helm.

Perhaps the most significant event in the company history happened in October 2007 when the company, now called Cottam Brush Ltd, moved to purpose built premises in Hebburn, South Tyneside.  This move represented a new start, but was also unfortunately proceeded by the global recession in 2008.

Cottam weathered the storm of the financial crisis and got stronger in the process, using slightly leaner times to become more efficient, as well as restructuring and re-branding the company.
Today the company has two customer facing divisions, Brushware Supplies, which offers a catalogue range of industrial cleaning and coating products; and Technical Solutions which is involved in the design and development of brushes for a wide range of applications. See some examples of our work here.

The company vision for Cottam Brush is “To provide world class brush solutions through partnership and innovation” and that’s certainly where the future lies.  

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