John Knight & Co

From his humble origins as a grocer on the Mile End road, to an international connoisseur of British soap making, the story of John Knight and his soaps is a story of a great British craft, industrial change in London’s East End, and one man’s vision to make essential products accessible to all.

Although soap had been recognised as an important domestic and industrial product since the medieval ages, a tax on the product meant that it was largely considered a luxury for the wealthier classes. John Knight’s formula however, made soap more widely accessible for all sectors of British society, without compromising on quality.

John Knight’s experiments in soap making started after he learned the art of candle making which, at the time commonly used tallow – rendered animal fats. In between work hours as a grocer, John developed and tested the materials which would become hugely successful commercial products. In 1817, he was ready to launch his products and founded John Knight & Co. and one of its most popular products was The Royal Primrose Soap first sold in 1844. The ‘Primrose Soap’ became an internationally renowned product and launched the brand into something much more than its founder could have ever imagined.

One of the most important professional achievements for the company came in 1851, when John Knight & Company won a Prize Medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition – solidifying their status as one of the most successful soap manufacturers worldwide. The exhibition, held in Hyde Park, London was the first in a series of high-profile international exhibitions, and broadcast John Knight and the British soap industry to vendors far beyond Britain’s borders.

With its growing popularity and commercial success, the company grew in size and moved the manufacturing site to Silvertown in the 1880s, where the company was able to diversify into other products such as glue, shaving creams, edible oils and cattle feeds.

Through sound management and commitment to its core principles of making quality products for all, John Knight & Co. was able to adapt to the changing economic times, merging and working alongside other brands. John Knight & Co. is now a subsidiary company of Unilever and continues to market quality products worldwide.

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