Mavor & Coulson

Client

Mavor & Coulson were electrical engineers Henry A. Mavor and William Arthur Coulson (1854–1932). Coulson was a Canadian brewer’s son, who studied at the School of Electrical Engineering, Hanover Square, London, and joined Muir & Mavor in 1886. 1 He was described as having ‘an attractive personality’ with a ‘retiring disposition’ which kept him out of public life. 2

The firm was established as Muir & Mavor in 1881 and was a pioneer in the generation and supply of electricity. They established a public electricity supply in Glasgow from their direct-current power station in Miller Street, built in 1884. Among their first clients were the Post Office, the Telephone Company and Miss Cranston's, Ingram Street. 3 They tendered successfully to supply electricity to the new City Chambers in March 1888 and became a limited liability company, Muir, Mavor & Coulson, in June. 4 They built a new, alternating-current generating station off John Street, which by May 1889 provided domestic 'electric light by meter ... no machinery is required.' 5

In November 1889, the firm applied to the Board of Trade, which thought the firm's installation ‘one of the best ... yet seen’, to become Glasgow’s official power supplier. However, in 1890, they ceded control to the City Council, which two years later prudently purchased Muir, Mavor & Coulson’s existing plant for 15,000, thereby controlling the municipal electricity supply themselves. 6

The firm became Mavor & Coulson in December 1889, when William O. Muir and J. D. F. Andrews left, and Sam Mavor, an employee since 1885, became a partner. One of the new company's first contracts was to extend the circuits in Glasgow's Central Station in 1890, 'the largest [lighting contract] of the kind out[side] of London'. 7 Around 1921 Mackintosh designed graphics for Machine Mining, a magazine published by the company between 1921 and 1924. 8 On their 50th anniversary in 1931, director Sam Mavor announced that they had won the ‘world’s largest contract’ for mining conveyors. 9

Notes:

1: Marriage and census information, www.ancestry.co.uk and www.scotlandsepeople.gov.uk [accessed 28 October 2012]; Glasgow Herald, 25 August 1932, p. 1; Scotsman, 24 August 1932, p. 7; Sam Mavor, 'Obituary Notices: William Arthur Coulson', Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 71, 1932, p. 983; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1887–8, pp. 198, 458; Glasgow Herald, 23 August 1932, p. 11.

2: Sam Mavor, 'Obituary Notices: William Arthur Coulson', Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 71, 1932, p. 983.

3: Glasgow Herald, 14 May 1889, p. 9; Corporation of Glasgow, Handbook on the Municipal Enterprises, Glasgow: Robert Anderson, 1904, p. 120; Glasgow Corporation, 'Some Glasgow Businesses: Mavor & Coulson Ltd', Glasgow Commercially Considered, Glasgow: Kelvingrove Publishing, 1928, pp. H–I.

4: Corporation of Glasgow, Handbook on the Municipal Enterprises, Glasgow: Robert Anderson, 1904, p. 120; Muir, Mavor & Coulson, Record of Incorporation and Dissolution 1888–92, Cat. Ref. BT2/1751, National Archives of Scotland, Online Public Catalogue (O.P.A.C.), www.nas.gov.uk [accessed 28 October 2012]; Glasgow Herald, 2 March 1888, p. 6; 6 April 1888, p. 9.

5: Glasgow Herald, 14 May 1889, p. 9; 16 May 1889, p. 1; Belfast News-Letter, 30 August 1889, p. 3.

6: Glasgow Herald, June 22 1889, p. 10; 21 November 1889, p. 9; 18 February 1890, p. 4; 5 February 1892, pp. 6, 9; 18 March 1892, p. 9; Corporation of Glasgow, Handbook on the Municipal Enterprises, Glasgow: Robert Anderson, 1904, p. 120–1.

7: S. G. E. Lythe and Doris Black, 'Henry Alexander Mavor', Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, Aberdeen: University Press, 1986, vol. 1, pp. 176–7; Glasgow Corporation, 'Some Glasgow Businesses: Mavor & Coulson Ltd', Glasgow Commercially Considered, Glasgow: Kelvingrove Publishing, 1928, pp. H–I; Glasgow Herald, 2 August 1890, p. 9; C. A. Oakley, Scottish Industry Today, Edinburgh: Moray Press, 1937, p. 272.

8: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41507, 41508, GLAHA 41509, GLAHA 41511, GLAHA 41512, GLAHA 41516, GLAHA 41517.

9: Scotsman, 5 September 1931, p. 12.