Rentokil is 85

Rentokil - Celebrating 85 yearsThis month at Rentokil we’re celebrating our 85th birthday and will be publishing a series of posts and images from our archives exploring our innovative and varied history. It’s hard to believe that Rentokil transformed itself from a company comprising a handful of scientists into one of the largest employers in the world and a brand that is a household name in over 60 countries.

Back in 1977 Patrick L Burgin, Chairman Rentokil Group Ltd, wrote in Rentokil, Fifty Years of Service, “Rentokil’s major capital asset is not buildings or scientific equipment, it is people, employed both in the United Kingdom and throughout the world.” Today, 35 years later, Rentokil Initial is a major British business services group listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The company employs over 66,000 people in 58 countries and we still believe that our colleagues drive the success of our company.

Here’s our story.

On 1 October 1927 a private limited company – The British Ratin Company Limited – was formed and three weeks later on October 20th 1927 the first board meeting was held to explore how to forge forward towards the goal of “rational mass extermination of rats and mice and all apparatus and products of every kind and generally to contract for the destruction off all classes of vermin.”

Ratin, the commercial name of a bacillus developed by a Danish Scientist George Neumann, was registered in the UK as a trade name along with Ratinin, a red squill rodent poison. Ratin was manufactured in Denmark and imported to London. A few years earlier Harold Maxwell-Lefroy, a professor of Entomology at Imperial College, invented a woodworm treatment he planned to market under the name Entokill, an amalgam of the Greek word entomon meaning insect and the English word meaning kill. Because of a trade name objection Entokill was not allowed and the company was registered as Rentokil Limited in 1925. It would be another three decades until the two companies combined their services.

A couple of technicians were engaged by British Ratin to cover London and by 1932 Territorial General Managers were allocated across the UK with their own service section and transport. By 1937 there were 100 employees and a fleet of 36 motor cars. An office was opened in Northern Ireland which became the Ulster Ratin company, and a further office in Dublin. The global expansion had commenced.

A key contract win came in 1934 when British Ratin secured the contract for Sandringham, then sometime residence to King George V and Queen Mary. In 1936 British Ratin won a contract in Holland and continental expansion seemed eminent but events in Europe were unfolding and becoming increasingly unstable. The Munich Crisis of 1938 was the amber warning which put the whole of the London business on alert. The search began to seek alternative headquarters out of London and then there was the problem of shipping the bacillus from Copenhagen across a sea full of U-Boats. The production method of Ratin was a closely guarded secret and needed to escape Denmark before the borders were sealed by the Germans.

The story of Rentokil’s contribution to the war effort and vintage pictures to follow….

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