Colour Ranges

Nov 15th, 2011 | | Colour Ranges | Paint Technical | 50 Comments



I have already written about two other significant brands of Water Paint in the twentieth century – Thomas Parsons’ Parlyte Water Paint and Duresco – the ‘King of Water Paints’. However, it is perhaps Walpamur, the subject of this essay, that is the best known and was something that Papers and Paints was still selling when I came into the business in 1980. In fact Walpamur made more than water paint as will be seen.

You will forgive the large number of black and white photographs, I hope. So rarely does one come across images showing the manufacture of paint; the business of colour checking and the putting together of colour cards, let alone a 1950s typing pool. Most of these processes have changed radically in the last fifty years and are worth recording.

The rest of this essay has been removed after five years. You can now read more about this in The Anatomy of Colour, published by Thames & Hudson and available from John Sandoe (Books).

Papers and Paints can be found here:

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Comments (50)

sean browneNo Gravatar » 04. Feb, 2012

I Was a director of Walpamur…Great article

PatrickNo Gravatar » 04. Feb, 2012

How very kind of you Sean. It was surprisingly difficult to get together sufficient information, but so important that such a key brand should be recorded and recognised.

Jack HargreavesNo Gravatar » 12. Apr, 2012

Having joined the Walpamur Co.Ltd in 1948, was trained in the Sales Department at Darwen until 1954, when i was appointed Norwich Depot Manager, subsequently becoming a Sales Representative in i958 in East Anglia, and taking over the post of Area Manager in 1970(when the Comany had changed name to Crown Decorative Products, and then to W.P.M Merchant Group.
I have been in retirement for some years, and have been looking for photos and details of the old Darwen offices for some time. Could you suggest where these might be available ? Sincerely, Jack Hargreaves.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 13. Apr, 2012

How wonderful to hear from you. I’m afraid that the only images that I have seen are those in the book produced by The Walpamur Co. in 1956 to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary.

Jack HargreavesNo Gravatar » 20. Apr, 2012

Thank you for replying to my question.. I assume I should now contact Crown Paints to try to obtain a copy.


Jack Hargreaves.

D J NewtonNo Gravatar » 07. May, 2012

My Father worked for Walpamur, Read, Crown Dec and Crown Paints for nearly 60 years of his working life. He probably wouldnt recognise the factory in 2012. I worked there in the Holidays and a temp for a couple of years prior to joining HM Forces. I am lead to believe that Darwen Public Library has a great deal of photographs and archives a call to the library may help.. Crown is a major important employer in Darwen and long may it reign. There are a couple of publications about the company, and its sister companys Belgrave Mills, Releif Decorations, hollins Paper mill, and crown house (head office) An appeal in the Lancashire Telepgraph may help you also. Best wish and good luck

PatrickNo Gravatar » 07. May, 2012

Thank you very much for all that fascinating information. I felt that it was important to get something published and in a form that could be extended / corrected as further information came in. You have given me some excellent leads.

D J NewtonNo Gravatar » 23. May, 2012

I am told by a freind that one of the library staff Peter Bell at Darwen Library may be a usefull source, he will also be able to put you in touch with local historian Alan Duckworth (retired library manager) who is a wealth of useful information relating to darwen etc. Also, a lady Called Brenda Cronshaw, she is a councllior on the Darwen Council, also she has a second hand collectable stall on Darwen 3 day market. Brenda is a wealth of gossip and good information and has been responsible for numerous publications etc relating to darwen. Her phone number and contact details are on Darwen Council Web Site. But if you ever visit Darwen Market, Just ask for Brendas, every man and his dog knows her. Happy Hunting, would be great to see a concise publication about the History of Crown Decs. You could google a guy called Raymond (Ray) Kirkham he is the ex works manufacturing Director he lives a fairhaven Lytham St Annes,( he worked at Walpumur and Crown for over 60 years, if any knows it he will I did have a number and address, but cant put it up here for obvious reason. email me and I will see what i can do. Good Luck.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 24. May, 2012

That’s all excellent information. Thank you.

chris spenceNo Gravatar » 16. May, 2012

This is a great piece of information, it was forwarded to me by another painter and for that im grateful as i truly would of missed out on some paint history.
Thankyou for being so diligent in your writings.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 17. May, 2012

Thank you Chris. It’s always good to get feed-back.

Cllr Peter HollingsNo Gravatar » 09. Jun, 2012

I read this story with great interest as I am a councillor in Darwen and also a worker at Crown Paints which is the end product of the Walpamur company. Sadly I have to say that the production of Wallpaper on the site was ceased around 10 years ago and the Hollins Paper Mill will cease production and be demolished in November 2012. The land around the first paper mill was opened to the public in 1907 by Major AW Huntington and developed into part of Sunnyhurst Woods.
I would welcome any information on the historical significance of this area known locally as The Dingle to establish the future use of the land for the public leisure activities once it is sold.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 09. Jun, 2012

Thank you for that. How sad. There was little information to be had on the area other than what I gleaned from that wonderful book – “Walpamur Golden Jubilee – 1906-1956″. Published by Walpamur, Darwen. 1956. I am sure that you have been in touch with the local archives.

Angela BeaumontNo Gravatar » 10. Nov, 2012

A fascinating article. I worked for several years with Interior Decoration students at Leeds College of Art and Design and one of the subjects I covered was the history of paint and paint colours. It’s always a treat to learn more! Thank you for publishing this.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 10. Nov, 2012

Thank you Angela. I couldn’t allow the story to remain untold. (Sorry, that sounds a bit pompous, but you know what I mean).

Charles BlackburnNo Gravatar » 09. Mar, 2013

Thank you for a very interesting site. My father worked for Walpamur all his life except for a few years during WW2.
He worked his way up from ‘van boy’ helping with deliveries to branch manager, area manger and during his latter years his area that he controlled was the southern half of England.
My first recollections of Walpamur was when I was about 7 or 8 at the shop in Hove, Sussex. There were racks and racks of paint. All different types and colours. On a week-end we would help out by tying old rags around out feet and sliding up and down the aisles, pollishing the floors. Occasionally we would get to ride in the trucks (Lorries). Another thing I remember was the Wall paper sample books. Huge books made up of all the different wall papers that Walpamur sold. Sometimes dad brought home the out of date books and we could use the pages for craft and home-work projects.
He even said he could get me a job in the factory where they developed new varieties but at that time, being a ‘scientist’ didn’t seem that inviting to me and I eventually turned to working on the electronics industry. Looking back, it probably would have been a good job, not that the work I did wasn’t.

Anyway, what brought me to this site was, that in packing up our present home, (in Australia) I came across 3 Walpamur book matches, advertising ‘DURADIO’ 5 year Enamel, on the front and a picture on the reverse of two tins of paint, one Walpamur Emulsion and the other, Walpamur water paint.
There isn’t a date on the books but I do remember them being in the paint shops during the late 40′s early 50′s. My dad always had some in his brief case for when he went to meetings.
I don’t know if they are worth anything but wonder if ‘Head Office’ would like to see them.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 09. Mar, 2013

Charles, thank you for those wonderful memories. I too remember the wallpaper pattern books that my father used to display at ‘Papers and Paints’ and how we used to cut up the old ones for similar projects. I don’t think that there is a ‘Head Office’ any more. I believe that Crown took over the brand, but am not sure what has happened to them. P

D J NewtonNo Gravatar » 10. Mar, 2013

The Walpamur Company Limited, actually owned the “Crown” brand and trade mark and over the years has developed in to Crown Decorations Co Ltd. They still exist, and the Head office is still very much were it was in the 1940/50′s.

Crown Decorative Products Co Ltd
Crown House
Hollins Lane
telephone 01254 704951

This is the original head office, which I went to the Childrens Christmas Parties in the 60′s.

The telephone number was orginally Darwen 951 but has evolved over the years.

At one time Crown had archives with many of the designs and colours in their files.

Sadly Crown no longer make wallpaper at the Darwen Site, RD Factory closed a good 20 years ago, and is now produced in France and Poland under the Crown Wallcoverings brand, no longer owned by Crown Decs.

I believe that the company is now owned by the directors who made a management buy out in 2001.

Sadly its not the same company I remeber, its evolved into a more slick operation to keep up with modern day requirements.

Sad sign of the times, but essential for survival.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 11. Mar, 2013

Very many thanks for all of this new information.

Nigel FrosdickNo Gravatar » 17. May, 2013

Thanks for doing the research . My grandfather was a professional decorator ( apprenticed c.1920) and my dad was a decorator too . I remember grandfather mixing up Walpamur ( and Nine Elms? ) and the smell that still remains in a 4lb. tin I found , is very nostalgic.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 18. May, 2013

Thank you. You’re quite right Nigel. The characteristic smell was the preservative added to stop it going ‘off’.

Sean BrowneNo Gravatar » 02. Sep, 2013

It was cresylic acid.It gave it a wonderful aroma. The glue that held it all together was originally animal bone. It was the best paint in the World.
The last can of Walpamur was was made in Dublin around 1993 and was sold to Mr Robert Butcher of Potmolen Paints U.K. Sadly Robert passed away, and the paint was discontinued soon after.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 02. Sep, 2013

Many thanks for that Sean. Yes, we at Papers and Paints used to stock it in the 1960s and then again in the late 1980s. I remember it well.

MattNo Gravatar » 27. Jun, 2013

Found an old paint tin by Walmapur being used as a nail storage container in an abandoned pig farm this week. I have photos of it if you want them.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 27. Jun, 2013

Thank you Matt. I’d love a photo if it’s not too much trouble. patrick (at)

Belinda RobertsNo Gravatar » 03. Aug, 2013

Well done on the website – it was great to put some detail to questions about my ancestor (Great Grandfather) Robert Haddow who (according to family) worked for Walpamur in Darwen and Liverpool. He was apparently a manager for the firm and in 1911 living in Liverpool. Is there any possibility that photos and company details exist of him in the archives and where would I look to find them?
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you or any other site visitors. B Roberts (Great Grandaughter).

PatrickNo Gravatar » 03. Aug, 2013

Thank you. How wonderful that you have a connection. I based most of the text on the Golden Jubilee Walpamur book of 1956. I imagine that Crown Paints / Wallpapers have inherited whatever archive that there may have been.

bj robertsNo Gravatar » 05. Aug, 2013

Thanks Patrick – do you have an archivist’s name at Crown or details on how to get a copy of the 1956 Golden Jubilee Book?
Has it been scanned to the internet. I don’t have much money to spend on this.
Appreciate your help.
B Roberts

PatrickNo Gravatar » 05. Aug, 2013

I don’t have any contact details, I’m afraid. There are copies of the book that appear on the Internet occasionally. I didn’t pay much for my copy, which I think was found in a second hand bookshop. This link will give you some more of the background as I believe that Crown has since been bought by another company –,d.ZGU

Sean BrowneNo Gravatar » 02. Sep, 2013

Hi Patrick,
I have some interesting stuff that I could get scanned and sent to you. Have you an e mail for receiving scans etc?

Sean BrowneNo Gravatar » 02. Sep, 2013

Is there anything specific you need from the book? I have a copy. Sean

PatrickNo Gravatar » 02. Sep, 2013

Many thanks for the offer Sean. I also have a precious copy of the book.

Narbi PriceNo Gravatar » 28. Nov, 2015

Hi Sean, I’m currently undertaking a PhD on the Ashington Group painters who used Walpamur as an art medium.
It would be great to speak to someone directly linked to the company as Patrick’s article and the Golden Jubilee book are pretty much all of the information I can find.
A 1930s colour card would be the Holy Grail for me! I can be contacted at

Gillian TattersallNo Gravatar » 15. Apr, 2016

Hi Belinda
I was born a Haddow and was brought up in the family home built by my Great Great Grandfather in 1908. This was at the time when he and several members of the family worked at Belgrave.
Does this mean we’re related?
I’m trying to find information on a member of the family at the moment and wondered if you could help?

Sarah BownessNo Gravatar » 09. Sep, 2013

Hi, my Dad Gwiliym Marsden worked as paint technician at Walpamur Darwen from just after being demobbed from National Service 1949 until around the early 70s. Before I was born he took part in a T.V. commercial for them where he worked some sort of paint machine. I’ve never seen this ad but my older sisiters remember it being on in the 60s. I was trawling Utube hoping to find it when I came across your site. I don’t suppose you have any knowledge of this ad?

PatrickNo Gravatar » 13. Sep, 2013

Thanks for writing Sarah. Sadly not. There’s precious little about Walpamur that I have found, which is surprising when one considers how ubiquitous it was at one time.

Richard BNo Gravatar » 31. May, 2014

I have a hardback publication entitled ‘Paint Specifications’ kindly by The Walpamur Co ltd . This second edition published in 1961was provided to me while on a Architectural Draftsman’s course at the Royal School of Military Engineering in 1963, by Walpamur. I no longer wish to keep the item. I doubt it would be of use to a charity shop. Would anyone like me to send it on for historical interest in the company or the paint industry generally.

Susan BrownNo Gravatar » 27. Oct, 2014

Hello, I have been given lots of paperwork from my Great Great Uncles Hardware store and I have found an article on The Walpamur Company’s stand at Olympia from 1923 along with statements and invoices from the company to my Uncle Dick all 1920s, lots of other hardware ephemera, including Cotterells Measuring Tables ( paper hangerstable to measure rooms for wallpaper)
Foster Blackett & Wilson Ld Hebburn on Tyne- Permagrip Hard Gloss Colour list (16 gloss colours) plus brochure for washable water paint
James Rudman Ltd Cambrian Colour Works Bristol Petraline The water Wall Paint – Paint Colour chart ( 46 colours)
Lead Paint Regulation 1927 book- giving advice. Its absolutely fascinating reading. I could upload some pictures if you would like to see them. Regards

Wilf O'MalleyNo Gravatar » 26. Nov, 2015

My grandfather, Wilfred Conroy, was transport manager at Walpamur in the 1930′s and 1940′s. He lived on the edge of the moors at Higher Sunnyhurst and after retirement became mayor in 1955. I believe his boss was a Major Mellor who came from Scotland. I would be interested to know if any of your contacts can shed light on his role at the company

Wilf O’Malley

PatrickNo Gravatar » 27. Nov, 2015

Many thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately there are very few names mentioned in the 1956 Golden Jubilee Book. It does tell me that Major Mellor retired in 1947.

Mandy HilbertNo Gravatar » 16. Dec, 2019

Major Mellor was my great uncle and his family are still living in Scotland near Oban. My family are Potters and my great grandmother was a daughter of Gerald and Grace Potter. She (the daughter) married a Mellor who had the son Major Guy Mellor. Sadly all connections were lost to the company.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 16. Dec, 2019

Thank you Mandy.
It’s always good to hear from people connected with these stories.

frank SmithNo Gravatar » 02. May, 2016

I worked for the Walpamur paint and Wallpaper in Birmingham, 1, Cheapside at the bottom of the Birmingham Bull Ring UK in the 1960s. I worked in the wallpaper department. The building has now been demolished but I was hoping if Walpamur have any photographs or history of
the building inside and out. I have photos of a Christmas party we had one year. I now live in America but I have happy memories working in the building. Can you advise. Many thanks…Frank Smith

PatrickNo Gravatar » 02. May, 2016

Thanks Frank. I suggest that you contact Crown Paint at Crown House, Hollins Rd, Darwen BB3 0BG Phone:0845 034 1464 as they are the successors of Walpamur and probably have an archivist.

frank smithNo Gravatar » 08. May, 2016

Thanks for the information Patrick. Not knowing what part of the UK Darwen is in the UK I will phone them asking if they have an email address…regards..Frank

Bryan StubbsNo Gravatar » 07. Dec, 2016

Interesting read , I work for crown paints , Not in Darwen but in Hull . I have been here 17 yrs in that time we have been owned by akzo nobel , management , endless , But now are owned by Hempel coatings . The Hull site has been making paint for over 200 years which was known as Blundells & then Blundells Permoglaze , And still going strong

PatrickNo Gravatar » 08. Dec, 2016

Thanks for that. My shop in Chelsea, Papers and Paints Ltd, had been stocking Blundell’s paints since 1960.

Tim Hibbert WarburtonNo Gravatar » 13. Aug, 2019

Hi , was reading the opening chapter of my Grandfathers memoirs and saw Walpamur . To enlighten myself I found this site and thought I would “pass” on this .
” It was about 1907 , a small factory started making paint in Darwen .Its chemist was a man named Charles Allan , a quiet little chap , he lived in one of my Fathers house’s . I , as a small boy use to collect the rents on a Saturday ( I remember it quite well ) Mr Allan said ” will you ask your Father if he will allow me to paint the dinning room with some water paint I am developing . I told my Father and he said , ” go back and tell him that will be alright “.
My grandfather was Harold Hibbert , the youngest of the brothers , Century Works was their engineering factory .
Regards Tim .

PatrickNo Gravatar » 13. Aug, 2019

Thanks Tim,
What a wonderful story. Very useful information.

Tim Hibbert WarburtonNo Gravatar » 21. Jun, 2021

Hi again , just come across your reply and thought I would leave another story for you .
I dont know the year but possibly in the 1930′s .My
grandfather was the youngest of four brothers , born in 1894
in the north England town of Darwen , was put on a boat to America to find a product which was then only just heard of.
Made in a farm shed and called non -stick he found it and came back with some liquid in a jam jar . He enjoyed the sea , was in the merchant navy in the 1914-18 war . This product we now all know as Teflon .It was put onto the metal rollers that the yarn ran over in the mills and resolved the static and sticking to the rollers .
.Regards Tim .