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About

Kays was a major employer in Worcester, from the time W. Kilbourne Kay formed the company in 1890, until its closure in 2007. There can be few families, living in the city, who have not, at some time, had one of their relatives work at Kays in some capacity or another. Kay & Co Ltd was based for many years in the purpose built premises, known as St Oswald’s, situated in the Tything, the historic street that runs north from Worcester city centre.  This…

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Kays ways Pays

Kays Ways Pays” was the motto, or advertising slogan, used by Kays in the 1950s and 1960s.   The slogan was used to encourage both existing and new agents to sell the company’s products and services, that were on offer in the catalogue, to their customers. Here we are using the motto as a means of showing those items that have featured in the catalogues and form part of the heritage collection. They are included here for the interest and benefit of visitors to…

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Kays Watches and Clocks

William Kay was originally employed as a jeweller’s assistant and worked for Skarratt & Co of Worcester.  When he started his own company in 1890, known simply as Kays of Worcester, Kay still retained a love for the trade that he knew so well.  His early catalogues show that he supplied jewellery and “clocks, watches and timepieces “to “Worcester and its vicinity”.   Kay & Co Ltd bought Skarratt & Co from the Skarratt family in 1896 and amalgamated that business into Kay & Co…

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The people at Kays

This is a picture of William Kilbourne Kay is a formal portrait taken from the 1907 catalogue.  He was born in September 1856 in the naval town of Portsmouth.  The first formal record of Kay as being in Worcester is in the Census of 1881 and he is living in lodgings at Park Street, Worcester.  His occupation is recorded as “Jeweller’s Assistant”.  Kay was employed by John Martin Skarratt, the grandson of the original John Skarratt.  By the time he was married in 1883,…

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Memorabilia

  In 1965, Kay & Co Ltd commissioned a production run of Royal Worcester “round ash trays” (or RATS, as they were known to the Royal Worcester staff).  The trays were made of “Fine Bone China” and were fully marked as Royal Worcester pieces. It is understood that over 100,000 sets of these dishes were produced for the company.  They were presented as a goodwill gesture to its agents, customers and, occasionally, staff.  The office of the Chairman was responsible for…

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Kays in the UK

These are some of the buildings used by Kays in Worcester city.  Both exterior and interior views are included. The original clock and watch makers shop where in 1794 (or earlier) John Skarratt started to trade in Worcester.  Known as St Swithin’s Street today, it was originally known as Goose Lane.  The shop lasted Skarratt for about twenty years when he decided to moved the business to Broad Street.  In recent years, the shop was used by “Blooms”, a local florists, until they moved…

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Kays Catalouge

A social history in a book.  Having been published twice each year since the 1890s, Kays catalogues represent a fascinating archive of the way we lived in the past.  Not only are contemporary fashions included but there are also household items and luxury goods, thereby allowing the whole picture of life in past times to be examined.   The catalogue collection is now, once again, available for research purposes and is housed within the University of Worcester campus at St John’s and…

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A History of Kays

Worcester was the home of the famous mail-order company, Kays, although in its heyday the company had many offices and warehouse located in many areas of the U.K..   This is a brief history of the company, based on what we have discovered to date.  It includes many details and facts that have been obtained through research using the company’s archives, that are now form part of the Kays Heritage collection.  If you can add more details about the company’s history, its employees,…

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News

This section will include all of the news and views that will enable the membership and those who visit this web site to see what the group are doing and planning. July 20th – “Kays at the Hive” – a whole day of activities inspired and based on Kays.  Heritage talks; coach trips to the Kays buildings; an especially commissioned play about Kays; a cat walk show and a silent disco.  All made the day memorable. May 15th – The series on…

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Group Membership

The Kays Heritage Group was formed in May 2000, so that the rich and varied heritage of Kay & Co Ltd, the Worcester based mail-order company, will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.   Now that the company has ceased to have any of its operations in the city of Worcester it is now more important than ever to preserve the heritage of the company for posterity.  The Heritage Group delivers a variety of talks on various aspects of the History of Kays to…

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