John Player Cigarettes
John Player Special and John Player King Size are manufactured by Imperial Tobacco, whereas John Player Gold Leaf is manufactured by British American Tobacco (in some countries).
In March 1832, William Wright set up a small tobacco factory in Broadmarsh, Nottingham. This business expanded and earned Wright a comfortable fortune. John Player bought the business in 1877. He had the Castle Tobacco Factories built in Radford, Nottingham, just west of the city centre. He had three large factory blocks built, but initially only one was used to process and pack tobacco. The other two blocks were let to lace manufacturers until the business had expanded enough to use the additional space.
One of John Player’s innovations was to offer pre-packaged tobacco. Before this, smokers would have bought tobacco by weight from loose supplies and cigarette papers to roll them in. He also adopted a registered trade mark as a guarantee to the public that the goods could be relied on.
The business was run later by Player’s sons John Dane Player and William Goodacre Player.
In 1901, in response to competitive threats from the USA, Player’s merged with the Imperial Tobacco Group. The largest constituent of Imperial Tobacco was W. D. & H. O. Wills and the new group was run from Wills’ head office in Bristol. However, Players retained its own identity with cigarette brands such as ‘Navy Cut’, ‘No.9′, ‘John Player Special’ and ‘Gold Leaf’ and its distinctive logo of a smoking sailor in a ‘Navy Cut’ cap, and loose tobacco brands such as ‘No Name’.
A new factory (the ‘Horizon’ factory) was opened in the early 1970s on Nottingham’s industrial outskirts, with better road access and more effective floor space, next to the headquarters of Boots the Chemists.
The old factories in Radford, especially the cavernous No 1 Factory which occupied the whole area between Radford Boulevard and Alfreton Road, bordered by Player Street and Beckenham Road were gradually run down. The No 2 Factory, facing onto Radford Boulevard with its distinctive clock (now plinthed in the retail park on the site) and the No 3 factory (which faced onto Churchfield lane) with its rooftop ‘John Player & Sons’ sign, were demolished in the late 1980s. The iron railings and gates onto Radford Boulevard from the present retail park are the ones that surrounded No 2 Factory – the large gates (present vehicle access) were the entrance to the factory yard between No 2 and No 3 factories and the smaller gates were the pedestrian entrances to No 2 factory itself.