Some History

Coventry's oldest business!

Astleys has been around for a long time - it's sometimes easy to forget just how different the world was and the type of events that have ocurred whilst we're been around.

Here's some moments from history that will make you think!

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Astleys is born

John Astley & Sons can trace it's roots back to 1730 when it was established in Coventry.

In the earliest days, we were selling ropes, canvas products, oils and seeds.

Astleys had Coventry's first tobacco license and is known to have done a brisk trade with passing coaches "by proferring cigars on a tray with a long handle"!

Sir Robert Walpole was the Prime Minister of the time - Britain's first and longest serving from 1721-1742.



Bonnie Prince Charlie

Charles Edward Stuart lands in Scotland to take the throne and starts a little trouble south of the border. This leads to the Jacobite rebellion

Astleys has been established for 15 years.

It was also the year of the first ever recorded women's cricket match in Surrey, and the year of the death of Sir Robert Walpole.


Last axe execution

The Scottish Jacobite Lord Lovat is beheaded by axe on Tower Hill, London, for high treason (the last man to be executed in this way in Britain)

Lord Lovat was the third of the Jacobite Lords to be executed for high-treason. Bonnie Prince Charlie had fled (1746) to the Isle of Skye after the failed Jacobite Rising.

The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital.


Boston Tea Party

More disturbance - this time from across the 'pond' as the Boston Tea Party a protest at the Tea Act which escalated into of the War of Independence, ending in the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to "no taxation without representation".

The American Revolutionary War started near Boston in 1775. 


Revolution is in the air!

It's all kicking off in France, with some sharp ends to some, soon-to-be headless.

Following the 7-Years' War and the American Revolution, France was in deep debt and the punitive taxes put in place to maintain the priviledge of the aristoracy were a step too far for the 3rd Estate (Commoners).

the Bastille was attacked in July and following a few years of political struggle, the Republic was proclaimed in 1792 and King Louis XVI was executed the following year.

A huge number of civilians, from aristoracts to 'enemies of the State' were executed - it is estimated that up to 40,000 may have died.

'Liberté, fraternité, égalité (ou La Mort!)'. 


Napoleon becomes Emperor

After orchestrating a coup in 1799, Napoleon effectively makes himself emperor in 1804 and 'reigns' until 1814.


Trafalgar - need we say more?

Battle of Trafalgar: The British fleet, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson, defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet off the coast of Spain; however, Admiral Nelson is fatally shot.

The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th century. Nelson overcame superior forces by dividing his smaller force into two columns directed against the enemy fleet, with devastating results.


Apparently yes - Waterloo!

On Sunday 18 June 1815, the Duke of Wellington beat the French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, to end the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon addicates. 




The Hay Wain

John Constable finished what is considered to be his best piece and one of England's most famous paintings - a rural scene of the River Stour.

The scene is of Flatford Mill on the Suffolk/Essex border and the painting is now hung in the National Gallery in London.

Astleys had a roaring canvas business at this time and although we have no evidence of artists on the team, we certainly were selling paints by this stage.

James Munroe, the second president of America, was re-elected.


Abolition of Slavery

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire, making the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire.



Queen Victoria Crowned

An 18 year old Victoria succedes William IV in June 1837 - she is to reign for 63 years.

Her reign was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire.

Astleys main premises were in Broadgate Coventry at this time, with warehouses and various small factories dotted around Coventry.


Anaesthetic Developed

William Morton, an American dentist, first used Ether as an anaesthetic. Far more effective than Nitrous Oxide, Ether was a pre-cursor to Chloroform.


Crimean War

A war in the Balkans with the legendary and disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. Britain and her allies won, but with horrendous losses.


Abraham Lincoln

The 16th President of the United States, was in office and led the country through the Civil War years, until his assassination in 1865.


Alfred Nobel - Dynamite

The Swedish chemist and engineer invents a method of stabilising the highly shock-sensitive Nitro-glycerine into a transportable explosive.



On your bike!

James Starley, invented the bicycle in Coventry, he went on to develop what would be known as the Penny-farthing.

Coventry became the centre of Bicycle manufacture, which then morphed into the car industry. Starley worked as a foreman for the Coventry Sewing Machine Company.

He went on to found the Rover Cycle Company, which eventually became Rover Cars.


Barbed Wire

Joseph Glidden fought and won a patent case that showed a novel invention that holds the spurs at proper intervals on the wires and to the means for attaining a uniform tension of the wires. You could say he got caught up on the detail.



World Population

The world's population was 600 million in 1730, 1 billion in 1800 and 1.7billion in 1900.

In 2018 the estimate is 7.6 billion with over 1/6th living in China.




That little lot covered the first 170 years of Astleys history.

Now for a bit of 20th Century tidbits...



Victory Vs!

Sir Winston Churchill may have led the Country through the Second World War, but Astleys also withstood and survived the near destruction of Coventry.

The previous headquarters of Astleys in Broadgate, Coventry was completely destroyed. Bomb damage was visible in the slighlty wonky showrooms that were the front of our Gosfrod Street premises, but otherwise, we were mercifully unscathed.



They think it's all over!

The Football World Cup was famously raised by Sir Bobby Moore in 1966, when England overcame West Germany 4 - 2 in the final to win the World Cup for the first time. Finishing as a 2 - 2 draw at the end of 90 minutes, Geoff Hurst sealed the match with his hat-trick and one of the most famous football comentator's pronouncements; 'Some people are on the pitch - they think it's all over... it is now!'

Kenneth Wolstenholme was the BBC TV's commentator who made this memorable statement.



A continual revolution

Astleys first computer system was introduced by the late Chairman, Michael Astley, in 1971, a very early adoption of computer technology in our industry. Thus started a continued progression of development across several different platforms throughout the ensuing decades. Programming was done in-house with a full ERP system being developed. It was only in 2020 that Astleys moved to a proprietary ERP system, Oracle's Netsuite, although our in-house IT team have ensured total success in implementation.

NetSuite gives us a cloud-based ERP system with immense scalability and integration capacity. Reporting has never been easier and the new system has allowed Astleys to improve further on key metrics within the business.