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New Collection: Clarity and Co

We are proud to announce the acquisition of a new Special Collections, the records of Clarity and Co. This exciting new addition to the university’s Archives was acquired on January 9th, 2023. The project to catalogue and rehouse these records was completed on February 6th, 2023. The collection consisted of 10 boxes of material, which we arranged, listed, rehoused and catalogued onto our database system.

Ass General welfare of the Blind

Amy, one of the department’s volunteers, played an important role in the process, assisting with the listing of the collections in Excel and with data entry into our CMS (CALM). The collection is now available to researchers via our catalogue, which can be found on the Archives and Special Collections webpage on the university website Archives and Special Collections | Brunel University London.

Clarity and Co, established in 1854 as a charitable enterprise, was renowned for manufacturing soaps and beauty products while employing blind and disabled individuals. The charity was founded by Elizabeth Gilbert, a blind woman and gained support from influential figures such as Queen Victoria, William Ewart Gladstone, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Charles Dickens. Despite its success, the charity entered administration in January 2020 due to financial difficulties and pension obligations. However, Brunel University Academics, Zoi Pataki and Xiaoqing Li salvaged the valuable records with the aid of Archives and Special Collections, which led to their acquisition by Brunel University for academic research.

Clarity 1

Discussions for acquiring the collection began in June 2022, and its acquisition was made possible through the permission of the Liquidator and CWO. This collection, previously unused, will be an invaluable resource for research and education, benefitting students, academics and the general public alike.

The archive and Special Collection Department extends its gratitude to all who made this acquisition possible.


Our student volunteer, Amy, had the following to say about her experience helping us to catalogue this collection:

“Working on Clarity and Co Special Collection has been a delightful experience and a fantastic learning opportunity. As I went through the collection, I enjoyed learning about the history of this particularly interesting company. An especially interesting aspect of this company is the number of prominent individuals that have supported it and the great work that it did. Working on this collection has allowed me to see the company all the way through its life, from its beginnings, all the way through to its more recent financial difficulties”.