Mr HJ Ilsley and Heelas' Special Service department

A collection of leaflets for the Heelas Special Services, circa 1950
A collection of leaflets for the Heelas Special Services, circa 1950

Thank the vacuum for Special Services

A unique department within Heelas was opened in 1925. Known as the Special Department, its history links back to the humble vacuum cleaner!

An employee of the British Vacuum Company, Mr H. J. Ilsley sold vacuums in Reading. Heelas had been offering a home-cleaning service through the British Vacuum company for a number of years, but when the company wound up, Heelas decided to undertake cleaning work on their own. Ilsley was asked to take charge of this newly fangled department. Ilsley was now in charge of all of Heelas cleaning work.

Worming his way in

However, it was an incident with woodworm that launched Ilsley’s career with the Special Services. On a cleaning job in a church, Ilsley noticed a case of woodworm in the wood. That kick-started his fascination, and within a few years, he became a country leading expert in woodworm. Eventually, the head of Rentokil asked Ilsley to undertake all of her big jobs.

The Special Services thus specialised in the treatment of dry rot, and the destruction of the death-watch beetle.

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