IT is rare that companies continue to trade for 100 years but that is the case with one enduring manufacturing firm.

The Astley Chemical & Dye Company (ACDO) really is a family affair and has been in the hands of the Pillings since 16-year-old founder Harry made his first soap products in his mother’s kitchen back in 1919.

To many ACDO is now a household name but the company initially struggled to succeed and it took until 1928 before enterprising Harry was able to move his operations to a custom-built premises in Mallison Street. The same location where the firm operates from today.

The seed was planted in the young man’s mind years earlier when, at just 12-years-old, his father died. It soon dawned on Harry that, as an only child, he would have to become the breadwinner.

It was on his 16th birthday that, having worked for an import and export agency he decided to start his own, similar, business.

He bought a dye from France which he planned to sell in Bolton, storing it, in pallets, in the yard of the home in Fairhaven Road that he shared with his mother, Ellen.

But a strike in France meant Harry was stuck with pallets of the product and could not sell them on.

With his first venture a disaster he decided to look for something else to produce and, thanks to his keen interest in chemistry, found a chemical called Sodium Perborate which he mixed and packaged as ADCO (the initials of his company) but he changed this to the name we know today, ACDO.

Quite why Harry wanted to develop a soap powder is something of a mystery but what he was looking for was something to remove stains from clothing in a way the ordinary soap of the day could not.

What he discovered is when the ACDO tablet was shredded with water, with a grater and added to an equal amount of shredded soap the result was that a wash did not need the rubbing or scrubbing that had been necessary before.

It followed that getting whites whiter and ensuring wash day blues were a thing of the past became the company’s mission and success followed.

These days ACDO exports products to more than 80 countries around the world and is run by its founder’s grandson, Brandon Pilling, who took the reins from his father Marshall.

Business has changed dramatically over the last century and Brandon says he is “delighted” to be able to continue his family’s legacy.

“I think it’s a bit of a surprise for any company to last this long,” he said. “It’s a very difficult industry to be involved with but I’m very proud to be the person who’s carried the torch from the first generation to the third. There’s no reason why this company can’t keep going for many more years.”

Through the years, the firm has grown and expanded from its Astley Bridge roots and now creates hundreds of items for sale worldwide, including brands such as Dr Beckmann carpet stain remover and Glowhite cleaner. ACDO registered a turnover of more than £40m last year.

But, its first major success in the 1920s - while much more modest - was no less innovative.

Armed with his slogan "ACDO makes washday a holiday" Harry took his product on tour.

Church and schools halls were booked for washing demonstrations and housewives were invited to bring along clothes for washing. Local grocers were offered boxes of ACDO on sale or return to cope with the every increasing demand.

At this stage the company still comprised only Harry and his mother preparing and packaging the soap unaided on their kitchen table in Astley Bridge.

When demand got too high for the terraced house Harry bought, in 1921, a former Army Nissan Bow hut thought to have been close to where Asda is today and four members of staff were hired.

With business booming, this upgrade was followed seven years later with a switch to the Mallison Street premises.

ACDO's success has not been without struggles though and it was one of many companies which was forced to innovate because of the Second World War.

Soap rationing made things difficult and a synthetic detergent named CLEBO would help to fill the gap for many and keep the company plodding on.

In 1949 Harry's son Marshall — Brandon's father — joined the company at the age of 19. He worked his way up from machine operator and became managing director at the age of 26.

The intervening years saw battles with the likes of Ariel and an opportunity to embrace TV advertising but, despite the challenges, ACDO continues to enjoy success.