Palintest – An Origin Story

This month, we’re celebrating 40 years since Palintest joined Halma plc, a global group of life-saving technology companies.

And that anniversary has given us time to look at where we have come from… and where we’re going.

From 19th century enterprise to 20th century ingenuity and 21st century innovation, here is our story.

Going back to our roots…

Palintest’s origins lie in 1870s England, when Wilkinson became involved in an apothecary business in Newcastle upon Tyne.

One of the cities that had powered the industrial revolution, Newcastle in the 1870s was seeing major population growth, with industries such as shipbuilding and engineering booming on the banks of the River Tyne.

By 1875, Wilkinson had teamed up with Simpson and the pair launched a wholesale business, Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd, which eventually evolved into a manufacturing chemist and wholesaling business.

The Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd name would stay until 1989…

Enter Dr Palin…

Dr Thomas Palin played a vital role as the first waterworks chemist to the City of Coventry, where he supervised the wartime operation of emergency water supply and in 1945, he became the first chief chemist and bacteriologist to the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Co.

He gained world renown for the development of breakpoint chlorination in water and the invention of the diethyl para phenylene diamine (DPD) method for the determination of chlorine – which became adopted across the globe.

Dr Palin also developed a system of chemical reagents – presented in the form of reagent tablets – for use in the determination of the chemical constituents of drinking water.

In the 1950s, Dr Palin approached Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd to manufacture the reagents – and formed a partnership with company.

Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd evolves…


Eventually, Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd became the sole owner of the reagent system, with Dr Palin becoming a consultant to the company.

During the 1970s, Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd sold the manufacturing chemist and pharmaceutical wholesaling side of the business – and chemical reagent manufacturing became its sole focus.


Meanwhile, Halma’s story begins…


David Barber co-founded Halma with Mike Arthur, and it was listed on the London Stock Exchange in January 1972.

The company changed its name to Halma Limited in 1973 and registered as a public limited company in 1981, becoming Halma plc. It made a series of acquisitions of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering companies, and was then attracted to a certain North East England-based company…


Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd joins Halma plc

As part of its ongoing expansion, Halma plc acquired Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd in 1983… and a period of considerable investment began.

This investment improved the manufacture of the reagent tablets, which were marketed under the Palintest brand name.

However, it also sparked the development of a range of analytical equipment to be used in association with the tablets.

The business moved to its current home – Palintest House – on Team Valley in Gateshead in 1986.

And in May 1989, Wilkinson & Simpson Ltd was renamed Palintest Ltd in recognition of Dr Palin, the father of the DPD method.

We’ve since added a second site to our Team Valley operations, due to the increased demand for our products.

Driving innovative technology

The work of those early pioneers laid the foundations for the introduction of solutions which are helping to safeguard water for everyone, every day – right across the world.

A landmark moment for Palintest came in 1997, when we manufactured our first photometer at the Team Valley site – our photometer range became one of the cornerstones of our success.

And in 2019, we launched Kemio, which uses anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV) and our patented single-use sensor technology, to test for chemicals and heavy metals in water.

Our Kemio range is helping water management personnel and municipal authorities test for dangerous levels of lead and copper in water supplies, and with the introduction of an arsenic sensor in 2023, these solutions can now be used to test for arsenic too. In ‘arsenic belt’ countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, where arsenic contamination of ground water is a major concern, this can enable governments, water companies, NGOs and communities to identify contamination more quickly, take action when harmful levels are identified, and mitigate risk.

In 2022, we again demonstrated our commitment to innovation when we launched Lumiso Expert, a multi-parameter benchtop photometer designed as an accurate, all-round solution for water analysis in challenging environments.

And our work in product development continues…


Part of a global family

From our beginnings as a small apothecary business in 1870s Newcastle, Palintest is now part of a group of companies which employs 7000 people in more than 20 countries. Halma plc has been named as one of Britain’s Most Admired Companies, and it is behind products and services that help solve many of the key problems facing the world today.

Palintest’s solutions are used across the globe and we have hubs in the United States and Australia.

However, we also remained close to our roots, with our Gateshead headquarters still a stone’s throw away from the banks of the River Tyne.

We think Wilkinson, Simpson and Dr Palin would approve…

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