Fillerys Toffees of Birmingham

Fillerys Toffees was established in 1923 by a consortium of four investors led by Robert Harold Mayhew (1874 – 1965). The factory was located on Warwick Road in Greet, south Birmingham.

The site covered four acres by 1927, and due to increasing sales, 24 hour production was introduced from 1930.

Fillerys Toffees was incorporated as a public company in 1934. Herbert E Morgan was chairman. The company had an authorised and issued capital of £100,000 by 1935. Around 300 workers were employed.

Fillerys led the toffee industry as one of the most efficient producers by 1942. Fillerys targeted the higher quality market.

During the Second World War, most of the factory was given over to munitions manufacturing for the war effort.

Under a Government scheme to encourage industrial efficiency, Fillerys Toffees were produced under contract by Rowntree of York between 1942 and 1946.

The company had established nationwide sales distribution by 1949.

The end of sugar rationing in 1954 saw a boom in confectionery sales. Fillerys Toffees won a prestigious and valuable contract to supply confectionery for Marks & Spencer.

The sugar confectionery boom was over by the end of the 1950s, as increasing prosperity saw consumers increasingly switch to chocolate products. As a result, the industry began to consolidate in order to reduce costs.

Fillerys was acquired by J A & P Holland of Southport in 1960 to create the largest toffee manufacturer in Britain, and possibly the world.

Cavenham Foods acquired J A & P Holland in 1965. The Fillerys factory was closed down in March 1966, and production was transferred to Southport. The reason given was that the Fillerys factory did not have room for expansion. About 230 workers lost their jobs.

Unfiltered: A History of Benson & Hedges

Once one of the most prestigious cigarette manufacturers in the United Kingdom, Benson & Hedges cigarettes are sold across the world. A former subsidiary introduced the highly successful Parliament cigarette brand to the United States.

Establishment and early growth
William Hedges (1836 – 1913) and Richard Matthias Benson (1817 – 1882) established Benson & Hedges, tobacconists and cigar importers of 13 Old Bond Street, London, in 1873. Situated on one of the most exclusive streets in the world, the firm targeted the aristocratic market.

Hedges, a clerk, was born in St Marylebone, the son of a coal merchant. A refined and pious man, he was a keen Wesleyan Methodist, and frankly considered the tobacco trade to be on the verge of immorality.

Benson was a Bristol tobacconist who had followed his father into the trade. He was a coarse man, and in many ways the opposite of Hedges. He spent much of his time at his tobacconists in Bristol, but when in London he would stand outside the Benson & Hedges shop, dressed drably, smoking a cigar and brazenly spitting onto the street.

Benson smoked fourteen to fifteen cigars a day, and died, allegedly from excessive smoking, in 1882. It was estimated that he smoked £20,000 of the firm’s stock during his lifetime.

A P Hedges enters the firm
Alfred Paget Hedges (1867 – 1929), the son of William Hedges, joined the firm as an assistant to his father following the death of Richard Benson. He possessed a fierce ambition, but was also likeable, and considered a thoroughly decent human being.

Alfred Paget Hedges (1867- 1929)

Benson & Hedges was converted into a private limited company in 1896.

Establishment of American subsidiaries
The London business attracted a number of high-spending Americans. Encouraged by their custom, William Hedges established a United States subsidiary at 288 Fifth Avenue, New York, from 1897.  A relatively small business, it sold high quality cigars and manufactured premium-market cigarettes. Arthur Quinton Walsh (born 1861), a long-term bookkeeper for Benson & Hedges, was sent to manage the subsidiary.

Sales were slow to develop at Fifth Avenue. The store was located on the first floor, and was thus unable to entice window shoppers. Walsh instead found success when he established a branch outlet at affluent Newport, Rhode Island.

Walsh defied the orders of William Hedges by relocating the Fifth Avenue shop to a ground-level address at 314 Fifth Avenue in 1900. He moved again in around 1905 to 17 West 31st Street, which was to prove unsuccessful due to its more obscure location. He relocated the business to 435 Fifth Avenue from 1907.

A Canadian subsidiary was established on Cote Street, Montreal from 1906. Both North American branches were to prove successful.

William Hedges had retired by 1901, and A P Hedges had become the managing director.

A P Hedges was a man guided by his Wesleyan Methodist faith, and served as a lay preacher. He was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Tunbridge in Kent from 1906 -1910.

Benson & Hedges was converted into a public company with a share capital of £120,000 in 1910, in order to fund the expansion of the London and Montreal businesses.

William Paget Hedges (born 1894) joined his father at Benson & Hedges following service in the First World War.

Company capital was almost doubled to £220,000 in 1920 in order to establish a new cigarette factory at 104, New King’s Road, Fulham, and to provide further capital for the North American subsidiaries.

The American subsidiary was highly successful on the back of a strong national economy, and the British company continued to prosper.

Meanwhile the initially successful Canadian subsidiary entered into modest losses in 1925 and 1926, triggered by an economic depression which hit the luxury trade particularly badly. This was compounded by high taxation. Benson & Hedges believed that the subsidiary would have required a very high level of advertising expenditure if it was to remain viable, and lacked sufficient capital to provide it. As a result of this, the Canadian subsidiary was sold to Adhemar Gaston Munich (1882 – 1970), a French-born Quebec investor, and a regular customer, in 1926.

The United States subsidiary was sold to two New York banking houses in 1928. With a tiny sales force of no more than 20 people, the company grew rapidly. It was to find great success with Parliament, a premium-priced filtered cigarette, from 1931. Joseph F Cullman Jr (1882 – 1955) acquired control of the company in 1941.

A P Hedges died in his London office from heart failure in 1929. Major Arthur Pearson Davison (1866 – 1955) became managing director of Benson & Hedges.

Benson & Hedges held a prestigious Royal Warrant to supply King George VI by 1946.

Benson & Hedges (USA) was the seventh largest cigarette manufacturer in America by 1952, and sales were dominated by Parliaments. However the company lacked sufficient scale to provide its growing brand with the research and marketing support that it needed. Benson & Hedges (USA) was acquired by Philip Morris, which, although the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the country, lacked a successful filtered cigarette brand of its own, in 1953. Sales of Parliaments tripled between 1953 and 1961, due to improved distribution and a growing market for filtered cigarettes.

Sale to Gallaher
Meanwhile, Benson & Hedges of Old Bond Street was subject to a friendly takeover by Gallaher, a large British tobacco company which was attracted to the prestige value of the brand, in 1955.

Benson & Hedges held a Royal Warrant to supply the household of Queen Elizabeth II by 1956.

Gallaher sold the overseas rights to the Benson & Hedges brand outside North America to British American Tobacco in 1956.

The independent Benson & Hedges (Canada) Ltd was acquired by Philip Morris in 1958.

Benson & Hedges was the leading king-size cigarette brand in Britain by 1981.

Benson & Hedges (Canada) merged with Rothmans in 1986 to form Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc, in which Rothmans held a 60 percent stake, and Philip Morris held a 40 percent stake.

The Benson & Hedges premises at 13 Old Bond Street were retained until at least 1998.

The Queen Elizabeth II Royal Warrant was withdrawn in 1999.

Japan Tobacco acquired Gallaher for £9.7 billion in 2007.

Philip Morris International acquired full control of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc for about C$2 billion in 2008.

Benson & Hedges remains a leading brand of Japan Tobacco, Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco as of 2019.

Sauces Reconsidered by Gary Allen

I am absolutely delighted to have received a reference citation from Gary Allen in his new book, Sauces Reconsidered.

Allen cites my history of Crosse & Blackwell. I am glad that he found it helpful.

Sauces Reconsidered is very good, and if you have found my posts on sauces and foods interesting then I can highly recommend his book for further reading.

Allen has previously contributed to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. He is highly knowledgeable about food. You can explore his blog here.

Planet Mars: A Transatlantic Chocolate Dynasty

This post focuses on the history of Mars confectionery in the UK. Many of the products for which Mars are best known, such as Skittles, Twix and Galaxy chocolate, were originally developed and sold in Britain.

American origins
Franklin Clarence Mars (1883 – 1934) entered the wholesale confectionery business in Tacoma, Washington, from 1910.

Mars relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1920, where he formed the Mar-O-Bar company and began to manufacture chocolate bars. The business struggled until his son, Forrest Edward Mars (1904 – 1999), suggested that Mars create a chocolate bar influenced by a malted milkshake. On the back of this idea, the Milky Way bar was introduced from 1923.

The Milky Way bar was an immediate success. Sales exploded without the help of advertising. The product enjoyed a cost discount against rival chocolate bars, due to a filling made of relatively low-cost nougat.

Mars was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in America by 1930. The Snickers bar was launched in 1930, and 3 Musketeers was launched in 1932.

Forrest E Mars graduated from Yale University with a degree in industrial engineering in 1928. He initially worked as a superintendent at his father’s factory. Meanwhile, he read voraciously on business methods, especially those used by DuPont, a large chemicals company, and business tycoon John D Rockefeller (1839 – 1937).

A brash and ambitious man, it wasn’t long before Forrest Mars clashed with his father. He deemed management as lax, and considered product quality to be inconsistent. Mars resented how his father cut costs by using low-quality chocolate in his products. He also harboured ambitions for Mars to expand its overseas sales.

Forrest Mars demanded a one third stake in the company. His father refused, but in recognition of his contribution he was given $50,000 and the foreign rights to Mars products, and told to establish a business for himself.

To gain an understanding of European confectionery manufacturing methods, Mars worked incognito at the plants of Tobler and Nestle in Switzerland, a case of industrial espionage he would later openly confess to.

Establishment of Mars UK
Mars took what he learned in Switzerland, and leased a single room factory in Slough, a small industrial town outside London, from 1932. England was chosen for the European base because Mars could speak the language. He initially employed a staff of eight.

Original confectionery manufacturing equipment from the Slough factory

Mars understood that British confectionery tastes differed to those of his native land. His first product was an Anglicised version of the Milky Way, which he called the Mars bar. Introduced from August 1932, the product was initially entirely handmade. Instead of the Hershey chocolate used in the US, the Mars bar used a Cadbury chocolate coating, and the toffee was sweeter.

Within a year, two million Mars bars had been sold, and 100 people were employed. The product was advertised nationwide by 1934. Mars boosted sales by advertising his confectionery as a nutritious food product.

The British Milky Way, a different product to the American Milky Way, was launched in 1935. Not all of the early product introductions were a success; short lived confectionery lines included the So Big bar and a vanilla version of the Mars bar.

Forrest Mars was a great believer in scientific management as a driver of profitability. He also had a fanatical dedication to quality. However he could also be cruel and demanding, and on occasions he demonstrated a volatile temper. However for upholding his high standards his managers were rewarded handsomely.

Franklin Mars died in 1934 and control of Mars Inc passed to his widow, Ethel V Mars (1888 – 1945).

Maltesers were introduced in Britain from 1936.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Mars returned to the United States. There he established a business producing M&Ms, a product that he had developed based on Smarties, a British confection manufactured by Rowntree.

Rowntree agreed not to compete with M&Ms in the US in exchange for the production rights to the Mars bar in South Africa, Canada and Australia.

The Bounty bar was launched in the United Kingdom in 1951. It had similarities to Mounds, an American chocolate bar produced by Peter Paul.

Mars was the third largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1960.

Starburst (originally known as Opal Fruits) and the Galaxy chocolate bar were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1960.

The “Mars a day” slogan was introduced in Britain from 1960.

Forrest Mars gains control of Mars Inc
Forrest Mars gained control of Mars Inc in 1964. An egalitarian, he quickly dismantled the executive dining room and dismissed the French chef. The art collection was sold off. Private offices were opened up with glass panels to improve communication. Executives were obliged to clock in and out the same as everyone else. However to compensate for his strict demands, Mars raised salaries by 30 percent. Mars also increased the proportion of chocolate in each bar.

Forrest Mars resigned as president and chief executive officer of Mars Inc in 1967. In his place he appointed Alfred Baxter (1913 – 1986), a Unilever veteran from England.

Mars had opened a second factory in Slough, located on Liverpool Road, by 1966.

The Twix was first produced in the United Kingdom from 1967.

Forrest Mars retired in 1969. He handed ownership of the company over to his two sons in 1973.

The Mars factory in Slough, c.2014

Skittles were first introduced in Britain in the 1970s.

Slough produced two million Mars bars a day by 1988. It was the highest-selling chocolate bar in the United Kingdom.

Mars announced it would close its Liverpool Road factory, with the loss of 500 jobs, over the course of two years, in 2005. Production of Twix bars was relocated to France and Germany. Starburst manufacturing was transferred to the Czech Republic.

The Dundee Road plant received a £45 million modernisation investment, and continues to produce Mars bars, Snickers, Galaxy and Maltesers.

Mars opened a new £7 million research and development facility at Slough in 2012.

Slough is the European headquarters for Mars confectionery. The Dundee Road plant employed 1,000 people and produced 2.5 million Mars bars a day in 2013.

Mars remains a privately-held company controlled by the Mars family. Research by Statista indicated that Mars had the largest share of the global chocolate market in 2016, at 14.4 percent.

All gone to Pott: a history of Pott’s vinegar

Pott & Co built what was probably the largest vinegar brewery in Britain, and grew to control 25 percent of the market.

Rush family establishment
William Rush (1611 – 1668) began to brew vinegar at Castle Street, Southwark, London, from 1641. The premises had previously belonged to a gardener, who had used the land to rear hogs.

In an age before artificial refrigeration, vinegar was a much more important commodity than it is today, due to its preservative effect on foodstuffs.

A single vessel at the brewery held 50,000 gallons of vinegar by 1790.

Pott family acquisition
The Rush family operated the brewery until 1790 when it was acquired by Robert (died 1824) and Arthur Pott, whose family had brewed vinegar at Mansell Street, Whitechapel since 1720.

Robert and Arthur Pott rebuilt the entire site across five or six acres, to create perhaps the largest vinegar brewery in England by 1795.

Charles Arthur Pott and William Pott (1795 – 1878) were the partners by 1833. The firm was the third largest vinegar brewer in Britain by this time, with 14 percent of the market.

Charles and William Pott held a 25 percent share of the British vinegar market by 1844. The firm held a stock of 746,139 gallons of vinegar that year.

The brewery site covered five acres by 1846.

An examination of vinegars by The Lancet praised the purity of Pott’s vinegar in 1852.

The brewery possessed one of the principal wells of London in 1862.

The business traded as R W C Pott by 1866.

By 1876 the business traded as A W R & N Pott.

By 1884 the business traded as R & N Pott. Robert (1825 – 1894) and Norbury Pott (1838 – 1924), sons of William Pott, controlled the business.

Robert Pott was head of the concern until his death in 1894.

The brewery was operated by Robert Bertram Pott (1861 – 1944), son of Robert Pott, and Norbury Pott by 1900.

The family sold the brewery to Beaufoy & Co, its long-established London rival, in 1902.

Perry good: Babycham

Babycham was a highly successful pear cider drink that was established in Britain from the early 1950s.

Background
The Showering family had a long association with the inn-keeping and brewing trade in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, dating back to the 18th century.

Albert Edward Showering (1874 – 1946), a small-scale brewer, owned three public houses in Shepton Mallet by 1928. He had four sons, and two of them, Herbert (1906 – 1974) and Francis (1912 – 1995) were to prove instrumental in the subsequent growth of the family business.

Arthur Edward Showering (1899 – 1979) took over the license of the Ship Inn on Kilver Street, Shepton Mallet, which was owned by his father Albert, in 1921. The rear of the Ship Inn housed a small brewery.

Showerings was incorporated as a private company in 1932, with Herbert Showering as chairman. Cider production was established by this time. Albert Edward Showering retired in 1934.

Francis Showering, a trained chemist, was manager of the Showerings cider mill by 1939. He was a stocky, hard-working, no-nonsense West Countryman. He had become managing director of Showerings by 1949.

Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, Showerings won numerous awards for the quality of its bottled ciders.

Babycham introduction
After years of research and development, Francis Showering developed a new sterile filtration process that improved the shelf quality of perry (pear cider). The product was clear and sparkling, and reminiscent of champagne.

The sale of perry in Britain at the time was very small. The Showering brothers introduced the new product to the Bristol area and assessed its potential. Francis Showering determined to market the product towards women, and the Babycham trademark was registered in 1950. The product was packaged in 4 liquid ounce (118ml) “baby bottles”.

In order to prioritise the production of Babycham, brewing ceased from 1952, and apple cider production ended in early 1953. Babycham was launched nationwide from 1953 and demand immediately exceeded all expectations.

Herbert Showering was responsible for marketing the product, and advertising commenced from September 1953. Advertising was to heavily emphasise its similarity to champagne. Sales quickly boomed. Advertising agency Masius Wynne-Williams created the Chinese water deer mascot for the brand.

The Babycham deer outside the cider mill at Shepton Mallet (2008)

A significant factor behind the success of Babycham was that it appealed to the relatively untapped female market. At the same time, bottled beers and ciders were becoming increasingly popular over draught drinks due to their more consistent quality. Furthermore, the brewers who owned much of the licensed premises in Britain readily introduced Babycham to their public houses, as it was not in direct competition with beer.

Showerings was unable to meet demand for Babycham in the pre-Christmas period of 1954. Rather than compromise on product quality, which could have increased supply, strict rationing of Babycham was introduced.

Babycham became the first alcoholic product to be advertised on British television in 1955. Around £300,000 was spent on advertising  between 1953 and 1956.

The success of Babycham turned the Showerings brothers into millionaires.

Acquisition trail
Showerings acquired R N Coate & Co of Nailsea, Somerset, one of the four largest cider manufacturers in Britain, in 1956.

Showerings was converted into a public company in 1959. Over 1,000 people were employed. By this time Showerings bought much of Britain’s perry pear crop, as well as importing the fruit from Europe.

Annual sales of Babycham had reached £8 million by 1961, aided by heavy marketing expenditure.

Showerings was keen to reduce its dependence on the Babycham brand. William Gaymer & Son of Norfolk was acquired for £150,000 in 1961. Gaymer claimed to be the oldest cider producer in Britain, and was one of the largest, best known for the Olde English brand. However it had struggled against the greater resources of its major rival, H P Bulmer. The deal transformed Showerings into the second largest cider manufacturer in the world.

Allied Brewies and recent era
Showerings merged with Allied Breweries in 1968. Francis Showering was appointed chief executive of the wine and spirits division.

2.5 million bottles of Babycham were produced every week by 1969, consuming the majority of British pear production.

Keith Showering (1930 – 1982), son of Herbert, became chairman of Allied Breweries from 1975. By this time Allied was the largest drinks business in Europe.

90 percent of licensed premises in Britain sold Babycham by 1977.

Babycham was made with 25 percent apple cider by 1979.

The Allied Breweries cider business was demerged in 1992 as part of a management buyout named the Gaymer Group.

Annual sales of Babycham had fallen to around one million bottles by 1993, and the deer mascot was retired.

Meta post #2: the most popular pages on this site

Via the magic of Google Analytics, I bring you the top ten pages on letslookagain.com. Obviously bear in mind this ranking will by its very nature favour posts that have been on the site for the longest length of time.

  1. Smith’s crisps, also with reference to Walkers and Golden Wonder.
  2. Callard & Bowser was a victim of the success of its own Altoids mints
  3. Goodall, Backhouse & Co, the Yorkshire Relish producers.
  4. Keiller marmalade. People are often most curious about brands that have disappeared in the recent past.
  5. It’s a question often asked, which came first, Lifesavers or the Polo mint?
  6. Sharp’s toffee, a brand I’d never heard of before I began researching confectionery history
  7. Brand & Co, developers of A1 sauce
  8. The popularity of my post on the Fatty Arbuckle’s restaurant chain really took me by surprise
  9. Cantrell & Cochrane never really disappeared, but it did reinvent itself
  10. The Saxone shoe company rounds off the list

From little acorns: Ye Olde Oak

Ye Olde Oak is the leading hot dog brand in Britain.

Frank Rowland Smith (1894 – 1945) was born in Wandsworth, London. His father had emigrated from Lincolnshire to work as a provisions merchant.

Two brothers, R W Smith and Robert Rowland Smith (1902 – 1968), managed the firm by 1949.

Rowland Smith & Son introduced its line of canned meats under the Ye Olde Oak brand in 1949. Ye Olde Oak became the first canned meat brand in Britain to be advertised on colour television in 1956.

Rowland Smith & Son was based at St Thomas Street, London by 1961. By this time the company was best known for canned meats.

Robert Rowland Smith, chairman, died in 1968.

Ye Olde Oak was the major British tinned ham brand, with one third of the market by 1973. Unlike today, tinned ham was considered a relatively upmarket product in the 1970s.

Struik Foods of the Netherlands began to supply Ye Olde Oak with frankfurters from 1979.

The Rowland Smith brothers had no obvious heirs to inherit the company. They approached Hans Struik (born 1940), who acquired the company in 1984.

The company name was changed to Ye Olde Oak Ltd in 1985.

An investigation for The Times in 2005 found that Ye Old Oak hot dogs contained 50 percent meat, but less than that when collagens and fat were excluded.

A 2005 study by Which? magazine found Ye Olde Oak tinned ham contained 37 percent water and just 55 percent meat.

Life’s a bleach: a history of Domestos

Domestos is the leading brand of bleach in the United Kingdom. Few people are aware of its origins in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Wilfred Augustine Handley (1901 -1975), was the son of a blacksmith employed in the Tyneside shipbuilding industry.

W A Handley trained as a dental mechanic. As a side project, he manufactured chemicals in his garden shed. He acquired sodium hypochlorite, a waste product from the local chemicals industries, including ICI Billingham, and manufactured a powerful disinfectant and sterilizer, which he called “Domestos”.

W A Handley established his “Hygienic Disinfectant Service” in 1929. Assisted by his wife Ivy, he worked as a door-to-door salesman to sell Domestos.

Domestos was incorporated as a private company in 1936.

Stergene, designed for washing woollens, was introduced in 1948.

Domestos enjoyed distribution across Britain by 1952.

Sqezy, the first washing up liquid in squeezable bottles, was launched in 1957.

W A Handley placed Domestos into a shell company which was valued at £250,000 in 1957.

Handley sold the company to Unilever for £2.5 million in 1961. Unilever lacked a bleach brand of its own, and was attracted to the company’s strong growth. The acquisition provided Domestos with much needed capital for expansion, as well as managerial expertise.

Handley was retained in a managerial capacity, but stepped down as chairman in 1962.

The Domestos blue plastic bottle was introduced from 1963.

The Domestos marketing and sales departments had been transferred to London by 1965.

Domestos employed 700 people by 1965.

Domestos sales continued to grow, but the Newcastle factory lacked space to expand. As a result, production of Domestos detergents including Sqezy and Stergene were transferred to the Unilever factory at Port Sunlight, Merseyside, from 1965. The customer service office was relocated to London.

Domestos held a third of the British bleach market by 1974.

Handley died in 1975 and left an estate valued at £172,786.

The Domestos factory in Newcastle upon Tyne was closed in 1975 with the loss of 160 jobs, and operations were relocated to Port Sunlight.

Domestos was sold throughout Europe by the end of the 1970s. It was introduced to Australia in 1981.

Globally, Domestos enjoyed ten percent growth in 2017, and is a leading product in the Unilever Home Care division.

Hill Evans & Co of Worcester

Hill Evans operated the largest vinegar brewery in the world by 1881, but the firm is almost forgotten today.

Cowell, Crane & Kilpin established themselves as British Wine manufacturers on Foregate Street, Worcester in the 1760s.

William Hill (1788 – 1859), a Wesleyan Methodist from Stourport, and Edward Evans (1788 – 1871), a Welsh chemist, acquired the firm from Charles Kilpin (1770 – 1845) in 1829.

Hill and Evans branched out into the production of vinegar. It was not only a highly important commodity for its use as preservative in an era before refrigeration, but the process also utilised the waste from the British Wine production.

Hill Evans was the sixth largest brewer of vinegar in Britain, and the largest producer outside of London, by 1844. 153,875 gallons of vinegar were produced in 1848.

Edward Bickerton Evans (1819 – 1893) and Thomas Rowley Hill (1816 – 1896) had joined their fathers in partnership by 1848. It was the two sons, especially Rowley Hill, who provided the impetus and drive for the business to develop scale. Rowley Hill had been barred from Oxbridge due to his Congregationalist faith, and instead received an education at University College, London.

The Hill Evans works held hundreds of thousands of gallons of vinegar stocks by 1852.

An 1852 chemical analysis of Hill Evans vinegar commissioned by The Lancet, a leading medical journal, asserted that the firm used sulphuric acid, a widely exploited adjunct which reduced maturation times. Hill Evans & Co refuted this, challenging the editor to conduct “the most rigid analysis of their vinegar…by chemists of acknowledged reputation”.

Eminent scientists such as Dr Lyon Playfair (1818 – 1898) were afforded free access to the entirety of the Hill Evans site, as well as their brewing records for the last twenty years. The Lancet was subsequently forced to back down in a rare and humiliating defeat, and acknowledged that sulphate of lime, naturally occurring in the local water, had been mistaken for sulphuric acid.

Bickerton Evans and Rowley Hill were the sole proprietors of the firm by 1858. Rowley Hill was a generous benefactor, with a strong work ethic and high integrity. Bickerton Evans was a down-to-earth Baptist. Hill Evans established a reputation as a model employer.

1,048,229 gallons of vinegar were produced in 1858. This had risen to an annual output of two million gallons of vinegar by 1866, and the firm was by far the largest vinegar producer in Britain, employing around 100 people.

Hill Evans was the largest producer of British Wine in Britain, with an annual production of 130,000 gallons in 1868. By this time the firm had established a London depot at Eastcheap.

Built in around 1870, the filling hall on Pheasant Street contained the large vinegar used vats for storage

Continuing growth saw the firm build a small private railway in 1870 to connect it to the Great Western & Midland Railways.

Rowley Hill and Bickerton Evans retired from the firm in 1874, and distributed a bonus of £1,173 among their 118 employees. They were succeeded by Edward Wallace Evans (1847 – 1901), Thomas William Hill (1843 – 1898) and Edward Henry Hill (1849 – 1911).

Edward Wallace Evans was an excellent businessman, and much of the subsequent growth of the firm was credited to him.

Hill Evans was the largest vinegar brewery in the world by 1881, with annual production of two million gallons a year. A single mash tun had a capacity of 12,307 gallons. There were eleven fermenting vats, each with a capacity of 15,000 gallons. A single storage vat with a capacity of 114,821 gallons was the largest vat in the world. All told, the brewery had a storage capacity of 500,000 gallons of vinegar. The brewery held more than 100,000 casks.

Rowley Hill died in 1896. He left a personal estate valued at £170,322.

Hill Evans became a limited company in 1900, with a share capital of £150,000, in order to pay out the share of the company owed to Thomas William Hill, who had recently died. It was probably the largest business of its kind in the United Kingdom. It had an annual capacity of 1.5 million gallons of vinegar production. Edward Henry Hill became chairman.

Lea & Perrins used Hill Evans vinegar to make their Worcestershire sauce, and Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864 – 1958) joined the Hill Evans board of directors.

In later life Wallace Evans suffered from gout in his hands, and on the advice of his doctor, bandaged his hands in cotton wool. After Evans attempted to light a cigar whilst reading a letter, the wool set alight. Evans died from shock as a result of the subsequent burns in 1901. Curiously, he left a relatively modest net personalty of £10,876. The only son of Wallace Evans appears to have played no active part in the business.

The works covered around seven acres by 1907. Exclusively English grain was used for brewing. The company probably still had the largest vinegar brewing capacity in the world.

Edward Henry Hill died in 1911 and left a net personalty of £147,081. A generous benefactor, he died unmarried.

After the founding families ceased to be involved in management, Hill Evans appears to have been milked as a cash cow, with little inward investment.

Increased competition saw the company suffer from reduced profitability in the early 1960s. Hill Evans lacked the scale of its larger rival British Vinegar.

Hill Evans entered voluntary liquidation in 1967, and the vinegar works were closed. Grade II listed, the vinegar works building is now used by the Territorial Army.