Beer we go again: E Smithwick & Sons

How did Smithwick’s rise from relative obscurity to become the largest ale brewer in Ireland?

Origins and the Edmond Smithwick era
The Smithwicks were a well-established and highly-respected Catholic family in Kilkenny, Ireland.

John Smithwick (1763 – 1842) entered into business as a wholesale and general grocer with premises on Kilkenny High Street. From modest beginnings Smithwick grew wealthy, and he leased a distillery at St Francis Abbey, Kilkenny, on behalf of his eldest son, Edmond Smithwick (1801 – 1876), from 1827.

St Francis Abbey is a ruinous former Franciscan abbey built in the early 13th century.

The brewery was built around the historic St Francis Abbey, as seen in this 2007 photograph

An adjoining brewery was acquired on lease from 1833. Ireland had relatively few breweries, numbered at just 207 in 1831, against 5,419 in England. Kilkenny was to prove an advantageous location for the production of beer, given that it was situated in one of the best barley growing regions in Ireland. The brewery soon overtook the distillery to become the predominant business.

Edmond Smithwick hosted Daniel O’Connell (1775 – 1847), the Catholic emancipation campaigner, in 1840. Amongst this fervour of nationalistic mood, there was a revival of a campaign for Irish consumers to purchase Irish-made goods. Smithwick himself argued that if the middle classes supported Irish industry, lower taxes would ensue, as there would be fewer unemployed to support.*

Highly-regarded by the community, Edmond Smithwick was elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1844.

Edmond Smithwick greatly extended and modernised the brewery in 1851. He also hired a highly experienced brewer.

Edmond Smithwick funded an all-expenses paid trip for over 100 employees to the Great Exhibition of Dublin in 1853.

His brother, Daniel Smithwick (died 1869), established a bottling works.

Edmond Smithwick had commenced exports to the British Empire by 1855.

The business traded as E Smithwick & Sons by 1861.

Edmond Smithwick’s wife died in 1864, and Kilkenny witnessed one of the largest funeral processions it had ever seen. Edmond Smithwick was re-elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1864 and 1865.

Edmond Smithwick had spent thousands of pounds on improvements to his site by 1867. It was one of the foremost industrial concerns in the south of Ireland. The brewery employed hundreds of people. Smithwick had a reputation as a fair employer who paid a good wage.

Edmond Smithwick acquired the precinct of St Francis’s Abbey for £3,100 in 1867.

Edmond’s sons take over the business
Edmond Smithwick died in 1877, and the business was continued by his three sons, John William Smithwick (died 1894), Edmond Smithwick (1839 – 1912) and Daniel Smithwick (1840 – 1883).

The business was incorporated as E Smithwick & Sons in 1890.

The brewery employed about 400 people in 1900.

John J Smithwick, the only son of Edmond Smithwick, died in 1911.

The market consolidates
The success of the company in the beginning of the twentieth century was credited to its chairman, Michael Buggy (1855 – 1935), a solicitor.

E Smithwick & Sons was one of only 25 breweries remaining in Ireland by 1917, and one of only 15 to brew stout, porter and ale.

James Sullivan & Co, a rival Kilkenny brewery with a production capacity of 20,000 barrels a year, entered into receivership in 1917, and the assets were acquired by E Smithwick & Sons in 1919. The purchase left E Smithwick & Sons as the sole surviving brewery in Kilkenny.

Richard George Forman (1895 – 1949) joined the company as head brewer after the First World War. He had trained as an analytical chemist in Edinburgh.

The brewery employees went on strike for four weeks in 1921, in protest at an attempt by management to reduce their 48 hours a week by 25 percent.

Strong growth under W A Smithwick
Walter Aloysius Smithwick (1908 – 1993) became a company director from 1931. He was responsible for introducing a large sales team to the business, which was to prove highly successful in increasing revenue. Smithwick’s products had national distribution by 1935. Over 400 licensed establishments in Dublin were supplied by 1937.

E Smithwick & Sons was the oldest and most important industrial concern in Kilkenny by 1937, and employed over 140 people in the city.

E Smithwick & Sons won first prize for best bottle conditioned beer in a British Commonwealth competition in 1937.** Shortly afterwards, the beer was rebranded as Smithwick’s No.1.

The Second World War hampered production, with output reduced to just 6,000 barrels in 1942.

Walter Smithwick became chairman and managing director from 1947. He continued to practise as a solicitor in Kilkenny despite his commitments to the family brewery. Sales grew quickly under his dynamic leadership, and improved distribution saw annual production reach 50,000 barrels by 1952.

The Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk was purchased for £37,500 in order to supplement brewing capacity in 1954. The news was greeted positively, as it presented an opportunity for W A Smithwick to introduce his superior management skills to the acquired business.

Smithwick’s Brewery was registered as a public company with a capital of £500,000 in 1956. That year Guinness, the large Dublin-based brewery, took a stake in the business.

The Dundalk purchase was to prove problematic. Public taste increasingly favoured keg beer, and Smithwick’s lacked sufficient capital to convert the Dundalk brewery for this purpose. The Dundalk brewery was sold to Guinness, who invested to convert the plant to lager production.

E Smithwick & Sons held over 60 percent of the Irish ale market by 1960, a total of around 60,000 barrels a year. The four products were Smithwick’s No.1, a deep gold ale, Smithwick’s Export Ale, Smithwick’s SS Ale, and Smithwick’s Barley Wine.

Vintage bottles of Smithwick’s Barley Wine

Smithwick’s Barley Wine won the Olympic Gold Medal at the World Beer Olympics in 1963.

Takeover by Guinness and investment
Guinness acquired a controlling interest in Smithwick’s in 1964.

Smithwick’s had been slow to anticipate the increased demand for draught beer. It introduced a lager brand, which failed, in part because it lacked the marketing power of Guinness and rival English brewers. Smithwick’s was also struggling with the capital demands of investing in draught beer. Amidst these conditions, Guinness assumed full control of the company in 1965.

Walter Smithwick did not regret his decision to sell the brewery. He knew the business needed large amounts of capital if it was to remain competitive, and to fail to take the business public would have seen it struggle to survive. Smithwick understood that a workforce of 250 were dependant on the brewery for their livelihood.

A new brewhouse was established from June 1965.

Some Smithwick’s bottling had been transferred to Dundalk by 1968.

The Smithwick’s brewery was expanded in 1969.

Hop varieties in use in the early 1970s included Irish-grown Fuggles, Goldings and Bullion. Hop pellets were in use by 1985.

Budweiser was produced under licence at the Kilkenny brewery from 1987. A £1 million investment was made to enable lager production at the brewery.

Growth as an export brand
Kilkenny Irish Beer (c.5% ABV) was introduced, originally as an export-only product, from 1987. The Kilkenny name was chosen as opposed to Smithwick’s as it was easier for non-native English speakers to pronounce. The initial market was Germany.

Draught Smithwick’s for the Northern Ireland market was brewed at Dundalk by 1988. Smithwicks Ale bottling was transferred to Dundalk as part of a rationalisation drive from 1989.

Export sales of Smithwick’s and Kilkenny increased by over one third in 1994, with a large market in Canada.

Domestic sales of Smithwick’s declined every year from the mid-1980s, and ale comprised just ten percent of the Irish beer market by 1995.

A reduced-strength (4.3% ABV) version of Kilkenny Irish Beer was introduced to the Irish market from 1995. A Guinness executive explained that it was a different beer from Smithwick’s. It was a premium-priced product, and was intended to revitalise the declining ale category, and prevent the newly-launched Caffrey’s, a rival Irish ale from Bass, from taking market share.

Dundalk brewed all bottled and canned Smithwick’s, including the Barley Wine, by 1995.

Production of Smithwick’s beer for the domestic market had been transferred to the Guinness-owned Cherry’s Brewery in Waterford by 1997.

43,000 hectolitres (75 million pints) of Kilkenny Irish Beer had been sold across 53 different countries in 1999. The beer was sold in 1,860 domestic Irish pubs.

The Kilkenny Brewery employed 150 people in 2000. It was an efficient site, but was suffering from capacity constraints.

Smithwick’s Barley Wine was discontinued in 2001.

The front of the St Francis Abbey brewery, Kilkenny (2012)

The Kilkenny and Dunalk breweries were closed in 2013, with production relocated to St James’s Gate, Dublin, the home of Guinness.

Ale (all ale, not just Smithwick’s) held a seven percent share of the Irish beer market in 2017.

Notes
* It remains unclear exactly which Mr Smithwick was speaking at this Kilkenny meeting, but Edmond Smithwick (1801 – 1877) is the most likely.
** The name of the awarding body was the Brewing Trade Review Bottled Beer Exhibition

Water way to go: Apollinaris

Apollinaris was the highest-selling mineral water in the world.

Establishment of the company and growth
The Apollinaris spring is situated in the German Rhineland. It is an alkaline and highly-aerated water, and contains sodium chloride and calcium, sodium and magnesium carbonates.

The Apollinaris spring began to be commercially exploited, in a modest way, from 1852 onwards.

George Murray Smith (1824 – 1901) was a successful London publisher. He first encountered Apollinaris spring water whilst dining with Ernest Hart (1835 – 1898), the editor of the British Medical Journal, in 1872. Smith appreciated its taste, and determined to acquire the spring.

George Murray Smith (1824 – 1901) in 1901

Smith partnered with Edward Steinkopff (1838 – 1906), a Frankfurt-born merchant, to establish a British company with the worldwide distribution rights to Apollinaris water in 1873.

The Apollinaris Company Limited had its head office at 19 Regent Street, London. Steinkopff became company chairman and Julius Charles Prince (1851 – 1914) was appointed as managing director.

Murray Smith was a skilled businessman, and he organised faster, more efficient and safer distribution of Apollinaris from Germany. Meanwhile, Steinkopff was praised for his high energy, and his bold and prudent business decisions.

Company growth was to prove swift; just under 1.8 million bottles were sold in 1874, rising to over ten million bottles in 1881.

The brand soon established a prestigious reputation. Queen Victoria used Apollinaris as a mixer for Scotch whisky or claret.

Over 19.5 million bottles were sold in 1895.

Foundation of a public company
Apollinaris acquired Johannis, a rival German mineral water producer, for around £400,000 in 1897.

Apollinaris & Johannis was formed as a public company with a capital of £2,380,000 from 1897. Steinkopff and Smith divested their shares, largely to Frederick Gordon (1835 – 1904), the pioneer of the first modern hotel in London. Gordon became president of the company.

Apollinaris & Johannis merged with A & F Pears, a struggling soap manufacturer, in 1898. The amalgamation was organised by Gordon, who insisted that there were cost-efficiencies in distribution and sales between the two companies, although the contemporary press remained sceptical.

Apollinaris & Johannis held Royal Warrants to supply the King and the Prince of Wales by 1902.

Over 30 million bottles of Apollinaris were sold in the 1905-1906 financial year.

Steinkopff died in 1906 with an estate valued at £1.2 million.

Apollinaris was a popular culture staple, especially among the middle and upper classes. It was referenced by many leading novelists of the era, including Henry James, Edith Wharton and James Joyce.

A & F Pears was acquired by Lever Brothers in 1914.

War time troubles
Only Perrier could rival Apollinaris as the best known sparkling mineral water in Britain by 1914.

Apollinaris & Johannis Ltd had a capital of over £3 million by 1915. The company employed about 100 clerical staff and 60 to 80 warehouse staff.

Post-war economic chaos in Europe severely hampered company operations, and exports faced the challenge of increasing import tariffs across the world.

Apollinaris & Johannis was forced to diversify, and a range of British-produced soft drinks had been introduced by under the Presta brand by 1930.

The company changed its name to Apollinaris & Presta from 1931.

The increasing value of the German currency in the 1930s made Apollinaris increasingly expensive. The German government had introduced a moratorium by 1936, which prevented Apollinaris & Presta from withdrawing funds from the Nazi-controlled country.

Exports from Germany had been highly restricted by 1939.

Apollinaris & Presta were appointed sole distributors of Perrier water in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1938-9.

Decline
The Apollinaris spring was expropriated by Heinrich Himmler’s SS from 1943.

British rationing controls also restricted the company from producing Presta soft drinks between 1943 and 1948.

Control of the Apollinaris spring and bottle works were regained in 1947-48. The site had been starved of investment during the war years.

Apollinaris & Presta entered into financial difficulty, and lost its stock market quotation in 1955. The spring and bottling works were acquired by Dortmunder Union, a German brewery. Schweppes acquired Presta and the distribution rights for Apollinaris across the British Commonwealth and the Americas.

Schweppes took a 28 percent stake in the German parent company from 1991.

Schweppes acquired the 72 percent of Apollinaris that it did not already own from Brau & Brunnen, the successor to Dortmunder Union, for €151 million in 2002.

Apollinaris was acquired by Coca-Cola for an undisclosed sum in 2006.

Apollinaris remains popular in Germany, where it is the second-highest selling sparkling mineral water. Presta is also still sold in Germany.

Meta post #3: historical context

When the media reported on the failure of the Thomas Cook travel company in 2019, I saw a spike in page views for my history of the business.

The quality of business news in British broadsheets is generally very good. However what journalists often overlook is the historical context of huge events such as when a business enters into administration.

Just look at when Stead & Simpson, one of the largest shoe retailers in Britain, entered into administration in 2008. Nobody reported that the 174 year old business had once been the largest footwear manufacturer in the world. This was information that a busy journalist, working to a deadline, simply does not have the time to find out. So the story was reported as a high street misfortune, rather than as the culmination of a slow and steady decline for a once huge and influential business.

Stead & Simpson was not just another high street brand; it had historically employed thousands of people, and the Gee family, who controlled the company in the early twentieth century, played an influential role in the establishment of the University of Leicester.

Stead & Simpson represented a rare survivor of the once-vast East Midlands shoe-making industry, and had managed to avoid being swallowed up by the J Sears & Co business that came to control much of British shoe retailing in the mid to late twentieth century.

I would argue that a greater awareness of historical context helps us to better understand the future and the present, as well as the past.

A history of Lambert & Butler

Lambert & Butler is the leading cigarette brand in the United Kingdom.

Lambert & Butler establish the business
Charles Lambert (1814 – 1887) and Charles Butler (1813 – 1882) established a cigar manufacturing business at 38 St John Street in Clerkenwell, London from 1834.

Lambert & Butler relocated to 142 Drury Lane, near Covent Garden, from 1838. The business began to manufacture tobacco, as well as cigars.

Lambert & Butler showcased their English cigars, made from Havana tobacco, at the Great Exhibition of 1851. As a curiosity, the firm also exhibited a sample of English-grown tobacco, raised in Cambridgeshire.

Lambert & Butler had extended their premises to include 141 and 142 Drury Lane by 1852.

Lambert & Butler were advertising across England by 1863.

The next generation takeover management; mass-production of cigarettes begins
The sons of the founders, Charles Edward Lambert (1843 – 1910) and Charles Butler Jr (1848 – 1898), entered into the partnership in the 1860s. Their skilled management was to afford the business considerable impetus.

Lambert & Butler had a capital of £87,200 in 1870.

Charles Butler Sr died with an estate valued at over £47,000 in 1882.

The Drury Lane premises buildings were demolished and rebuilt in 1895. A Luddington cigarette machine was installed. Machine-made cigarettes had lower production costs, and rendered cigarettes affordable for the working classes.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Lambert & Butler had grown to become the third largest tobacco business in Britain, after Wills and Cope Brothers. Lambert & Butler had an excellent marketing department, but competition with Wills was hampered by the more efficient patented methods of production at their major rival.

Charles Butler Jr died in 1898 with an estate valued at £79,558.

The firm was converted into a private limited liability company, Lambert & Butler Ltd, with an authorised capital of £450,000, in 1899.

Lambert & Butler joins Imperial Tobacco
Imperial Tobacco was formed in 1901 as a combine of British manufacturers designed to combat the encroachment of American Tobacco into their country. Lambert & Butler joined as the second largest constituent of the group. Day to day operations at Lambert & Butler continued unchanged.

A large extension of the factory and offices at Drury Lane was completed in 1908.

Charles Edward Lambert died of heart failure in 1910. His estate was valued at £659,193. Photographs of Lambert depict a quintessentially patriarchal Edwardian figure, a mustachioed, well-built fellow who was rarely seen without a cigar in hand.

Walter Butler (1857 – 1913), a member of the Imperial Tobacco executive committee, died in 1913. He left a gross estate valued at £175,599.

Charles Rupert Butler (1873 – 1915) became managing director of Lambert & Butler until his sudden death from heart failure in 1915.

The First World War created a shortage of labour; 96 percent of male Lambert & Butler employees had either enlisted or attested by April 1916. Women were hired to provide cover for the enlisted men.

The principal concern was the manufacture of pipe tobacco by 1928. By this time there was a cigarette factory at Margravine Road, Fulham.

Lambert & Butler launched Varsity, the first filter-tipped cigarette from Imperial Tobacco, in 1936. It was withdrawn from sale around 1940 due to low demand.

Closure of the factory; introduction of the Lambert & Butler King Size cigarette
The sole remaining Lambert & Butler factory was closed in 1958. Its antiquated design meant it was nearly half as efficient as the highest-performing Imperial Tobacco facility. Lambert & Butler production continued at other Imperial Tobacco subsidiary companies. The Lambert & Butler brand accounted for just 0.2 percent of Imperial Tobacco cigarette sales.

The Drury Lane headquarters were closed in 1961.

Lambert & Butler was a relatively small subsidiary throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus on cigars and pipe tobacco.

The Lambert & Butler King Size cigarette was launched in 1979, and was to quickly prove a huge success.

Lambert & Butler King Size was the highest-selling cigarette brand in the United Kingdom by 2008.

Raising the Barr: a history of Irn-Bru

A G Barr is one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Britain, where its leading product, Irn-Bru, is the third highest selling soft drink.

Robert Barr (1834 -1904) was born in Falkirk, Scotland, a sizeable town roughly located between Glasgow and Edinburgh. He initially followed his father into the cork-cutting trade.

The cork-cutting trade came under threat with the rise of the screw-stopper, so Robert Barr established a soft drinks business in Falkirk from 1873. Barr had likely been exposed to the soft drinks trade through his cork-cutting business, and probably noted its high growth potential.

The soft drinks enterprise employed five men, three girls and two boys by 1881.

Robert Barr was a Liberal in politics, a keen sportsman, and a generous benefactor to charitable causes.

Andrew Greig Barr (1872 – 1903), son of Robert Barr, managed the Falkirk business from 1890. He had originally served an apprenticeship as a banker, a profession for which he demonstrated great potential.

A sister factory was established at 184 Great Eastern Road, Glasgow, and Andrew Greig Barr managed it from around 1892. He would develop it into the largest carbonated soft drinks factory in Scotland.

Robert Barr had passed full control of the soft drinks business to Andrew Greig Barr by 1899.

Iron Brew was introduced from 1901. It was based on an American soft drink of the same name, first produced in the late nineteenth century. The Barr recipe contains 32 flavouring ingredients, mostly originating from India, including “fruit essences”, quinine and curry powder.

The Falkirk and Glasgow works employed at least 500 workers by 1903.

Andrew Greig Barr contracted typhoid fever and died from acute pneumonia in 1903. He left a personal estate valued at £18,409.

Upon the death of their brother, Robert Fulton Barr (1868 – 1918) and William Snodgrass Barr (born 1881) became joint-managing directors of A G Barr & Co.

Robert Barr died of heart failure in 1904.

A workforce of around 1,000 were employed by 1913.

The Parkhead site was significantly expanded in 1914, to create one of the largest soft drinks factories in Britain.

A G Barr & Co was the largest soft drinks manufacturer in Scotland by 1918.

Robert Fulton Barr died in 1918, and the business was continued by William Snodgrass Barr.

W S Barr passed the chairmanship of the company to his nephew, Colonel Robert Barr, from 1931.

The Parkhead site in Glasgow was the largest soft drinks factory in Britain by 1931, and employed around 100 people.

A small amount of iron was present in Iron Brew from 1937 onwards.

Government rationing regulations saw Iron Brew withdrawn from sale between 1942 and 1948. A G Barr continued to advertise Iron Brew during this period. When Iron Brew was reintroduced to the British market it was renamed Irn-Bru in order to differentiate the drink from competing products.

Robert Barr became chairman from 1947.

A G Barr & Co went public in 1965.

Irn-Bru dominated the Scottish soft drink market by the early 1970s.

Tizer, the Manchester-based soft drinks manufacturer, was purchased for £2.5 million in 1972. The acquisition transformed A G Barr into the largest specialist soft drinks manufacturer in Britain.

Robin Barr became chairman from 1978.

Mandora, the soft drinks subsidiary of the Mansfield Brewery, was acquired for £21.5 million in cash in 1988. Mandora employed a workforce of 400 at its factory on Bellamy Road, Mansfield. The deal transformed A G Barr into the third largest soft drinks manufacturer in Britain. A G Barr invested £300,000 to upgrade the warehousing facilities at the Mansfield site in 1988.

Irn-Bru had distribution across Britain by 1992.

Only Robin Barr and one other unnamed individual know the 32 secret ingredients for Irn-Bru. Robin Barr personally mixes the 32 ingredients himself.

King-sized: a history of Rothmans of Pall Mall

Rothmans established the largest mail-order cigarette business in Britain. Rothmans later grew to become the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the world.

Establishment
Louis Rothman (1868 – 1926) was born in Kiev, then a part of the Russian Empire. He gained experience of the tobacco trade whilst apprenticed to his uncle in Kiev, who controlled the largest cigarette manufacturer in South Russia.

Louis Rothman (1868 – 1926), date unknown

Rothman emigrated to Britain at the age of 17. He worked for a cigarette manufacturer before entering into business for himself two years later. L Rothman & Co was established with a small shop on Fleet Street, London in 1890. Rothman initially hand-rolled the cigarettes himself.

Rothman became a naturalised British subject from 1896.

L Rothman & Co relocated to 5 and 5a Pall Mall from 1900.

Marcus Weinberg (1859 – 1923) was a Jewish emigre from what is now part of Poland. He controlled Weinberg & Co, one of the longest-established cigarette manufacturers in London. Rothman and Weinberg merged their interests to form the Yenidje Tobacco Company Ltd from 1913. Following a vicious dispute with Weinberg, after which neither partner would speak to the other, Rothman bought out full control of the venture in 1917.

Introduction of the Pall Mall cigarette and the mail-order business model
Pall Mall cigarettes became the leading Rothmans brand.* They contained a blend of South Carolina tobacco and Virginia leaf. The cigarette was supplied to the House of Lords by 1920. Pall Mall cigarettes were advertised as, “less liable to stain the fingers and may be smoked constantly without affecting the most delicate throat”, due to containing less nicotine than any other brand.

Rothmans converted to a wholesale business model from 1922. By supplying customers directly through mail-order, prices were immediately reduced by 25 to 33 percent. The cigarettes typically reached the consumer within a few days after production, which helped to preserve product freshness.

Sydney Rothman (1897 – 1995) entered into partnership with his father from 1923.

L Rothman & Co sales increased fourfold between 1922 and 1926.

Louis Rothman died in 1926. He was remembered as a generous and charitable man.

Conversion into a public company
L Rothman & Co became a public company with a capital of £220,000 from 1929.

Rothmans supported its mail-order supply business with extensive newspaper advertising. It was the largest mail-order cigarette manufacturer in Britain by 1932.

Over one billion Rothmans cigarettes were supplied to the British armed forces during the Second World War.

Acquisition by the Rembrandt Tobacco Group
Following the war home market sales were negligible, and the business was acquired by the Rembrandt Tobacco Group, controlled by Anton Rupert (1916 – 2006), for £750,000 in 1954.

Sydney Rothman was retained as chairman of Rothmans, and his technical advice was to prove invaluable.

Rupert had been the first person to introduce the king-size cigarette in his native South Africa. Sales grew rapidly after Rupert introduced the king-size filter-tip cigarette to the Rothmans product range.

Rothmans King Size cigarette advertisement, c. mid 1960s

Rothmans maintained the last brougham, a four-wheeled horse-driven carriage, in London. Built in 1865, it was used to deliver tobacco to West End clubs and restaurants. Its maintenance costs ran to £3,000 a year by 1956.

A cigarette factory was established in Toronto, Canada from 1957. Rothmans was the highest-selling king-size filter cigarette in the Commonwealth.

Acquisition of Carreras
In 1958 Rembrandt gained control of Carreras, manufacturer of Craven A cigarettes, and merged the company with Rothmans. The combined company held three percent of the British tobacco market.

Sydney Rothman retired as chairman of Rothmans in 1979.

The Rothmans brougham was still in use until at least as late as 1980.

Rothmans held 39 percent of the Australian cigarette market by 1983.

Global scale and absorption by British American Tobacco
Rothmans was the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in the world by 1991, with two percent of the global market.

Rothmans was acquired by British American Tobacco for $7.6 billion in 1999. Rothmans remains one of the leading cigarette brands of British American Tobacco as of 2019.

Notes
* The Rothman’s Pall Mall cigarette is not connected to the Pall Mall cigarette manufactured by R J Reynolds in the United States.

Pitch perfect: a history of Mitre

Mitre is one of the largest football manufacturers in the world.

Early history
Benjamin Crook (1764 – 1834) traded as a currier, a worker in the leather industry who applies the finishing techniques to tans, in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Crook established his own tannery in Huddersfield from 1817.

His son, Benjamin Crook Jr (1809 – 1883), was a currier at Bradleys Buildings, Huddersfield by 1841. Benjamin Crook Jr relocated his currying business to Fitzwilliam Street and employed three men by 1851. Footballs were produced from 1862.

Benjamin Crook Jr died in 1883, and the business was continued by his sons, George Henry Crook (1842 – 1901), and Frederick Crook (1852 – 1912).

Following the death of Frederick Crook in 1912 it appears that William Clifford Crook (1884 – 1959), the son of George Henry Crook, took control of the business.

Mass production
During the First World War Benjamin Crook & Sons produced leather ammunition pouches for the British army, and haversacks for the French army.

Benjamin Crook & Sons held perhaps ten to 20 percent of the British football market by 1922. One of its major competitors was Sykes of Horbury.

Benjamin Crook & Sons had become a limited company by 1926. About 140 people were employed at the factory. Tens of thousands of footballs were produced every year, and three footballs a minute were produced during the working day.

Demand boomed during the post-war period. The Mitre brand was introduced for footballs from 1949.

William Clifford Crook died in 1959.

Sale of the company
Grampian Holdings, a Glasgow-based conglomerate, acquired Benjamin Crook & Sons for nearly £195,000 in 1962.

Mitre provided the official ball for the England national team from 1962.

Mitre entered the football boot market from 1966.

Mitre relocated to the Bay Hall Works in Birkby, Huddersfield from the late 1960s.

Mitre became the official football of the English Football League from the 1970s.

Mitre enters the United States market and is acquired by Genesco
Mitre began to develop the United States market from 1975.

Genesco, a Tennessee-based manufacturer of footwear and clothing, acquired the licence to sell Mitre clothing and equipment throughout North America from 1981.

Mitre closed two factories due to economic recession in 1981, one in Northampton with 80 employees, and one in Kettering with 38 workers. A reduction of orders saw the Huddersfield site staff downsized from 300 to 213.

United States sales of Mitre products increased from $1 million to $25 million between 1984 and 1989. Mitre became the leading supplier of football boots in the United States, with a 35 percent market share in 1989.

Genesco acquired Mitre for £17 million in 1992. Genesco hoped to capitalise on the increasing popularity of football in America during the 1994 World Cup.

Mitre was one of the leading suppliers of footballs and football boots in the world by 1995, and the leading football and football boot supplier in the UK. Mitre was also a leading supplier of rugby and cricket footwear.

The Sunday Times reported in May 1995 that Mitre footballs were being stitched by children as young as six in Pakistan, at a rate of 10p per hour. The newspaper described the work as “a modern form of slave labour”.

Duncan Bembridge of Mitre responded swiftly:

Mitre Sports International do not condone in any form the use of child labour. Agreements with our factories in Pakistan clearly state our policy and we have written assurances that child labour is not being used to stitch Mitre balls.

As a father, and a director of a highly principled international company, I am totally committed to stamping out child slavery.

Acquisition by Pentland Group
Genesco entered into financial difficulty, and sold Mitre Sports to Pentland Group for $11.4 million (£7.2 million) in 1995. Pentland announced plans to increase marketing spend behind the brand and improve international distribution.

Mitre lost the prestigious contract to supply the Premier League football to Nike in 2000.

After 44 years, the England football team switched from Mitre to Umbro footballs from 2006.

Mitre has continuously provided the official match balls for the English Football League since 1962. Its is currently contracted to continue to do so until at least 2019.

Mitre ranked among the largest football manufacturers in the world as of 2019. Its major rivals in this field are Adidas, Nike, Puma, Asics, Mizuno and Umbro.

Spice of life: Drysdale Dennison

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper into Britain.

Wallis & Co was a mustard, chicory (a popular coffee substitute) and spice merchant of 20 Duke Street, London Bridge. The Wallis family were Quakers from Northamptonshire.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale (1830 – 1867), originally from Perth in Scotland, was the manager of Wallis & Co by 1857.

Drysdale had entered into the firm as a partner by 1864, and the business began to trade as Wallis & Drysdale.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale died in 1867, and his stake passed to his brother, Hector Drummond Drysdale (1828 – 1902).

Hector Drysdale bought out the Wallis family stake to take full control of the business in 1878. By this time there were premises on 131 Upper Thames Street and Dock Street. The location close to the Thames was convenient for receiving imported spices.

The firm was trading as Drysdale Dennison by 1883. It was one of the best known pepper merchants in the world.

James Samuel Gray (1876 – 1935) joined the company in 1889.

Gray merged White Palmer, a long-established London spice merchant, with Drysdale Dennison to form the British Pepper and Spice Co Ltd, a public company with a nominal capital of £160,000, in 1933. The office was at 31 Queen Victoria Street, Eastcheap.

The head office was relocated to 7 New Court, Lincoln’s Inn in 1948.

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper in Britain by 1959. The factory was located just off Petticoat Lane in London.

Burton Son & Sanders of Ipswich, specialist food manufacturers and distributors to the bakery trade, acquired the British Pepper & Spice Co in 1967.

Amidst falling profits at Burton Son & Sanders, Matthews Holdings, a food retailer, acquired the company for £1 million in 1969.

Matthews Holdings and S W Berisford merged their spice and pepper interests in a joint venture called British Pepper & Spice in 1971.

British Pepper & Spice Co was acquired by Hunter Saphir in 1987.

The factory and head office of British Pepper & Spice was located in Northampton by this time. 160 people were employed there in 1993.

Hunter Saphir was acquired by Albert Fisher for £29 million in 1993. Two months later British Pepper & Spice was sold to Burns Philp of Australia for £25 million in cash. Burns Philp intended to build a global spice business large enough to challenge the dominance of McCormick of the United States. Burns Philp already owned the R T French and Durkee range of spices in America.

However Burns Philp entered into financial difficulty, and British Pepper & Spice was subject to a management buyout for £7.6 million in 1998.

British Pepper & Spice was acquired by SHS Group of Belfast, which owns brands such as WKD and Shloer, in 2004.

Still based in Northampton, British Pepper & Spice is a major supplier of supermarket own-label herbs and spices, as well as for producers such as Heinz and Premier Foods.

Holy spirit: Tanqueray

Tanqueray is one of the highest selling gin brands in the world.

Charles Tanqueray
Charles Tanqueray (1810 – 1865) was the son of the Reverend Edward Tanqueray (1762 – 1847), rector of Tingrith in Befordshire.

With his elder brother Edward (1805 – 1838), Charles was apprenticed as ginmaker to Currie & Co of Bromley by Bow, one of the largest distilleries in London.

The two Tanqueray brothers partnered with Arthur Currie (1804 – 1875) to takeover the Bloomsbury Distillery, an established gin manufacturer at 3 Vine Street, Bloomsbury, in 1835. The building has not survived, but the street still exists, and has been renamed Grape Street.

Charles Tanqueray was an ambitious man, and he wanted to create a gin to rival, or even better, those of Felix Booth (1775 – 1850) and Alexander Gordon. He experimented ceaselessly through trial and error to perfect his recipe, and finally settled on just four botanicals: juniper, angelica root, liquorice and coriander seeds, the same four used by Tanqueray today.

Edward Tanqueray died in 1838, and Charles was assisted by his brother John Samuel Tanqueray (1817 – 1902) in the 1840s and 1850s.

Arthur Currie left the partnership in 1847.

Charles Waugh Tanqueray
Charles Tanqueray died in 1865 and the business was managed by his brother William Henry Tanqueray (1814 – 1887). Charles Waugh Tanqueray (1848 – 1931), the son of Charles Tanqueray, took over the distillery upon completion of an apprenticeship to a grocer in 1867.

Charles Waugh Tanqueray was perhaps more commercially-minded than his father, and under his leadership sales grew and exports increased. A keen sportsman, he was an upright Christian gentleman with a keen social conscience and a determined character.

Most Tanqueray gin was sold at a strength of 40.19 percent ABV in 1877. Some gin was also sold at 35.19 percent ABV.

Tanqueray Gordon and acquisition by Distillers
Charles Waugh Tanqueray approached Reginald Charles Wilford Currie (1854 – 1922), the proprietor of Gordon & Co, gin distillers of Goswell Road, London, regarding a merger of their two companies in 1897.

The two businesses merged to form Tanqueray, Gordon & Co, a company with a capital of £500,000, in 1898. R C W Currie became the managing director, and Charles Waugh Tanqueray took the opportunity to retire.

Following the merger all production was centralised at the Gordon distillery at 132 Goswell Road. Gordon’s London Dry Gin became the priority brand.

Harry Aubrey Tanqueray (1907 – 1982) was the only grandson of C W Tanqueray. He became a stockbroker, and does not appear to have been affiliated with the gin business.

Largely due to the growth of the temperance movement and a substantial rise in excise duty, alcohol consumption in Britain declined in the period following the First World War.

Perhaps as a way to make up for declining sales at home, Tanqueray was first exported to the United States from around 1918.

Tanqueray Gordon was acquired by the Distillers Company, which was heavily involved in consolidating the spirits industry, in 1922.

R C W Currie, managing director of Tanqueray Gordon, died in 1922.

Tanqueray Gordon was by far the largest gin distiller in the world by 1926.

Charles Waugh Tanqueray outlived his only son Charles Henry Drought Tanqueray (1875 – 1928), and died in 1931.

During the Second World War the Goswell Road site was nearly destroyed during the Blitz.

The Tanqueray green bottle was introduced from 1948.

The growth of Tanqueray overseas
Tanqueray began to marketed and advertised in earnest in the United States from the mid-1950s.

The premium-priced product became popular among affluent Southern Californians, and American sales took off from there. British gin was popular because it was smoother than its American counterpart, and was to prove a good mixer for a Martini cocktail.

A 1969 advertisement in Newsweek

100,000 cases were sold in the United States in 1961. Sales doubled in 1964. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack became fond of Tanqueray martinis at the Buena Vista Social Club in San Francisco.

United States sales rose by 1700 percent over a four year period. Over 85 percent of the Goswell Road output was shipped to the United States by the 1960s.

John P Tanqueray (1934 -2012), the great grandson of Charles Tanqueray, had been appointed export manager for Tanqueray by 1969. He credited the success of Tanqueray in the United States to snob appeal, “our product appeals to status seekers and consumers who want an outstanding gin”.

Tanqueray became one of the leading spirit brands in the world. 600,000 cases of Tanqueray were exported to the United States in 1975, where it was the highest proof gin, and generally the most expensive.

United States sales reached one million cases in 1979, second only to Beefeater in imported gin.

A new distillery and recent developments
The Goswell Road site struggled to keep up with increasing demand, and production was transferred to a purpose-built 26 acre distillery in Laindon, Essex from 1984.

Charles Tanqueray & Co won a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1985.

Guinness acquired Distillers in 1986.

John P Tanqueray retired as commercial director of Tanqueray Gordon in 1989.

Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. The combination of two spirits giants left the company with an excess of productive capacity. As a result, the Laindon distillery was closed with the loss of 220 jobs in 2000, and all production was relocated to Cameronbridge in Scotland.

Tanqueray held over 50 percent of the United States gin market in 2002.

The future for Tanqueray looks solid; global sales grew by 15 percent in 2018.

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.