Fishy tales: E Lazenby & Son

Lazenby’s was one of the largest sauce manufacturers in Britain. Their flagship Harvey’s fish sauce was a popular condiment in Victorian homes.

Peter Harvey
Peter Harvey (1749 – 1812) was a chef to the Duke of Bolton (1720 – 1794). Harvey had left to become the landlord of the Red Lion in Bagshot, a large posthouse with stabling for fifty horses, by 1793.*

Harvey relocated to the Black Dog Inn at Bedfont, Middlesex, situated on the Great Western Road, a major route from London, from 1798. The Black Dog functioned as a posthouse, and as the halfway house between London and Bagshot.

Harvey gained a reputation as a culinary perfectionist. His cuisine gained a keen following among the aristocracy, including the Prince of Wales. Foremost among his offerings was a thin, anchovy-based sauce, which was probably inspired by Burgess’ Essence of Anchovies.**

The Lazenby family grow the business
Peter Harvey gifted the sauce recipe to his sister Elizabeth in 1793. With her husband John Lazenby, provision merchant at 6 Edward Street (renamed Wigmore Street from 1869), Portman Square, London, wholesale manufacture of the sauce commenced.

“Harvey’s Sauce” soon became well-known throughout London. The product had national distribution by 1807. The success of the sauce was such that it inspired numerous counterfeit productions, and Peter Harvey signed every bottle to confer authenticity from 1805. Harvey died in 1812, and Elizabeth began to sign the bottles herself.

Harvey’s Sauce became embedded in contemporary culture. Lord Byron referred to the product in his poem Beppo (1817). Later, Thackeray, Dickens and Edith Wharton would also reference it in their works.

The business was eventually passed to Elizabeth’s sons; Henry Lazenby (1784 – 1851) and Edward Frederick Lazenby (1790 – 1830), who continued to pay their mother an annuity of £300. Henry Lazenby took full control of the business from 1818.

Control of the company had passed to Elizabeth’s grandson, William Howard Harvey Lazenby (1808 – 1875), by 1848.

The business employed around 25 people in the 1850s, rising to 35 men in 1861. That year a factory was opened at Trinity Street, Borough.

William had retired by 1871, and control of the company passed to his son, Walter Lazenby (1835 – 1910). William’s estate was valued at £50,000 in 1875, or roughly £5.2 million in 2015.

Walter Lazenby was to greatly expand the business. He built a large new factory in Bermondsey. He expanded the product range to include a variety of pickles and sauces. Products were exported across the world, with South Africa and Canada the principal foreign markets.

E Lazenby & Son was registered as a limited company with an authorised capital of £300,000 in 1895.

“Harvey’s Sauce” became a genericized trademark, so the product was rebranded as “Lazenby’s Sauce” from 1900 onwards.

By the time Walter Lazenby died in 1910 he had had built the company into one of the largest sauce manufacturers in Britain, with over 600 employees and a worldwide reputation. The Aberdeen Journal described the company’s fish sauce recipe as a “gold mine”, and Lazenby left an estate valued at £377,480.

Charles Lazenby (1863 – 1929) was appointed chairman of the company following the death of his father.

The principal trade was in pickles by 1911. The most popular pickled vegetables were cucumbers (gherkins imported from the South of France), onions (largely imported from the Netherlands) and cauliflower (from Kent and Cambridgeshire). Pickled walnuts (imported from the Netherlands) were also popular. Outside of London, the principal market for Lazenby pickles were the prosperous industrial areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

E Lazenby & Son employed 800 people and had contracts to supply the Army, the Navy, and forces in India, by 1914.

The Crosse & Blackwell/Nestle era
E Lazenby & Son was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell, a large manufacturer of preserved foods, in 1919. Charles Lazenby was appointed to the Crosse & Blackwell board as one of ten directors. The takeover facilitated greater distribution of Lazenby products.

The company left the original Wigmore Street premises in 1922. The Trinity Street factory was closed in 1926 and production was transferred to Bermondsey.

The Bermondsey factory in 2017. Photo credit.

Charles Lazenby died in 1929 with a gross estate valued at £283,278.

Nestle of Switzerland acquired Crosse & Blackwell in 1960. E Lazenby branded foodstuffs continued to be sold in Britain until at least the late 1960s, but production may have ended with the closure of the Bermondsey factory in 1969.

Nestle sold off their Crosse & Blackwell operations in the early 21st century, and the (unused) rights to the E Lazenby name were acquired by Premier Foods. Nestle retains the rights to the Lazenby name in South Africa, where it survives as a popular brand of Worcestershire sauce.

Notes

  • The Red Lion at Bagshot played host to a reconciliation between Pitt the Elder (1708 – 1778), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and John Wilkes (1725 – 1797) following a duel between the two men that ended in both their guns misfiring.
  • An anonymous recollection from 1842 alleges that Charles Combers (c.1752 – 1825), a patron of the Black Dog, gifted his mother’s original sauce recipe to Peter Harvey.
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One thought on “Fishy tales: E Lazenby & Son”

  1. We just dug up a glass bottle from the garden with a slightly deteriorated white cap with red writing “CHEF Elizabeth Lazen…” It must be this sauce company! Thank you for this interesting article. It is an octagonal glass bottle with 1457, 14 and a key on the bottom. Do you by chance know what sauce would have been in it or when it is from? I can’t seem to find any matching photos on the internet. Thank you 🙂

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