Something fishy: E Lazenby & Sons

Lazenby’s was one of the largest sauce manufacturers in Britain. Fish sauces such as their flagship Harvey’s, was a popular condiment in Victorian homes.

Peter Harvey (1749 – 1812) was a chef to the Duke of Bolton. He later became landlord of the upmarket Black Dog inn at Bedfont, Middlesex, where he gained a keen following for his cuisine.

Among Harvey’s culinary creations was a thin, anchovy-based sauce. In 1793 Harvey gifted the recipe to his sister Elizabeth Lazenby. She and her husband John began its wholesale manufacture at 6 Edward Street (later renamed Wigmore Street), Portman Square, London.

Branded as “Harvey’s Sauce”, by 1807 Elizabeth Lazenby claimed nationwide distribution for her product. Its popularity was such that it inspired numerous counterfeit productions. From 1805 Peter Harvey signed every bottle to confer authenticity. After Harvey’s death, Elizabeth began to sign the bottles herself.

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

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

In 1851 control of the company passed to Elizabeth’s grandson, William Howard Harvey Lazenby (1808 – 1875). In the 1850s the company employed around 25 people, 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 (1835 – 1910). William’s will in 1875 was valued at £50,000 (£5.2 million in 2015). Walter built a large new factory in Bermondsey.

The company expanded to produce a range of pickles and sauces. It exported all around the world, with South Africa and Canada the principal foreign markets.

E Lazenby & Sons was registered as a limited company in 1895. In 1900 Harvey’s Sauce was rebranded as “Lazenby’s Sauce” as the company had lost exclusive rights to the Harvey’s Sauce name.

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 £380,000 in his will (£35 million in 2015).

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

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.

E Lazenby branded products survived in Britain until at least the late 1960s, but production may have ended with the closure of the Bermondsey factory in 1969.

Nestle acquired Crosse & Blackwell in 1960. In the 21st century Nestle sold off their C&B operations, 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 remains a popular Worcestershire sauce brand.

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