Life Saver: James Pascall

James Pascall was one of the largest sugar confectionery manufacturers in Britain, and claimed to have invented the individually-wrapped bon-bon. Pascall remains a leading sweets brand in Australia.

James Pascall (1838 – 1918) was the son of a baker and confectioner in Croydon, London.

James Pascall worked as a salesman for Cadbury before establishing his own confectionery business in partnership with his brother Arthur Pascall. The two brothers had been taught how to make sweets by their father. The first premises was a small two room shop on Wells Street, off Oxford Street, London.

Like many leading Victorian confectioners, the Pascalls were a Quaker family. Many Quakers promoted sweets and biscuits as an alternative to alcohol and smoking.

The business was to prove successful, and operations were relocated to a larger site at Valentine Place on Blackfriars Road from 1877. Ten years later there were 300 employees, mostly women.

A simple-minded employee deliberately burned down the factory in 1887, causing £20,000 worth of damage (£2.5 million in 2015), and leaving only the offices intact. Rival confectionery manufacturers offered Pascall the use of their factories as a stop-gap measure.

By the turn of the century, one of the company’s most successful lines was Golden Maltex, a malt extract confectionery product. In marketing, the company focused on the purity of its products.

James Pascall became a private limited company, with a capital of £50,000, from 1898.

There were over 600 employees by 1902. Like many Quaker-run firms, Pascall enjoyed good relations with its staff. The standard working day was eight hours, and never more than ten hours, even during the busiest periods.

A new factory was established at Mitcham in Surrey in 1904.

James Pascall Ltd employed over 2,000 people in Britain by 1915. The company had a capital of £650,000 (£26 million in 2015) by 1920.

Pascall acquired the licence to manufacture Life Savers for the British market (Rowntree later introduced the Polo mint as an imitation of Life Savers) from 1916.

Pascall formed a joint venture with Cadbury-Fry in the Australian market from 1921, and a factory was established at Hobart, Tasmania.

The Queen and Princess Mary visited the Mitcham factory in 1921. The Prince of Wales awarded the company his royal warrant in 1922.

Company advertising in 1930 claimed that Pascall was the originator of the individually-wrapped bon-bon.

James Pascall died in 1918 and his son, Sydney Pascall (1877 – 1949), was appointed as managing director and chairman. Sydney’s tenure was to end unsuccessfully, as the company struggled with profit losses and an immense overdraft. He resigned as managing director in 1930, and as chairman in 1932.

Edward Cassleton Elliott (1881 – 1964) was appointed chairman in 1932. He was what we would now term a business-turnaround specialist. Elliott reduced capital to £433,000, and soon returned the company to profitability.

The company made a profit before tax of nearly £500,000 in 1957. In both 1957 and 1958 an impressive dividend of 55 percent was paid out. Pascall had just over £2 million in assets by 1959.

Pascall was acquired by Beecham for £2.5 million in cash (£52 million in 2015) in 1959. Pascall directors agreed to the deal, citing the pressure of increasing competition in the confectionery industry.

Beecham merged Pascall with its R S Murray confectionery subsidiary, best known for Murraymints, to create perhaps the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain.

The Chocolate Eclair product (chewy toffee with a milk chocolate centre) was introduced in 1960.

Pascall-Murray lacked sufficient scale to make considerable profit, and Beecham sold the company to Cadbury for £1.75 million in 1964. The following year the Pascall Chocolate Eclair was rebranded as Cadbury’s, and the chocolate in the centre was changed to Dairy Milk.

Cadbury announced the closure of the Mitcham factory, which employed around 1,200 people, in 1970. Production was transferred to Bournville and Bristol. Cadbury gave the reason for the closure as increased capacity at its other factories and persistent problems in sourcing sufficient labour at Mitcham.

The leading Pascall products in 1974 included Eclairs, Murraymints, bon-bons, fruit pastilles and marshmallows. Many of its sweets were sold in shops direct from the jar.

Cadbury expanded its confectionery subsidiary in 1989 with the acquisition of Bassett of Sheffield, best known for Liquorice Allsorts, and Trebor of London, best known for its mints.

Cadbury branded all of its fruit sweets under the Pascall name, and was introducing new Pascall branded products into the late 1990s.

Cadbury divested its British sugar sweets subsidiary to Tangerine Confectionery for £52 million in 2008.

In the UK, Pascall products, such as bon-bons, have since been rebranded under the Bassett’s name. Pascall remains a major brand in Australia and New Zealand, where it remains as the sugar confectionery arm of Cadbury.


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4 thoughts on “Life Saver: James Pascall”

  1. My uncle Jack (Henry J Allison) was a sugar boiler foreman in the 30’s and 40’s and I see that he was employed as Factory Defence (as an ARP ?) during WW2. Does anyone have any info on either the sugar boiler or the factory defence topic?

  2. I have a photo of my great aunt Emily Chappell dressed, my mother told me, as the Pascall chocolate girl. Across her skirts are the words Pascall’s Chocolate (the middle word is undecipherable). I’ve always assumed her picture was used to advertise the products, buy I’d love to know more about it

    1. It sounds like it may be what they called a Poster Ball costume. Poster Balls were fund raisers and participants would dress as their favourite ‘product’ , sometimes sponsored by the company, to compete for a prize which they would donate to charity. They were popular in the 1900s and 1910s and then went out of fashion.

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