Champion & Co: winning vinegar brewers

Champion & Co was one of the largest vinegar brewers in London.

Champion & Co, vinegar brewers of London, was established in 1705.

William Champion (died 1799) had acquired a brewery on City Road by 1794. Upon his death the business was taken over by his son, Thomas Champion (died 1846).

A bottle of Champion’s Celebrated Pure Malt Vinegar, likely dating from the 1920s

 

From 1813 to 1818 the business was known as Champion & Moore, when a Francis Moore joined in partnership. In 1814 the premises was burgled, with £1,000 of valuables stolen.

From 1821 the business was owned by Thomas Champion and Thomas Green, and traded as Champion & Green. In 1830 they were joined by Guy Champion (1786 – 1846), by which time they were manufacturing mustard as well as vinegar.

Champion & Green was the fourth largest vinegar brewer in Britain by 1834. That year, a fire at the works destroyed the building and stock.

According to Charles James Feret, writing in 1900, Guy Champion chanced upon a slave auction whilst in Albania. There he bought a girl, who he brought back to England and married.

Thomas Green had left the business by 1839.

In 1840 the partnership between Guy and Percival Champion, Arthur Mann and William Henry Wright was dissolved. They had been trading under the name Champions, Mann & Wright. The business was transferred to Thomas Champion.

In the 1840s Willis & Wright took over the company, but the Champion family continued to hold a stake.

By 1872 Champion & Co produced well over 1.5 million gallons of vinegar every year. The firm also produced two tons of mustard per day. The works employed 170 workers, almost all skilled.

James Bigwood (1839 – 1919) was the managing partner by 1883. Bigwood was a strong advocate of purity in food products, and was strongly against adulteration.

A new 53,000 gallon vinegar vat was installed in 1883. It took three months to construct from English oak. It joined 46 other similarly-sized vats at the brewery.

There were nearly 200 workmen employed at the brewery by 1883. Many had followed their fathers and grandfathers into the business.

The City Road premises was described as “imposing” in 1890. The brewery was capable of producing up to 10,000 bottles of vinegar every day by 1894.

A Champion & Co bottle, believed to date from the 1890s. Image courtesy of Tim Gunnink

James Bigwood had been joined in the business by his son, James Edward Cecil Bigwood (born 1864) by 1901.

The firm was the oldest established vinegar brewery in London by 1907.

The brewery site, close to the City of London, became highly valuable, and keen to realise its value, James Bigwood and James Edward Cecil Bigwood sold the business to Slee, Slee & Co, a rival vinegar brewer dating to 1812, to form Champion & Slee Ltd in 1907. The company had a share capital of £140,000. Champion production was relocated to the Slee premises at Church Street, Tower Bridge Road, London, where there was ample room for expansion.

A large proportion of production was exported to foreign and colonial markets.

In 1929 Champion & Slee and Sarson’s were acquired by Crosse & Blackwell.

The Champion vinegar brand continued to be advertised until at least the 1950s.

4 thoughts on “Champion & Co: winning vinegar brewers”

  1. Hi,i have a mustard tin by champion of London ,which states it was established in the reign of Queen Anne and as yet having no luck in finding information.Can you help?
    Kind Regards.
    Giovanni.

    1. Champion & Co was established in 1705, during the reign of Queen Anne.

      If you send me a photo of the tin I’d be happy to upload it to this article.

      1. Hi Thomas these are the images i have for this tin…….sorry i do not seem to beable to upload them,especially not being computer illiterate……….I can upload them to a email address,i do not see anything on here to uload….Any help…??????
        Kind Regards G.

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