The acid test: Slee & Co

Slee & Co was a large London vinegar brewer.

Slee & Co was founded by Noah Slee at Church Street, Horsleydown, London in 1812. He was soon joined by Josias Slee (1773 – 1829), who emigrated to London from Honiton, Devon.

The firm was owned by John Vickers and Noah Slee from 1823 until 1838.

Vickers & Slee was the fifth largest vinegar brewer in Britain and Ireland by 1832. The firm held about seven percent of the market.

In an age before refrigeration, vinegar was a much more important commodity than it is today, due to its preservative effect on foodstuffs.

The company was owned by Noah Slee, William Payne and Edward Richardson Slee (1815 – 1878) in the 1840s. Payne was a brother-in-law.

Noah Slee was declared bankrupt in 1842, and the business continued as Payne & Slee.

Payne & Slee was the fifth largest vinegar brewer in Britain by 1844.

In the 1850s the company traded as Payne, Slee & Payne, after William Payne Jr joined the business.

By 1861 the company employed 36 people. 49 people were employed by 1871.

The premises were struck by fire in 1874.

Batty & Co, sauce and pickle manufacturers of Finsbury Pavement, was acquired in 1874.

From 1878 the business was run by Cuthbert Britton Slee (1818 – 1900) and Herbert Hutton Slee (1853 – 1933) as Slee, Slee & Co.

Export sales began in earnest, principally to New Zealand, from 1889.

The business became a limited company in 1895.

Batty & Co was sold to Heinz, who wanted a British manufacturing facility, in 1905.

Champion & Co, vinegar brewers of City Road, London was acquired to form Champion & Slee Ltd in 1907. The company had a share capital of £140,000. The takeover was motivated by the scope for economies of scale. The Slee brand was phased out, but all production was relocated to the Slee premises, where there was ample room for expansion.

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

In 1929 Champion & Slee was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell, who merged operations with Sarson’s. The Champion brand was phased out in favour of Sarson’s.

The Slee vinegar works were closed in 1992.

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