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.

From 1823 until 1838 the firm was owned by John Vickers and Noah Slee. By 1834 Vickers & Slee was the fifth largest vinegar brewer in Britain.

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

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

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

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

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

In 1874 the premises were struck by fire.

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.

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

Champion & Co, vinegar brewers of City Road, London was acquired in 1907 to form Champion & Slee Ltd. 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 was closed in 1992.

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