Money-making Machin: Batger & Co

By the turn of the twentieth century Batger & Co was one of the largest confectioners in Britain. It was best known for Chinese Figs, Jersey Caramels and Silmos Lollies.

Batger & Co was established by a Miss Batger in 1748. The Batger family were sugar refiners of New Road, St George, Middlesex. By 1783 John Batger had moved to 16 Bishopsgate Street, London, where by at least 1814 he had established a confectionery business.

Batger & Co had a four-storey factory at 15-16 Bishopsgate Street by 1847.

Batger & Co was acquired by Samuel Hanson & Son of Botolph Lane in 1856.

A new factory was established at 103 Broad Street, Ratcliff, London in 1863. The Bishopsgate premises were divested.

Frederick Machin (1826 – 1902) had acquired Batger & Co by 1864. In 1871 the company employed 200 people. “Harlequin” Christmas crackers began to be produced from 1872.

By 1875 the factory covered two acres, all built upon. 450 people were employed; rising to 550 at Christmas and 700 during the English fruit season, when jam was made. Around 2,000 tons of sugar and 1,000 tons of English fruits were used each year. Machinery was used extensively.

From 1855 Frederick Arnold was the general manager of the company. He was a kind man and an effective manager. He led a content workforce, for whom annual excursions were organised. Arnold was dismissed in 1880 for extensively stealing from the company, and sentenced to 14 months hard labour.

Batger & Co employed 400 people (250 men, 100 women and 50 boys) by 1881. They were one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London.

14 tons of rotten fruit were seized from the Broad Street factory by the local health authority in 1895.

Frederick Machin died in 1902 with an estate valued at £59,887. Control of the firm passed to his son, Stanley Machin (1861 – 1939).

By 1902 Batger was one of the largest confectionery companies in the United Kingdom. By 1909 the company employed well over 1,000 people. During the First World War the company won a lucrative contract to supply the Army with jam.

Batger & Co was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell in 1920 for £522,902. Batger retained its old management, and in 1923 was the sole profitable Crosse & Blackwell subsidiary. However Crosse & Blackwell directors found that a confectionery firm was a poor fit for a company largely concerned with preserves.

In 1926 Crosse & Blackwell divested Batger & Co Ltd as a private company under the sole control of Stanley Machin and Joseph Hetherington (1873 – 1937), who had both been associated with the firm for over forty years.

In 1926 there was a strike at the Broad Street factory. The striking employees were all dismissed.

Stanley Machin died in 1939. An obituary hailed him as one of the “leaders of commercial life in the City of London”.

The Broad Street factories were destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. A new factory was opened at 44 Southside, Clapham Common.

In 1969 Batger made a loss of £66,000 on a turnover of £1.2 million. Its net asset value was £301,000.

Batger & Co was acquired by Needlers Ltd of Hull, a confectionery firm, for £263,000 in cash in 1970. The Batger factory in Clapham was closed in 1971, with production relocated to Hull. Two Batger directors, J Hetherington and C Machin, joined Needlers.

The last remaining Batger’s product, Chinese Figs, was discontinued around the year 2000.

In 2002 the Needlers business was acquired by Ashbury Confectionery of Corby, which continues to trade.

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