Strange but true: Meredith & Drew

Meredith & Drew was the largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain by 1946.

William Meredith founded a bakery at Shadwell, London in 1830, with William George Drew (1813 – 1867) as his principal assistant.

After a quarrel, Drew established his own business nearby in 1852. Drew was a biscuit baker employing 30 men by 1861.

William G Drew died of a heart attack in 1867, and his obituary hailed him as “a man of remarkable energy and enterprise”, remembered for his charitable interests. He was succeeded in his business by his wife Barbara, and his son, Lear James Drew (1840 – 1917).

Drew & Sons was using steam-powered machinery to produce over 100 different varieties of biscuit by 1877.

Frederick Meredith and Lear James Drew (1840 – 1917) merged their interests as Meredith & Drew in 1891, with a capital of £107,000.

Meredith & Drew received its first Royal Warrant, from Queen Victoria, in 1894.

The company factory at Shadwell, London was extended in 1896. Production concentrated on the manufacture of biscuits for the public house trade.

Meredith & Drew merged with Wright & Son of Shadwell in 1905 in an exchange of shares. Day-to-day management of the firm was taken over by the shrewd and dynamic Thomas Reuben Wright.

A factory was acquired in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire in 1927.

The London factory was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, and production was permanently relocated to factories at Oldham, Brighouse and High Wycombe. Headquarters had been relocated to Ashby-de-la-Zouch by 1943.

Meredith & Drew advertised itself as “Britain’s biggest biscuit bakers” in 1946. Meredith & Drew had an authorised share capital of £1 million, and 2,500 employees by 1951.

A new biscuit factory at Cinderford, Gloucestershire began production from 1951, with 300 staff, including 150 women. Meredith & Drew divested its Brighouse factory in 1954. Throughout the 1950s the company reduced seven factories to three, with production centralised at Halifax, Cinderford and Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

Meredith & Drew had around five percent of the British crisps market by 1963, with own-label production for Marks & Spencer and a strong presence in the licensed trade.

A new crisp factory was acquired in Lanarkshire in 1963, as the snack product contributed an increasing share of turnover, and the Ashby-de-la-Zouch facility was struggling to meet demand. The Lanarkshire site employed 280 people.

In 1967 the company was strong in own-label production, savoury biscuits, the catering trade and potato crisps. Meredith & Drew, with four percent of the British biscuit market, was acquired by United Biscuits in 1967.

The Meredith & Drew biscuit factory in Halifax employed hundreds of workers in 1968.

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10 thoughts on “Strange but true: Meredith & Drew”

  1. I worked at the factory in Halifax in the summer of 1966, the foreman on the day shift was George Smith. The workers were really nice mostly English with some Indians from Kenya. I leved in Siddle with a Mrs Mcdaid and she worked for Roundtree McIntosh her husband was dead and her children were Joseph and Marita. I hope to visit again one day

    1. Thanks for sharing Liam. What products was the Halifax factory producing, and do you know when the site opened? Cheers, Tom.

      1. The products made at the Club Lane factory Halifax were
        Custard Cream, Bourbon Cream, Ritch Tea, Giner nuts, Coconut Creams, Digestives, and Pink wafers to name but a few.
        I worked there in 1969 and remember the place well, had various roles from a “porter” filling up the lines to working in the paper stores, and down in Ovenden warehouse, and the dispensary making the dough. Hard work but as I was young it did not seem to matter, starting at 07.45 in the morning and finished by 16.45 pm except Friday when we finished at 12.45
        Happy days…..

  2. I managed to persuade a company Base Toys B T models to make models of M & D trucks. Permission was obtained from U B to use their trade name. They can be found at Hattons Liverpool and do come up on ebay. I actually worked there in the late 60s and was interested in transport, John Spence was the transport manager then. I am still trying to find old pics of 50s 60s 70s vehicles of theirs.

    1. I used to work for the golden twin crisp company in Reading Berkshire . They made crisp’s for Marks & Spencers in 1963 it was a small company but fun to work at.

  3. I worked there when I left school for 7 years a bus picked us up in Bolton on dearne to take us to Halifax buiscuit factory it took the bus 2 and a half hours to get there the girls that worked there were great some best years of my life when anybody had a day off you got sent up stairs to the wet end

  4. I have a Meredith & Drew – cheese assorted – biscuit tin, squarish in shape 9″x8.5″x4.75″high. Wording is on an orange background with images of cheese biscuits on a white background. On the side is a weight 2 LBS 8OZ. There is also the name and address, Meredith & Drew Ltd, London, EC2, England. On this website it informs that the company was founded in Shadwell, London in 1830 but I believe Shadwell is EC1. Can anyone advise of an EC2 address as per my tin. I am curious why I have not been able to find anything. Many thanks.

  5. Hi, I was born in 1948 and lived at 29k Juniper Street, Stepney, London. We all left when I was 8 years old to live in Suffolk. whilst in Juniper st, my Mum worked in a large Meredith and Drew biscuit factory which was situated halfway down the said street, which incidentally is a short distance from Shadwell, so this may have been classed as the Shadwell factory.

  6. Mr.Meredith was also behind Merco,(Miniature Exhibition Railway Co)who produced lithos for model railway originally in HO but mainly in OO.The lithos covered coaches and freight vehicles.Can still be found at exhibitions and on e-bay.

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