Go nuts: Kenyon Son & Craven

Today, the KP brand is best known for peanuts, crisps and chocolate dip pots.

Charles Kenyon (1832 – 1893) was born at Brierley, South Yorkshire. He served an apprenticeship to a confectioner in Barnsley, before establishing his own business on College Street, Rotherham, from 1853. His principal product was jam.

Kenyon relocated production to Morpeth Street in Rotherham to cope with increasing demand, and was joined by his son, Harry Kenyon (1862 – 1932). He employed 27 people (five men, five boys, eight women and nine girls) by 1881.

Charles Kenyon became an alderman, representing the Liberal party. A keen Wesleyan Methodist, it was through the church that he met Matthew Smith Craven (1845 – 1923), who produced jam from a large factory on Scarborough Street in Hull.

Kenyon and Craven merged their interests in 1891, and the firm was incorporated as Kenyon, Son & Craven. Pickles, sauces and confectionery were produced, as well as jam.

The Hull factory was divested in 1930, and all production was concentrated at Rotherham.

Harry Kenyon died in 1932, and left a gross estate valued at £2,081.

Simon Heller (1906 – 1989) of the Leeds-based Hercules Nut Company became chairman in 1943. A new 40,000 sq ft factory at Eastwood, Rotherham was established in 1947. After his factory in Leeds burned down, Heller acquired Kenyon, Son & Craven in 1948, and began to produce roasted and salted hazelnuts.

KP salted peanuts were introduced in 1953, and soon achieved nationwide distribution. Kenyon, Son & Craven almost single-handedly created the salted peanut category in Britain, and achieved national dominance of KP Nuts with very little advertising.

Manufacture of other products was discontinued in order to concentrate on peanuts. Kenyon, Son & Craven employed over 1,500 people by 1965.

Kenyon, Son & Craven was acquired by United Biscuits in 1968 in a share exchange which valued the private company at £3.5 million. Kenyon Son & Craven was the largest nut processor in Europe by 1970.

Simon Heller died in 1989 and left an estate valued at £3.8 million.

2 thoughts on “Go nuts: Kenyon Son & Craven”

  1. Really interesting to read, Harry Kenyon was my Great Grandad! My Mum remembered visiting the factory in Rotherham and my great aunt Dora had a sweet shop in Rotherham, which was all that was left in the family by the 1960’s, which I remember well. Family legend, which I realise cannot be proved, says that Harry lent Thornton the money to get started! I suppose its too late to call that debt in should it exist!

  2. I started work at Kenton son and Craven 1st January 1963. I worked in Stock Control starting as a junior working my way up to deputy stock controller before I left in 1971.
    Our job was to count the orders coming in every day and make sure that there was always enough stock in the factory to cover the orders.
    I can remember the Rabbi coming into the factory to bless the nuts that were packed for the Jewish customers plus we supplied all Marks and Spencer’s nuts .The nuts came to the factory by barge as the canal was at the back of the factory.

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