Curry favour: J A Sharwood

Sharwood’s is the leading Asian food brand in Britain.

James Allen Sharwood (1859 – 1941) was a City of London merchant. He initially worked in insurance, followed by wine and spirits distribution. He entered the wholesale grocery distribution market in 1888.

Sharwood was born to a Scottish mother, who taught him the importance of being thorough. He had a great interest in travel and learning foreign languages. He was intelligent, hard-working, and innovative.

Sharwood was introduced by a family friend to Lord Dufferin (1826 – 1902), the Viceroy of India. Dufferin asked Sharwood to bring his French chef some supplies from Europe.

Legend has it that the grateful chef recommended that Sharwood visit P Vencatachellum. Based at No. 1 Pophams Broadway in Madras, Vencatachellum blended a famed curry powder. The ingredients included turmeric from Chittagong, coriander from Kerala, chillis from Orissa, and four secret ingredients.

The mix impressed Sharwood, and he arranged to distribute Vencat curry powder in Britain. He also began to import mango chutney.

The Northern Meat Preserving Co was acquired in 1891.

J A Sharwood was incorporated in 1899 as a limited company with capital of £50,000.  A factory, the Offley Works, was established at Vauxhall.

F A Bovill & Co of City Road, London, a preserve manufacturer, was acquired in 1900.

J A Sharwood was advertising itself as “the largest dealers in Indian condiments in the world” by 1933.

James Allen Sharwood retired to South Africa. He died in 1941 and his effects in England were valued at £7,296.

Cerebos, a British foods company, acquired J A Sharwood in 1962 for £982,047. The Offley Works was divested and production was relocated to Greatham, Hartlepool.

4 thoughts on “Curry favour: J A Sharwood”

  1. Interesting article. I am particularly interested in F A Bovill, acquired in 1900, In the article they are described as confectioners. My rather incomplete knowledge of this company shows them to have a history as pickle manufacturers. I have a collection of their pickle jars. The company was wound up in 1900 but I had no idea that it was acquired by Sharwoods. Did they acquire the recipes, I wonder? Do they hold the archive? I would be most interested to hear of their involvement in confectionery.

    1. Thanks for the comment Valerie.

      If memory serves I tried to find out more about Bovill without much success. As I’m sure you know I believe they were based in the City of London.

      At the time, manufacturers of jam were referred to as confectioners. Perhaps it will be more accurate if I change the word I used in the article to preserve manufacturer?

    2. Also I would be very interested to hear any information you have about Bovill, as I say, my knowledge of then is limited.

  2. Hello Thomas, Maybe we are speaking of different companies, although the name F A Bovill would seem a rather large coincidence and I think there must be some connection. Now I check my notes, I see I was mistaken in the date. The F A Bovill I am thinking of was not wound up until 1938. Very briefly, Frederick Anderson Bovill was firstly a chemist and druggist but by 1871 was an Italian Warehouseman importing such things as pasta, olive oil, perfumes, etc. Frederick died in 1903 but the business was expanded by his son (same name) and is listed 1891 as Pickle Merchant and 1901 Pickle Manufacturer and by 1911 Public Sauce Manufacturer. He died in 1933 and the business was wound up five years later by his widow. The jars of various styles seem to have survived in some quantity. There are examples of large stone glaze containers, glass bottles and jars and very pretty small pots made by Royal Doulton which certainly look rather more suited to jam than to pickle. This is why I was interested to ttack down recipes or a list of what exactly they did manfacture. If I can help with more details, then please email me.

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