C & E Morton was a large packaged food producer.
John Thomas Morton (1828 – 1897) established a small factory producing preserved foods in Aberdeen in 1849.
By 1851 he had established a base in London. Almost all production by J T Morton was for the export market.
Morton was a dedicated Puritan, and devoutly observed the Sabbath. He was reserved, with very few close associates. His only known sentiment was towards his mother. He was hard, but just and honest.
The head office was relocated to Leadenhall Street in the City of London in 1866.
A factory was established at Millwall around 1872, in a former oil factory belong to Price & Co. Millwall Football Club was established by J T Morton tinsmiths in 1885.
By the 1880s the Aberdeen factory employed hundreds of workers.
John Thomas Morton died in 1897 an extremely wealthy man. He left a personal estate valued at £786,719. He dedicated over half of his wealth to churches and charities. His manager, who had been with the company for nearly 40 years, and helped to build his fortune, received nothing.
The business was inherited by his two sons, Charles Douglas Morton (born 1861 – 1944) and Edward Donald Morton (1866 – 1940).
C D Morton was an energetic and generous man. The two brothers established agents in overseas markets, which increased sales. They travelled the world extensively to attend to their overseas trade.
By 1897 there were factories at Millwall, Aberdeen and Falmouth in Cornwall.
C & E Morton was a substantial supplier of food to the military during the Boer War.
C & E Morton was registered as a public company in 1912 with a capital of £650,000. There were premises at Leadenhall Street, Millwall, Lowestoft, Aberdeen and Mevagissy, Polruan and West Looe in Cornwall.
1,500 workers at the Millwall factory went on strike in March 1914, in protest against girls under the age of 18 being hired, which allegedly threatened to undercut their wages. The strike resulted in a victory for the workers.
Morton was singular among preserved provisions manufacturers in normally refusing to hire under 18 year olds. They claimed that they had been drive to do so because of difficulties in sourcing sufficient labour. They also asserted that their factory workers were among the highest paid in London.
During the First World War the company continued to pay half wages to its staff who were serving in the armed forces.
There were plans for Crosse & Blackwell to acquire C & E Morton in 1926, but the proposed deal fell through due to an uncertain economic climate.
In the 1930s increasing import tariffs overseas hurt the business. Factories were established overseas.
There were three large factories at Millwall, Cubitt Town and Lowestoft by 1939. Thousands of people were employed. The Lowestoft site was the largest herring cannery in Britain.
E D Morton died in 1940 and left an estate valued at £213,295.
Beecham, a consumer goods group, acquired the struggling C & E Morton for £180,000 in 1945. Beecham concentrated production at Lowestoft.
Morton Brands was sold to Hillsdown Holdings in 1986 for £8.5 million. The Lowestoft factory produced tinned vegetables and fruit fillings. 160 people were employed and the assets had a book value of £6 million.
The Lowestoft factory was closed down in 1988, and the Morton brand name was phased out.
The Morton brand name is still used for tinned goods in India, although the former subsidiary has been independent since 1947.