Biscuity history: William Crawford & Sons

Crawford’s biscuits survives today as the economy sister brand to McVitie’s.

Ship biscuits were first produced at 31 Shore, a public house in Leith, Edinburgh, from 1813. Mr Mathie took over the business from 1817.

William Crawford (born 1818) succeeded Mr Mathie as a manufacturer of ship biscuits at 31 Shore in 1856.

Crawford was a master baker employing six men and one boy by 1861. He employed five men and one boy in 1871.

Crawford established a custom-built factory at Elbe Street, Leith in 1879.

William Crawford sent two of his sons, Archibald Inglis Crawford (1869 – 1940) and James Crawford to establish a subsidiary in Australia in 1897. Having booked their voyage from Liverpool, they reconsidered emigration after sensing opportunity, and instead established the Fairfield Works in the city.

William Crawford & Sons of Leith was registered as a limited liability company with a capital of £251,000 in 1906. The Crawford family controlled the company.

William Crawford & Sons employed hundreds of people at its factories at Leith and Liverpool by 1923. By this time the company claimed to be “the oldest of the biscuit manufacturers”.

Company capital was increased to £700,000 in 1924.

William Crawford (1858 – 1926) died with an estate valued at £876,211 in 1926. It was due to his efforts that the company grew to a national scale. He was of a retiring disposition.

Kenneth Crawford (1906 – 1936) died tragically in an air crash in 1936. His estate was valued at £155,922.

Archibald Inglis Crawford (1870 – 1940) died in 1940. He left an estate valued at £1,015,886.

Douglas Inglis Crawford (born 1905) was company chairman by 1956. The privately-owned company was still largely in Crawford family hands.

William Crawford & Sons was acquired by United Biscuits for £6.25 million in 1962.

United Biscuits closed the Leith factory in 1970, with the loss of 703 jobs. Meanwhile production at Liverpool was increased by 50 percent, following an investment of £2 million.

The McVitie’s, Crawford and Macfarlane sales teams were merged in the 1970s.

3,000 people were employed at the Crawfords factory in Liverpool in 1976. It was the oldest and largest of all United Biscuits factories. It was also the most progressive in terms of employee relations.

United Biscuits wound down manufacturing operations at Liverpool between 1984 and 1987. 934 full time and over 1,000 part time jobs were lost. Some administrative functions are maintained at the site.

D S Crawford, the Scottish bakery chain subsidiary , was subject to a management buy out in 1990.

The Crawford name was repositioned as an economy brand from 2014. The Crawford’s Family Circle was rebranded under the McVitie’s name.

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2 thoughts on “Biscuity history: William Crawford & Sons”

  1. my grandmother, Agnes McLean, went into service at Crawfords bakery when she was ten years old. this would have been 1887.
    My mother and all her sisters were all brought up on Mrs. Crawford. They all said that is where my grandmother got her
    grand ways. I was also brought up listening to stories of how nice
    Mrs. Crawford was to her. My grandmother married Hamilton Smith on January 1, 1900. They came to America in 1910. I would love to know if you have anymore information. Thanks

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