Spice of life: Drysdale Dennison

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper into Britain.

Wallis & Co was a mustard, chicory (a popular coffee substitute) and spice merchant of 20 Duke Street, London Bridge. The Wallis family were Quakers from Northamptonshire.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale (1830 – 1867), originally from Perth in Scotland, was the manager of Wallis & Co by 1857.

Drysdale had entered into the firm as a partner by 1864, and the business began to trade as Wallis & Drysdale.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale died in 1867, and his stake passed to his brother, Hector Drummond Drysdale (1828 – 1902).

Hector Drysdale bought out the Wallis family stake to take full control of the business in 1878. By this time there were premises on 131 Upper Thames Street and Dock Street. The location close to the Thames was convenient for receiving imported spices.

The firm was trading as Drysdale Dennison by 1883. It was one of the best known pepper merchants in the world.

James Samuel Gray (1876 – 1935) joined the company in 1889.

Gray merged White Palmer, a long-established London spice merchant, with Drysdale Dennison to form the British Pepper and Spice Co Ltd, a public company with a nominal capital of £160,000, in 1933. The office was at 31 Queen Victoria Street, Eastcheap.

The head office was relocated to 7 New Court, Lincoln’s Inn in 1948.

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper in Britain by 1959. The factory was located just off Petticoat Lane in London.

Burton Son & Sanders of Ipswich, specialist food manufacturers and distributors to the bakery trade, acquired the British Pepper & Spice Co in 1967.

Amidst falling profits at Burton Son & Sanders, Matthews Holdings, a food retailer, acquired the company for £1 million in 1969.

Matthews Holdings and S W Berisford merged their spice and pepper interests in a joint venture called British Pepper & Spice in 1971.

British Pepper & Spice Co was acquired by Hunter Saphir in 1987.

The factory and head office of British Pepper & Spice was located in Northampton by this time. 160 people were employed there in 1993.

Hunter Saphir was acquired by Albert Fisher for £29 million in 1993, and two months later British Pepper & Spice was sold to Burns Philip of Australia for £25 million in cash.

British Pepper & Spice was subject to a management buyout for £7.6 million in 1998.

British Pepper & Spice was acquired by SHS Group of Belfast, which owns brands such as WKD and Shloer, in 2004.

Still based in Northampton, British Pepper & Spice is a major supplier of supermarket own-label herbs and spices, as well as for producers such as Heinz and Premier Foods.

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