All posts by Thomas Farrell

Ring their praises: Bell Brothers

Bell Brothers was the second largest producer of pig iron in the North of England.

Thomas Bell (1774 – 1845) was born at Lowhurst, Cumberland. In 1808 he entered the business of Losh & Co of Newcastle upon Tyne, a firm of merchants which was branching out into the manufacture of alkali and iron.

He became a partner in the firm, which became known as Losh, Wilson & Bell.

His sons, Isaac Lowthian Bell (1816 – 1904) and John Bell (1818 – 1888) established Bell Brothers in 1844. Initially they leased an iron smelting works at Wylam on Tyne.

Lowthian Bell was the senior partner. Educated in the sciences at the Sorbonne in France, he spoke fluent German, Danish and French. Bell would later be heralded as the first scientifically trained ironmaster.

John Vaughan discovered sizeable deposits of ironstone (from which iron ore could be extracted) at Eston in the Cleveland hills near Middlesbrough.

John Bell made his own ironstone discovery at Normanby, and leased the land from the Ward Jackson family. Two blast furnaces were erected at Port Clarence, Cleveland in 1853. Three more were built the following year.

Bell Brothers was registered as a limited liability company in 1873. The company remained entirely family controlled.

Two new blast furnaces were opened in 1874, and the company announced plans to increase capacity to 750 tons of iron per day.

Bell Brothers pioneered the Teesside salt industry. The company began to bore salt from 1882, and by the end of the year had a productive capacity of up to 400 tons of salt a week. The salt was sold to Tyneside chemical manufacturers, who used it to produce alkali. By April 1883 the company was produced 860 tons of salt a week.

By this time, Teesside was the largest producer of iron in the world.

Bell Brothers operated twelve blast furnaces at Port Clarence by 1877. The company also operated ironstone mines, limestone quarries and collieries. Around £1 million in capital was invested in the business. The company was second only to Bolckow Vaughan in pig iron production in the North of England.

By this time Thomas Hugh Bell (1844 – 1931), the son of Lowthian Bell, was responsible for managing the business.

Bell Brothers announced plans to develop a steel works at Port Clarence in 1887. The works would use the Siemens-Martin process, instead of the established Bessemer process, to manufacture steel from Cleveland pig iron. The strategy allowed the company to exit the increasingly competitive iron market.

Bell Brothers employed 4,500 men in 1898. The company had an authorised capital of £825,000.

Bell Brothers divested its salt interests to Salt Union Ltd and Brunner Mond Ltd in 1899.

Dorman Long acquired half of Bell Brothers from Thomas Hugh Bell in 1899. The remaining half was acquired from Lowthian Bell in 1902.

Lowthian Bell became chairman of Dorman Long. With a capital of £1 million, the merged company was the largest iron and steel manufacturer in the North of England.

Bell Brothers produced 360,000 tons of pig iron in 1903. The number of blast furnaces had been reduced to eight by 1905.

Bell Brothers blast furnaces at Port Clarence in 1917

Lowthian Bell died in 1904 and his estate was valued at £768,676.

The Bell Brothers subsidiary was formally liquidated in 1923.

Ice to meat you: T Wall & Sons

T Wall & Sons was the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world.

Richard Wall (1777/8 – 1838), pork butcher, was apprenticed to Edmund Cotterill, a pork butcher in St James’ Market, London. Wall became a partner, and was the sole proprietor from 1807.

Richard Wall received his first Royal Appointment as “pork butcher to the Prince of Wales” in 1812. This was renewed when the prince succeeded as George IV in 1820, and by William IV in 1830.

Richard Wall leased larger premises at 113 Jermyn Street from 1834.

Wall died in 1838 and was succeeded by his widow, and then his son, Thomas Wall (1817 – 1884).

Thomas Wall Jr (1846 – 1930) became partner from 1870. He was joined by his brother Frederick C Wall (1855 – 1924) from 1878 and the firm became known as Thomas Wall & Sons.

Thomas and Frederick Wall transformed the firm into the best-known sausage business in Britain. Queen Victoria was supplied with sausages on a weekly basis from the Jermyn Street shop. The sausages for the monarch had a special recipe including freshly-laid eggs and hand-chopped mince.

The firm was beginning to wholesale across Britain by 1900. Increasing demand saw a factory opened at Battersea in 1903.

The business was registered as T Wall & Sons Ltd in 1905, when it acquired an Acton rival.

The six acre Friary House and grounds in Acton was acquired in 1919, and a large sausage factory was built there.

William Hesketh Lever (1851 – 1925) acquired the company in 1920. He sold the business to Lever Brothers in 1922, which from 1929 became a part of Unilever. At Lever’s request, the company began to produce ice cream during the summer months, when sausage sales slacked off. Production began in 1922 at a rate of 150 gallons a week.

Thomas Wall Jr was devoted to charities dedicated to the education of young people. The capital released from the sale of his company allowed him to established the Thomas Wall Trust, with capital of £233,000, to fund students at schools and universities. Wall died in 1930 with an estate valued at £288,116. The bulk of his estate went to the Thomas Wall Trust.

Seven million tons of ice cream were produced in 1945.

T Wall & Sons was the largest manufacturer of sausages and meat pies in Britain by 1954. They had a factory at Willesden.

A new sausage factory was opened at Godley, Cheshire in 1955. It had a weekly output of 350 tons.

Much of the meat business was relocated to Atlas Road, Park Royal, London from 1956, with Acton left to concentrate on ice cream production. The Acton factory employed 4,000 people by 1960.

20 million tons of ice cream were produced every year by 1960, and Wall’s was the largest manufacturer of ice cream in the world.

Mattessons, a processed meat manufacturer, was acquired in 1965.

Robert Lawson & Sons of Aberdeen was acquired for £2.6 million in 1965. Lawson had the largest bacon factory in Scotland, and had a valuable contract to supply Marks & Spencer.

Wall’s employed a total of 4,000 people during peak periods by 1969.

113 Jermyn Street remained as a Wall’s shop, where all Wall’s products could be purchased, as late as 1970.

The Atlas Road site was closed around 1978.

Wall’s was one of the largest processors of meat in Britain by 1980.

The Acton ice cream plant was closed in 1988.

The meat business was sold to Kerry Group of Ireland in 1994. The Wall’s ice cream business remains a subsidiary of Unilever.

A digested history of Eno’s Fruit Salts

Eno’s Fruit Salts became one of the best known branded medicines in the world.

James Crossley Eno (1827 – 1915) had established a small chemist’s shop at 5 Groat Market in Newcastle upon Tyne by 1851. He introduced Eno’s Fruit Salts, an indigestion remedy, from 1868. It became popular among sailors, who helped to establish the reputation of the product overseas.

A 1924 advertisement

James Crossley Eno soon found himself unable to meet increasing demand for his product, and he relocated his business to a factory on New Cross Road, London, from 1876. The business employed 50 people by 1884.

J C Eno was established as a limited company with a capital of £100,000 from 1891.

Eno’s Fruit Salts consisted of sodium bicarbonate, tartaric acid and citric acid, according to an analysis for the British Medical Journal in 1903.

James Crossley Eno entered into retirement from around 1904. He was succeeded as company chairman by his son in law, Commander Harold W Swithinbank (1858 – 1928).

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933) of Toronto was the Canadian sales agent from 1907. Ritchie characterised the J C Eno business as tradition-bound and staid, and promised to forfeit his commission if he failed to double Canadian sales within one year. Fortunately for Ritchie, his initial year saw sales quadruple.

James Crossley Eno died in 1915. His estate had a gross value of £1.6 million.

J C Eno company capital had been increased to £650,000 by 1920.

Following the death of Commander Swithinbank, the business was sold to Harold F Ritchie for a reported £1.5 million in 1928. Ritchie received preference to acquire the business in recognition of his service to the company.

Ritchie maintained existing management. Between 1928 and 1932 he established factories in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, South Africa and Germany.

Ritchie died in 1933, and his widow sold the company to the London & Yorkshire Trust for over £1 million in 1934.

Eno Proprietaries Limited had a paid-up share capital of £2 million in 1934.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had become one of the best known proprietary medicines in the world. The product was sold in 83 countries. It was advertised in 73 countries with 26 different languages. The principal factory was in London, but there were two large factories in North America, and nine smaller factories across the rest of the world.

Eno Proprietaries was acquired by Beecham for £1 million in 1938.

The New Cross factory was completely destroyed by Germany bombing during the Blitz in 1940. Production was transferred to the Macleans toothpaste factory in Brentford. Fruit Salt production was relocated to a site at Watford from 1946. The Watford site was closed in 1953, and production was returned to Macleans.

Eno’s Fruit Salts remained a major Beecham product as late as the 1970s.

Beecham merged with SmithKline Beckman to form SmithKline Beecham in 1989. It merged with GlaxoWellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.

Eno is still widely sold across the world as an antacid for the relief of indigestion. Its largest markets are Asia and Latin America, and it is the leading antacid brand in India.

 

A sporting chance: C & E Morton

C & E Morton was a large packaged foods producer. Its workers established Millwall Football Club.

John Thomas Morton (1828 – 1897) established a small factory producing preserved foods in Aberdeen in 1849. He had established a base in London by 1851. Almost all production by J T Morton was destined for the export market.

Morton was a dedicated Puritan, and devoutly observed the Sabbath. He was a reserved man, with very few close associates, and his only known sentiment was towards his mother. He was emotionally cool, but just and honest.

The head office was relocated to Leadenhall Street in the City of London in 1866.

A manufacturing facility was established at Millwall from around 1872, in a former oil factory belong to Price & Co. Millwall Football Club was established by J T Morton tinsmiths in 1885.

The Aberdeen factory employed hundreds of workers by the 1880s.

An additional factory had been established at Falmouth, Cornwall by 1897.

When John Thomas Morton died in 1897 he was an extremely wealthy man. He left an estate valued at £714,186. 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 (1861 – 1944) and Edward Donald Morton (1866 – 1940). The two men had previously worked as underwriters for Lloyd’s, the insurance business. A curious codicil of their father’s will was that the two sons were not allowed to trade under the J T Morton name, so the firm became known as C & E Morton.

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.

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 with a capital of £650,000 in 1912. 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 they argued 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 driven 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.

Increasing import tariffs overseas hurt the business during the 1930s. Factories were established in foreign markets in order to circumvent such charges.

R S Murray & Co, a confectionery manufacturer, was acquired in 1936.

There were three large factories at Millwall, Cubitt Town and Lowestoft in 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 large 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 for £8.5 million in 1986. 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.

Curry favour: J A Sharwood

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

James Allen Sharwood (1859 – 1941) was born in Islington, London. He was named for his grandfather, a prosperous Fenchurch Street wholesale druggist.

Sharwood’s mother was a Scottish-born schoolmistress, who instilled in him the importance of paying attention to details.

Sharwood’s father was an excellent chemist, but a spoiled man. He spent extravagantly, and was sent to debtor’s prison after he was declared bankrupt in 1864. His marriage ended in divorce. J A Sharwood was to meet his father only once, in 1890, before he died in the workhouse in 1894.

J A Sharwood attended the Heath Mount School in Hampstead, and then went on to work in the City of London. He initially worked in insurance, and was then employed as a manager for a wine and spirits distributor.

J A Sharwood established himself as a wholesale grocer on Carter Lane from 1888. Green Label mango chutney was introduced a year later.

Sharwood was intelligent, hard-working, and innovative. He had a keen interest in overseas travel and was fluent in French and German.

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

Lord Dufferin (1826 – 1902) as Viceory of India

Legend has it that the grateful chef recommended that Sharwood visit P Vencatachellum at No. 1 Popham’s Broadway in Madras. Vencatachellum made a famed curry powder, which blended stone-ground turmeric from Chittagong, coriander from Kerala, chillis from Orissa, and four secret ingredients. The product impressed Sharwood, and he arranged to distribute “Vencat” curry powder in Britain from 1893.

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

White Label Worcestershire Sauce was the main product by 1900. It was aged for five years.

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

J A Sharwood supplied the prestigious Cunard ocean liners with foodstuffs from 1902.

Sharwood had entered into retirement by 1927, and he settled in Cape Town, South Africa.

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

Sharwood died in 1941 and his effects in England were valued at £7,296.

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

Sharwood’s dominated the British chutney market by the 1970s.

Sharwood’s held a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II, to supply chutney and curry powder, by 1975.

Sharwood’s sales doubled between 1989 and 1994, as the British market for Indian groceries grew. Sharwood’s held 74 percent of the mango chutney market by 1991.

Company headquarters were relocated from London to Egham in Surrey from 1991.

The Greatham factory was closed in 2001, and Sharwood’s production was relocated to Wythenshawe, Manchester.

RHM was acquired by Premier Foods for £1.2 billion in 2007. The Wythenshawe factory was closed in 2009, and Sharwood’s production was relocated to Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

According to food blogger Gareth Jones, the Sharwood company archive was accidentally disposed of by a novice marketer, and no longer exists.

Close but no cigar: Cope Brothers

Cope Brothers of Liverpool operated the largest tobacco factory in the world.

Establishment and the Victorian era
George Cope (1823 – 1888) and Thomas Cope (1827 – 1884) began to sell cigars, snuff and tobacco from 63 Paradise Street, Liverpool in 1848. Trading as Cope Brothers, manufacturing took place at Lord Nelson Street by 1853.

George Cope managed the manufacturing arm of the firm, while Thomas Cope was responsible for the business as a whole.

Cope Brothers was one of the first tobacco manufacturers in Britain to employ a female workforce. Cope Brothers began to employ women following a factory strike in 1858. Female workers proved capable, so the policy was continued until the factory employed around 700 women and girls by 1871, out of a total of 774 employees.

Cope’s Christmas entertainment at St George’s Hall, Liverpool in 1864. Image from the Illustrated London News.

Cope Brothers operated the largest tobacco factory in Britain by 1870. Charles Dickens and Emily Faithfull reported favourably on conditions in the factory, which was spacious and well-ventilated. The girls were generally the daughters of shopkeepers, warehousemen and clerks, and worked shifts of six to eight hours. Cope Brothers employed 1,400 women and girls by 1879.

Cope Brothers operated the largest tobacco factory in the world in 1884. The buildings occupied almost the entirety of one side of Lord Nelson Street. Cope Brothers was the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in England, with a production rate of 250,000 to 300,000 a week.

Thomas Cope left an estate valued at £199,000 when he died in 1884.

Cope Brothers was converted into a private limited liability company with a capital of £350,000 in 1885. John A Willox (1842 – 1905) was appointed as a director.

George Cope died in 1888. He was succeeded as managing director by his nephew, Thomas Henry Cope (1867 – 1913).

Cope’s Tobacco Works in 1889

The regular workforce at the Liverpool factory totalled 1,500 people by 1892, many of them women and girls. With four percent of the British tobacco market, Cope Brothers was second only to Wills of Bristol.

Increased competition
The American Tobacco Company (ATC) acquired Ogdens, a Liverpool tobacco manufacturer, in 1901. ATC operated Ogdens at a massive loss in order to undercut its rivals and increase its market share. Although the acquisition was to impact the entire British tobacco industry, Cope Brothers suffered more that most, perhaps due to its proximity to its rival, as well as its decision not to join Imperial Tobacco, formed as a defensive merger of major British tobacco companies.

John A Willox, chairman of Cope Brothers, decried “the deliberate and organised effort on the part of American capitalists to destroy a British industry and create a selfish monopoly for themselves”. On the other hand, the Daily Mail criticised Cope Brothers as “slow, easy-going [and] old-fashioned”, with “out-of-date methods”.

In a defensive move, Cope Brothers acquired Richard Lloyd of Clerkenwell, a London tobacco manufacturer best known for the Old Holborn brand, in 1902. William Jollyman (1844 – 1920), the proprietor of Richard Lloyd, was appointed general manager of Cope Brothers.

Robinson & Barnsdale, tobacco manufacturers of Nottingham, was acquired in 1905.

Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco was introduced by Cope Brothers from 1912.

H C Lloyd & Son Ltd of Exeter was acquired in 1924.

Strike issues and acquisition
Around 460 Cope Brothers employees went on strike in 1950 in protest against the employment of non-unionised labour. The strike lasted for nearly three months, and resulted in the dismissal of nearly 200 striking workers.

Cope Brothers was acquired by Gallaher in an exchange of shares which valued the company at around £1 million in 1953.

At the time, purchase of American tobacco was rationed with quotas issued by the British Government, and Gallaher acquired Cope Brothers to increase its quota allowance. Gallaher was also attracted by the fast-growing Old Holborn brand.

Gallaher closed the Cope Brothers factory, and the site was sold to the Automatic Telephone and Electric Company. Meanwhile, capacity at the Richard Lloyd factory was increased.

All Cope Brothers branded products had been discontinued by 1965, with the exception of Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco. Various Richard Lloyd branded products were still produced, such as Old Holborn.

Old Holborn is still widely sold in Britain, and Escudo Navy De Luxe pipe tobacco is produced overseas by Scandinavian Tobacco Group.

How the cookie crumbles: United Biscuits (Part II)

Part I of this history of United Biscuits.

United Biscuits produces McVitie’s Digestives, Jaffa Cakes, Jacob’s cream crackers and Carr’s water biscuits.

Two Scottish biscuit manufacturers, McVitie & Price and Macfarlane Lang merged in 1948 to form United Biscuits, with a capital of £3.5 million. The businesses continued to trade under their respective names.

The Harlesden, North London, facility became the first fully-automated biscuit factory in the world in 1948, increasing output by 1000 percent.

McVitie & Price produced around 450 different products in 1939. This had been streamlined to about twelve major lines, with corresponding cost efficiencies, by 1959.

United Biscuits held nearly 70 percent of the digestive biscuit market by 1959. It was also a leader in the sale of Rich Tea biscuits.

United Biscuits was the largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain by 1962.

William Crawford & Sons, the largest privately-owned biscuit manufacturer in the United Kingdom, was acquired in 1962 in a mostly share-based transaction which valued the company at £5.9 million.

United Biscuits increased its capital from £9 million to £13 million in 1963. Hector Laing (1923 -2010) became managing director of United Biscuits in 1964.

United Biscuits entered the packaged cake market in 1964. The company had taken a 14 percent share of the market by 1968, winning market share from J Lyons.

William Macdonald & Sons of Glasgow was acquired in 1965 for £2.8 million in cash and shares. The firm had introduced the Penguin chocolate-coated biscuit in 1932. It was experiencing strong growth, and held almost 20 percent of British chocolate biscuit exports.

The United Biscuits subsidiaries were absorbed into a single operating company in 1965. The company announced plans to close four of its nine factories, and to greatly increase production at Glasgow and Liverpool in 1966.

The McVitie & Price factory in Edinburgh was closed in 1967 with the loss of 541 jobs. The Macdonald factory at North Cardonald, Glasgow was closed with the loss of 497 jobs. The Crawford factory in Leith was closed in 1970 with the loss of 703 jobs, and the Macdonald factory at Hillington, Glasgow was closed with the loss of 497 jobs. The factories that were closed had no room for expansion, and it made economic sense to rationalise production at a smaller number of larger sites.

The Macfarlane Lang factory at Tollcross, Glasgow was doubled in size at a cost of £2.3 million in 1969. The labour force was increased from 250 to 1,350. The factory would supply the Scotland, Northern Ireland and North of England markets.

The Crawford factory at Liverpool increased capacity by 50 percent following a £2 million investment in the 1970.

Sales of the McVitie’s brand doubled between 1962 and 1967, and McVitie’s had by far the most brand recognition in its category. The McVitie’s Chocolate Home Wheat (a chocolate digestive) was its highest seller.

Meredith & Drew was acquired in 1967. Following the acquisition, United Biscuits produced over one third of all biscuits consumed in Britain.

Kenyon, Son & Craven, with the KP salted peanuts brand, was acquired in 1968 in a share exchange which valued the private company at £3.5 million.

United Biscuits was the largest biscuit manufacturing company in Europe by 1969.

Hector Laing became company chairman in 1972. That year, United Biscuits took over the biscuit interests of Cavenham, which included Carr’s of Carlisle and Wright’s of South Shields for £4 million in cash.

The South Shields factory was closed in 1973 with the loss of 823 jobs.

A total of four factories and four offices were closed in the early 1970s in a spate of rationalisation. The McVitie, Crawford and Macfarlane sales teams were merged in the early 1970s.

United Biscuits acquired Keebler, the second largest US biscuit manufacturer, in 1974.

United Biscuits employed 36,000 people in 1976. Its products were sold in 92 countries. The company controlled 41.6 percent of the British biscuit market, and boasted eight out of the ten highest selling products.

Not every venture was a success however, and United Biscuits was prepared to admit defeat when appropriate; in 1977 the company withdrew from the packaged cakes market.

By 1978 United Biscuits sold 75 million biscuits every day.

In 1980 it was announced that the former Macfarlane Lang factory at Osterley, West London would be closed with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

The Hobnob biscuit was introduced in 1985.

In an admission of defeat in the American snacks market, Keebler was divested for $500 million in 1995.

United Biscuits employed 22,500 people in 22 countries in 1999.

Jacob’s, a Liverpool biscuit manufacturer, was acquired from Danone of France for £200 million in 2004.

United Biscuits was acquired by private equity firms Blackstone and PAI Partners for £1.6 billion in 2006.

In 2012 the snacks division of United Biscuits, including Hula Hoops crisps and KP nuts, was sold to Intersnack of Germany, manufacturer of Pom-Bear crisps and Penn State pretzels, for £504 million.

In 2013 United Biscuits was sold to Yildiz Holding of Istanbul for over £2 billion to create the third largest biscuit manufacturer in the world, behind Mondelez and Kellogg.

From 2014 United Biscuits rebranded all of its sweet biscuits under the McVitie’s name, and all of its savoury biscuits under the Jacob’s name. McVitie’s gained the Club, Fig Rolls, BN and Iced Gems products from Jacob’s, whilst Jacob’s gained the Cheddars snacks products. The Crawford’s name was repositioned as a value brand, and products such as Family Circle were rebranded as McVitie’s.

As of 2017 the Harlesden site is the largest biscuit factory in Europe. The facility employs 580 workers. 22 different lines are produced, including Digestives, Hob Nobs and Mini Cheddars.

Bought for peanuts: 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 at a large factory on Scarborough Street, 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 centralised at Rotherham. The reduced overheads allowed the company to reduce its capital from £50,000 to £25,000.

Harry Kenyon died in 1932, and left a net personalty of £829.

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 own 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 from 1953, and soon achieved nationwide distribution.

Kenyon, Son & Craven virtually 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.

H J Packer of Bristol

H J Packer was the largest low-cost chocolate manufacturer in the world.

Packer and Burrows

Edward Packer (1848 – 1887) was a Quaker who worked for J S Fry & Sons of Bristol, a chocolate manufacturer, in the 1870s.

Edward Packer left Fry to commence chocolate manufacture for himself in 1881. He worked from his house at 11 Armory Square, and was assisted by his wife. Soon he employed eight people.

Packer entered into partnership with Henry John Burrows (born 1853). Unfortunately, trade immediately declined, and all employees other than members of the Packer family had to be laid off. The partnership was dissolved leaving Burrows as sole proprietor from 1884. Burrows added his own initials to the company name, and began trading as H J Packer & Co.

Caleb Bruce Cole

Caleb Bruce Cole (1862 -1912) was a confectionery salesman in Bristol. He was impressed during his contact with H J Packer & Co, and borrowed £1,000 from his father to acquire the business in 1886. Around nine people were employed.

Cole identified a gap in the market, and began to manufacture high quality chocolate at an affordable price. The chocolates found a keen market among children.

Cole subverted the notion that low-cost food production need sacrifice standards of cleanliness or provision for the workforce.

In 1896 Cole was joined by his brother Horace, and William John Mansfield (1846 -1912) was employed as general manager.

A new factory was opened at Greenbank, Bristol in 1903. It covered four acres and was the largest low-cost chocolate factory in the world. Greenbank was situated on a major railway line, which allowed for convenient distribution. Two large dining halls, each with a capacity of 400 people were erected, and food was available to workers at cost price.

H J Packer & Co became a limited company from 1908.

Carsons Ltd of Glasgow, with a share capital of £50,000, was acquired in January 1912. A high quality manufacturer, Carsons had been the first company to introduce tray chocolates.

Charles Bruce Cole died in June 1912. A progressive man, he was described as quiet and likeable. He left an estate valued at £259,937.

H J Packer & Co had a capital of £750,000 and employed 1,000 people by 1912.

A dedicated Carsons chocolate factory was opened in Bristol in 1913.

Packers was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1922, and the largest manufacturer of low-cost chocolate in the world.

The company struggled during the Great Depression.

The Carsons factory was divested in 1960 due to overcapacity.

The company name was changed to Carsons Ltd from 1962. The Carsons brand had become well known as Britain’s largest producer of chocolate liqueurs, filled with some of the leading spirits, liqueur and fortified wine brands in the world.

Until 1961 liqueur chocolates could only be sold from licensed premises. This opening up of the market provided an opportunity.

Cavenham acquisition
Cavenham Foods, managed by James Goldsmith (1933 – 1997), gained control of Carsons in 1964.

Goldsmith modernised the Carsons plant. He then retired all of the Carsons chocolate lines except for liqueurs, the only sector of the market which was experiencing a growth in sales. The liqueur chocolate market was largely dominated by imported brands such as Lindt, Ringer, Rademaker and Trumpf.

Carsons held over 29 percent of the liqueur chocolate market by 1966. This was achieved with minimal advertising. Instead Carson’s benefited from the advertising campaigns of spirits brands that were inside their chocolates; names such as Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Hennessey cognac.

Carsons liqueurs were being marketed under the Famous Names brand by 1966.

Elizabeth Shaw, an upmarket chocolate manufacturer, was acquired in 1968.

Carsons held over 40 percent of the British chocolate liqueur market by the late 1970s.

Recent history
Cavenham Confectionery was subject to a management buyout in 1981, and the company was renamed Famous Names Ltd. It was acquired by Imperial Tobacco in 1985.

Management bought control of Famous Names Ltd in 1988, and the company was renamed Elizabeth Shaw Ltd. Elizabeth Shaw Ltd was acquired by Leaf of Finland in 1990.

Elizabeth Shaw closed its outdated Greenbank factory in 2006. Production was relocated to factories across Britain and Europe.

Comfort for the table: Epps Cocoa

Epps was the leading brand of cocoa in Victorian Britain.

Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) was the son of a Calvinist London merchant. Dr Epps became one of the pioneers of homeopathy in Britain. He established premises at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and was joined by his brother James (1821 – 1907) from 1837.

Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) invented Epps’ Cocoa Powder

Epps’ cocoa was first sold in 1839 for the use of patients for whom tea and coffee were restricted. It was an instant cocoa powder, made by adding hot water or milk.

The almost prohibitive duty on cocoa was greatly reduced in 1832, allowing the market to grow exponentially. Easily prepared cocoa had been difficult to procure, and the fat in the raw material was unpalatable for many. Dr John Epps discovered a way to make it more appetising, mixing the cocoa with 20 percent West Indies arrowroot and 13 percent sugar.

Dr John Epps was not the first person to invent soluble cocoa powder, but James Epps was largely responsible for introducing the product to the mass market. He heavily advertised Epps’ Cocoa, and had introduced a distinctive slogan, “grateful and comforting” by 1855.

Epps’ Cocoa was initially produced under contract by Daniel Dunn of Pentonville Road, who had invented instant cocoa powder in 1819.

James Epps had established his own factory at 398 Euston Road, London by 1863. He installed his nephew, Hahnemann Epps (1843 – 1916), as manager.

A new steam-powered works was established at Holland Street, Blackfriars from 1878. Epps was the largest cocoa powder producer in Britain, with an output of nearly five million pounds (2.3 million kg) a year. At its peak the firm processed half of all cocoa imports into Britain.

Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London
Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London

A short and slight man, James Epps kept a low public profile, unlike his gregarious brother John. He was known only for his work in business, and had few outside interests. He allowed his portrait to be taken only once, and he never granted an interview or issued a public statement. He was a hard worker, keen on a bargain, and somewhat controlling. Despite his massive wealth he lived in an unfashionable area of London.

The business was converted into a private joint stock limited company known as James Epps & Co in 1893. The directors were James Epps, Hahnemann Epps and James Epps Jr (1856 – 1905), and the company had a capital of £200,000. No shares were offered to the public, and the company remained under family control.

Epps’ Cocoa had been overtaken in sales by Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa and Rowntree by 1898.

James Epps Jr (also known as Willie James Epps), the only son of James Epps, died of a heart attack in Jamaica in 1905. His gross estate was valued at £162,422.

James Epps died in 1907 and his gross estate was valued at £735,387. This was a larger estate than contemporaries in the food industry such as the mustard magnate Jeremiah James Colman (1830 – 1898), instant custard producer Alfred Bird (1849 – 1922) or James Horlick (1844 – 1921).

The estate was inherited by his nieces and nephews, principally James Washington Epps (1874 -1955). Hahnemann Epps became chairman and James W Epps became managing director of James Epps & Co.

Taylor Brothers Ltd, a London cocoa manufacturer, was acquired in 1907.

Epps’ Cocoa powder had been reformulated to include 44 percent sugar, 40 percent cocoa and 16 percent West Indies arrowroot by 1924.

James Epps & Co was acquired by Rowntree of York for £70,000 in 1926. The Epps factory was closed in 1930, and the manufacture of Epps products was transferred to Whitefields Ltd of Plaistow.