All posts by T Farrell

Rocky road: Fox’s Biscuits

Fox’s is best known for the Rocky and Party Rings biscuits. Brandy snaps, its original product, are still sold.

Michael Spedding establishes the business
Michael Spedding (1834 – 1927) was born to poor circumstances at Marsh, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire. He received just three months of formal education.

Spedding found work at a cotton mill in nearby Meltham. His grandfather encouraged him to relocate to Batley, where prospects were better. Spedding was poor, and made the 15-mile journey on foot. His economic position was such that on some nights he would sleep in barns.

Spedding married Susan Fox (1834 – 1895), the daughter of a bone-setter, in 1854.

Party Rings, a leading Fox’s product

Spedding had established himself as a food seller by 1863. He began to concentrate on the confectionery trade, with an initial focus on brandy snap biscuits.

Spedding had been joined in business by his daughter Hannah and his son-in-law Fred Ellis Fox (1871 – 1938) by 1891. The business began to trade as F E Fox & Co from 1897. Spedding retired in 1900.

F E Fox & Son
Fred Fox was joined by his son, Michael Spedding Fox (1896 – 1963), and the business began to trade as F E Fox & Son.

F E Fox & Son relocated to a new site at Batley from 1927. Ginger biscuits began to be produced alongside brandy snaps.

Michael Spedding died as one of the oldest men in his district in 1927.

F E Fox & Son was incorporated as a private company in 1938. The business was still a regional concern at this time.

Fred Fox died in 1938 and left an estate valued at £19,243. Michael Spedding Fox became managing director of the company.

Fox’s Biscuits becomes a national business
The Batley factory was expanded and modernised in the post-war period. F E Fox & Son had around 500 employees by 1955.

F E Fox & Son won a valuable contract to produce biscuits for Marks & Spencer in 1958. The contract accounted for half of all production.

F E Fox & Son required capital to fulfil its ambitions of becoming a nationally recognised company. The business went public in 1960 as Fox’s Biscuits with an authorised share capital of £400,000. There were around 950 employees.

The offices at Batley in 2007

Parkinson’s Biscuits of Kirkham, Preston was acquired in 1966.

J Lyons & Co acquired a 25 percent stake in Fox’s Biscuits in 1972.

Acquisition by Northern Foods
Fox’s Biscuits was acquired by Northern Foods in 1977. Following the merger of their interests, Northern Foods supplied Marks & Spencer with around 40 percent of its cake and biscuits.

Alfred Henry Fox died with an estate valued at £124,375 in 1977.

Fox’s Biscuits was one of the largest biscuit manufacturers in Britain by 1986. Around 2,500 people were employed.

Elkes Biscuits of Uttoxeter was acquired in 1986.

Northern Foods invested £20 million to increase production at Fox’s Biscuits in 1987.

Fox’s Biscuits was best known for its Rocky and Party Rings biscuits by the 1990s.

The Elkes brand was repositioned as a budget product.

2 Sisters Food Group and Ferrero
Northern Foods was acquired by 2 Sisters Food Group in 2011.

Fox’s ranked fourth in the British biscuit market, with a four percent share in 2019. The business employed 2,000 people. Own-label and contact work accounted for around 25 percent of production.

Ferrero, an Italian confectionery manufacturer, acquired Fox’s Biscuits, including the Batley and Kirkham sites, for £246 million in 2020. The own-label biscuit business, with a factory at Uttoxeter, was retained by 2 Sisters.

The highs and l’eaus of Perrier

Perrier is the best known sparkling mineral water in the world. The iconic French product was introduced to the global market by an Englishman, St John Harmsworth.

St John Harmsworth discovers Perrier
William Albert St John Harmsworth (1876 – 1933) was born in London, the son of an unsuccessful alcoholic barrister and a strong-willed mother.

St John Harmsworth was a slight and nervous child. He attended Henley House School at St John’s Wood, London, where he was a pupil of H G Wells (1866 – 1946), later the author of The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898). Harmsworth was not the most academically-minded of pupils, but he did grow to be athletic, charming, and likeable.

William Albert St John Harmsworth c.1900

St John Harmsworth joined Amalgamated Press, a newspaper empire created by his elder brother Alfred Harmsworth (1865 – 1922), as a director. The company was responsible for the Daily Mail, the highest-selling newspaper in the world.

Alfred Harmsworth suggested that his brother travel to France in order to learn the language in 1902. He visited a carbonated spring at Les Bouillens, Vergeze, in the South of France, where Dr Louis Eugene Perrier operated a commercial spa. Perrier also bottled a small amount of the water for his guests and some local sales.

Harmsworth believed in the potential for the bottled water, which was lighter, crisper and had a lower sodium content than most waters sold on the British market at the time. To the horror of his family, he sold his shares in Amalgamated Press in order to acquire the Les Bouillens estate in early 1903.

Harmsworth closed down the spa, which catered to a declining market, and began to distribute the bottled water, which he branded as Perrier. It was sold at Monte Carlo and throughout the South of France during the 1903 season.

Following this successful trial, a London office was established at 45 and 46 New Bond Street. The water targeted the premium segment of the market, and was sold at the Savoy, Claridge’s and the Berkeley hotels, as well as classic City of London pubs and restaurants such as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and Slaters.

Perrier was advertised as an ideal mixer for whisky. Sir Thomas Lipton (1846 – 1931), a friend of Harmsworth, introduced the water to King Edward VII, who granted it a Royal Warrant in 1904.

The market for imported European sparkling water had been well-established in Britain by Apollinaris since the 1870s. Harmsworth packaged his water in a distinctive bulbous green bottle, inspired by an Indian club used for exercises.

This image illustrates the distinctive “club-shaped” Perrier bottle

French culture was considered aspirational, and the water may have benefited from an assumed link with the champagne houses of Perrier-Jouët and Laurent-Perrier, to which it had no affiliation. Perhaps to encourage the association, the water was originally marketed with the “champagne of table waters” slogan.

The London office was relocated to 45 and 47 Wigmore Street from 1905.

Harmsworth was involved in a tragic motor accident in 1906. He broke his spine and was permanently paralysed from the waist down. A keen sportsman, Harmsworth was able to maintain his interest in swimming, and had a pool installed at his London address of 7 Hyde Park Terrace.

United States sales were pursued from 1907.

Perrier was registered as a private limited company to acquire the share capital of La Compagnie de la Source Perrier in 1908.

Perrier was granted a Royal Warrant from King George V in 1911. Millions of bottles were sold every year by 1912.

A glassworks was established in Vergeze from 1912.

Perrier was a well-established rival to Apollinaris by 1914. Perrier was able to take market share from Apollinaris during the First World War by using advertisements to highlight the German origins of its competitor.

Much of production was distributed to the Allied armies in France, Salonika and Egypt during the First World War.

Harmsworth negotiated a contract to become the exclusive supplier of bottled water to the restaurant cars of Wagons-Lits in France and Germany in 1927.

The London office had been relocated to Bear Wharf, 27 Bankside by 1931.

By 1933 Harmsworth had a small stake in the French company, the Compagnie de la Source Perrier, and a large holding in the English company Perrier Limited, which held the British distribution rights.

Death of St John Harmsworth and the Second World War
St John Harmsworth died in 1933 and left an estate valued at £82,976. His estate was left to his brother Vyvyan George Harmsworth (1881 – 1957) and his three sisters.

Perrier Ltd had an authorised capital of £110,000 in 1935. The directors were Vyvyan Harmsworth, M Harmsworth and H Banks, who had been secretary to St John Harmsworth.

Perrier had never been hugely profitable, and the rest of the family lacked the faith in the brand that Harmsworth had. The British and Irish distribution rights to Perrier had been licensed to Apollinaris by May 1939.

The Germans invaded France in 1940, and company capital was transferred to the United States to disguise the British origins of the firm. The Second World War isolated Perrier from its traditional markets of the British Empire, the USA and the French colonies. Sales to the German army represented 40 percent of turnover between 1941 and 1944.

Gustave Leven acquires Perrier
Following the war, Perrier was loss-making and required substantial investment. The Harmsworth family hired Gustave Leven (1915 – 2008), a Parisian stockbroker, to find a buyer for the business in 1946.

Gustave Leven (1915 – 2008) in 1990

Leven visited the bottling plant, which was in need of reorganisation. He witnessed workers fill bottles by plunging them into the spring by hand, and sometimes using their feet to help put the bottle caps on. However, he identified the Perrier brand as strong, with considerable scope for improvement. Leven found four partners, and acquired Perrier himself for £100,000.

Ten million bottles were sold in 1946. Annual sales had risen to 150 million bottles by 1952.

Perrier was able to gain considerable market share in France by introducing mass advertising to a previously staid industry.

Perrier was the largest mineral water bottler in the world by 1961. It was the highest-selling mineral water in France, with a 25 percent market share.

The bottling plant could produce nearly 2.5 million bottles of Perrier within 16 hours by 1967. The company held half of the French market.

Leven installed a glass bottle manufacturing plant at Vergeze in 1973.

Perrier was distributed in Britain by Schweppes and Grand Metropolitan by the early 1970s. The British market was limited to a few high-end establishments, as its distributors did not believe that there was a significant demand for bottled water. Perrier entered into British supermarket distribution for itself from 1974. Six million bottles were sold in Britain in 1978.

Leven then turned to the underdeveloped United States market to further increase sales. Three million bottles had been sold there in 1976. A large marketing push was introduced in 1977, with a price cut of 20 to 30 percent and a television advertising campaign featuring the actor Orson Welles. United States sales had risen to 200 million bottles by 1979. In Britain and the United States, Perrier tapped into an increasingly aspirational culture, and a growing health and fitness movement.

Rising sales in the United States saw a second factory opened at Vergeze in 1978. The new factory had an annual production capacity of nearly 400 million bottles, adding to the existing factory’s capacity of 350 million bottles.

The Vergeze site employed 2,500 people by 1983 and Perrier was sold in 119 countries. 25 percent of sales were in the United States by 1984.

Perrier acquired the Buxton mineral water company in Britain in 1987. Perrier held 60 percent of the British bottled water market by 1988. Nearly 100 million bottles a year were sold in the UK by 1990.

The brand peaked in 1989, when 1.2 billion bottles were sold, with half exported to the United States.

The benzene scare
In March 1990 it was reported that Perrier contained a minimal amount of a carcinogen because a charcoal filter meant to catch naturally occurring benzene from the spring had not been changed.

The United States Food & Drug Administration declared that the benzene content was harmless. A cancer specialist stated that an individual would have to consume a quart of Perrier every day for an entire lifetime to consume a harmful amount of benzene.

Despite this, Leven decided that a total product recall was essential to preserve the reputation of the brand. 160 million bottles were withdrawn from 120 countries, for which the company was not insured.

Production levels dropped by one third in the wake of the scandal. Leven was replaced as chairman of Perrier in June 1990.

Image used courtesy of Nestle

Perrier had lost over half of its United States market share by January 1991, due to its limited distribution during the product recall. The poor availability of Perrier allowed rival mineral water brands such as Evian to win market share. In Britain, Scottish mineral water producers such as Highland Spring and Strathmore won market share at the expense of Perrier.

1991-2 sales in the United States and Britain were at half their 1989 levels, due to the damage inflicted upon the Perrier brand by the benzene scare.

Nestle acquires Perrier
Nestle acquired Perrier in March 1992, in a deal which valued the company at £1.4 billion (US$2.7 billion). The acquisition transformed Nestle into the largest mineral water producer in the world. Nestle believed it could turn around the fortunes of the struggling business.

Perrier acquired San Pellegrino, its Italian rival, in 1997.

Nestle struggled against a powerful union at the Perrier plant. With rising sales, Leven had acquiesced to union requests throughout the 1980s. Faced with stagnant sales, Nestle found that it was unable to continue to accommodate union demands. Nestle failed to make a profit from Perrier between 1992 and 2004.

Production levels crossed the one billion bottle threshold again in 2013. According to data from Euromonitor, Perrier held six percent of the global carbonated bottled water market by value in 2016.

Nestle installed a new production line at the Perrier plant in 2017. Three more lines were added in 2020, bringing the total to 15.

Biscuity history: William Crawford & Sons

Crawford’s was the fourth largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain, and the longest-established. The brand continues today as the economy sister brand to McVitie’s.

Origins and early growth
Ship biscuits were first produced at 31 Shore, a public house in Leith, Edinburgh, from 1813. Robert Mathie (1790 – 1863) took over the business from 1817, and employed five men by 1851.

Mathie retired and sold the business to William Crawford (1818 – 1889) in 1856. Crawford immediately opened an outlet on 14 Leith Street, Edinburgh to extend his customer base.

Crawford was a master baker employing six men and one boy by 1861. He relocated his Edinburgh outlet to 2 Princes Street from 1866.

Crawford employed five men and one boy in 1871.

Crawford established a custom-built factory at Elbe Street, Leith in 1879. The business traded as William Crawford & Sons from 1880. The wheat meal biscuit, similar to a digestive, had replaced the ship biscuit as the leading product by this time.

William Crawford died as a well-respected figure in Leith and Edinburgh in 1889. He was succeeded as principal of the firm by his son, William Crawford (1858 – 1926), a man of a retiring disposition. It would be due to the efforts of the son that the family firm would grow to national scale.

The Elbe Street factory was described as “large” by 1891.

Establishment of a Liverpool factory
William Crawford sent two of his brothers, Archibald Inglis Crawford (1869 – 1940) and James Shields Russell Crawford (1863 – 1927), to establish a subsidiary in Australia in 1897. The brothers were due to set sail from Liverpool, but instead decided to stay put, and established the Fairfield Works on Binns Road in the city.

The Fairfield Works, Binns Road, Liverpool (2013)

Crawford products around this time included wheat meal, shortbread, currant and rich tea biscuits, as well as cream crackers.

William Crawford & Sons had established national distribution by 1900.

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.

The Leith factory was largely rebuilt in 1906, and covered a quarter of an acre. The factory employed 150 men and boys by 1911.

Alexander Hunter Crawford (1865 – 1945), a leading Edinburgh architect, joined the company from around 1920.

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 died with an estate valued at £876,211 in 1926.

William Crawford & Sons ranked among the largest British biscuit manufacturers by 1929. It was the fourth largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain in 1939, with a market share by volume of 14 percent.

Archibald Inglis Crawford died in 1940 with an estate valued at £1,015,886.

Douglas Inglis Crawford (1904 – 1981), son of Archibald, became company chairman from 1946. His father had instilled in him the values of honesty and integrity.

Douglas Inglis Crawford (1904 – 1981)

Takeover by United Biscuits
William Crawford & Sons was the largest privately-owned biscuit manufacturer in Britain by 1962. Its best known product was shortbread. The business employed 3,000 people in Liverpool, and 1,000 in Leith.

The company was still largely in Crawford family hands when it was acquired in a friendly takeover by United Biscuits for £6.25 million in 1962. Douglas Crawford was appointed vice chairman of United Biscuits.

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

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

Douglas Crawford retired in 1974.

The Crawford factory in Liverpool was the longest-established and largest of all United Biscuits factories. It was also the most progressive in terms of employee relations. The site covered seventeen acres and employed 4,000 people by 1977. The Tuc biscuit and Tartan shortbread were its leading products.

Douglas Crawford died with a net estate of £252,431 in 1981.

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.

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

The Salt King: John Corbett

John Corbett was by far the largest producer of salt in Britain.

The early life of John Corbett
John Corbett (1817 – 1901) was the son of Joseph Corbett, a Shropshire farmer. Joseph Corbett relocated to Birmingham, where he established a successful canal freight business.

John Corbett (1817-1901) by Henry Tanworth Wells. Image used with the kind permission of The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

John Corbett left school at the age of ten, and began to drive one of his father’s canal boats. He was eventually promoted to canal boat captain. During this period Corbett observed that salt was one of the major freight goods.

In his spare time, as well as on canal boats, Corbett would read mechanical books, with the aim of becoming an engineer. He served a five year apprenticeship at the Leys Ironworks in Stourbridge from 1840.

John Corbett was taken into partnership by his father in 1846. However the business was suffering with increased competition from the railways, and was sold to the Grand Junction Canal Company in 1849.

Corbett acquires the Stoke Prior Salt Works
John Corbett went to work at the Stoke Prior Salt Works near Droitwich. He began as an engine driver, before working as an outrider, and finally as a cashier. Corbett was learning the salt business at all levels.

Corbett acquired the lease of the Stoke Prior Salt Works in 1852. The works had an annual production of 26,000 tons. Two successive companies had failed to make a success of business. Corbett studied the previous failures and endeavoured to make a success of it.

The Stoke Prior Salt Works produced salt from springwater. Underground springs passed through a salt bed, which gave the water a salt content of 38.4 percent, a higher level than even the Dead Sea.

Corbett used his engineering ability to introduce improved salt refining techniques. Identifying distribution as the most profitable area of the salt industry, he acquired his own canal boats, and later trains, to transport his product. To increase export sales he established agents overseas.

Corbett also hired the best people he could afford, and looked after his employees. He was a model employer, and built a village for his workers including a school, church and social clubs. Corbett was also a dedicated philanthropist, establishing a 40 bed hospital in Stourbridge, as well as gifting Salters Hall to Droitwich.

Throughout his career, Corbett remained a hands-on proprietor, deeply engaged in the management of his business. He was an incredibly keen businessman, and a hard worker, beginning his working day at 6am, and often sleeping above his work offices.

By character Corbett was a quiet, likeable man. He was thoughtful, intelligent and interested in the arts and travel. Despite his immense wealth he lived a plain life, and drank in moderation.

Corbett was probably the largest salt manufacturer in Britain by 1876.

Salt was the largest manufacture by tonnage in Britain after coal and iron in 1879. Between one and two million tons were produced each year, and thousands of people were employed in the industry.

Corbett was producing 200,000 to 300,000 tons of salt every year by 1886. The works covered around 30 acres. High quality table salt was the main product, sold under the “Black Horse” brand.

Men were limited to an eight hour day, and women to seven. Corbett paid his workers a premium of around 15 percent against the industry average. In his entire career, Corbett never suffered a strike that lasted 48 hours or more.

According to an industry estimate, John Corbett held nearly 50 percent of the British salt producing industry by 1888 and the Stoke Prior Salt Works was the most valuable enterprise of its kind in Britain.

The Salt Union
The Salt Union Ltd was formed in 1888 as a merger of various salt interests across the country, including the Stoke Prior Salt Works, which were acquired at the cost of £660,000. Salt Union had a capital of £3 million and produced two million tons of salt every year.

Corbett became deputy chairman, a managing director, and by far the largest shareholder in the concern.

The Salt Union was immediately accused of attempting to rig the market and raise prices. It was alleged in The Standard that salt prices to the strategically important alkali industry had increased by 80 percent.

As a consequence of the price increase, exports slumped by 20 percent, and many people were placed out of work. Corbett initially defended the company, arguing that producers had been operating at an unsustainable loss for a considerable period of time, and that the price adjustment merely reflected a correction of the market.

Corbett was to regret joining the Salt Union. After selling out to the company, he realised that it had entered into a number of imprudent contracts. The company had a lack of focus and direction, and his recommendations for the business were ignored. As a result, Corbett resigned his post as deputy chairman and managing director in 1890.

The Salt Union rapidly lost market share. Its attempt to exploit its monopoly position simply allowed its competitors to undercut it. Furthermore, an improved table salt was introduced by rival Cerebos in 1894.

Corbett died in 1901 due to complications from Alzheimer’s. His net estate was valued at £412,972. An obituary in the Daily Telegraph heralded him as the “Salt King”. The bulk of his estate went to his only surviving brother, Dr Thomas Corbett (1836 – 1906).

The Droitwich works had been practically shut down by 1912.

The Salt Union was acquired by ICI in 1937. The Droitwich works were closed due to the impact of lower-cost foreign imports in 1972.

Ring their praises: Bell Brothers

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

Bell Brothers
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.

Merger with Dorman Long
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.

Wall’s is appointed butcher to royalty
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).

T Wall & Sons enters into mass production
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.

T Wall & Sons is absorbed into Unilever, and enters into ice cream production
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.

Wall’s ice creams were sold from “stop me and buy one” tricycles (1938)

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.

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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.

Viennetta, the first branded ice cream dessert, was introduced from 1982.

The Acton ice cream plant was closed in 1988.

The Cornetto was established as the highest-selling Wall’s product line by 1990.

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.

J C Eno introduces Fruit Salts
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, he managed to quadruple sales in his initial year.

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.

The Eno business is sold to Harold F Ritchie
Following the death of Commander Swithinbank, the business was sold to Harold F Ritchie for a reported £1.5 million in 1928. Ritchie received the first option 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.

Beecham acquires the business
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 had been rebranded as simply “Eno” by the 1980s. It continued as a major Beecham product line.

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. Workers from C & E Morton established Millwall Football Club.

J T Morton
John Thomas Morton (1830 – 1897) was born at Oxford Street, London. He established a small factory producing preserved foods at Clayhills, Aberdeen from 1849. Morton supplied sailing ships with preserved foods.

Morton had established a base in London by 1851.

Almost all production by J T Morton was destined for the export market. A major early product was tinned sardines.

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 and factory in London were based at Leadenhall Street by 1858. The site was located nearby to one of the largest meat markets in the world.

The London premises were relocated to a larger site on Leadenhall Street from 1866.

Expanding sales saw Clayhills production relocated to a new factory on Mount Street in the Rosemount area of Aberdeen from 1870.

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. It was one of the largest and best-equipped canneries in Britain by 1892.

The success of J T Morton was based on a quality product, slim profit margins, and a firm focus on export markets.

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

John Thomas Morton died as a highly wealthy man in 1897. 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.

C & E Morton
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 Mevagissey, 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 workforce.

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 most highly-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.

Crosse & Blackwell planned 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.

Sale to Beecham and Hillsdown Holdings
Beecham, a large consumer goods group, acquired the struggling C & E Morton for £180,000 in 1945. Beecham concentrated production at Lowestoft, where the principal manufacture was tinned vegetables.

The tinned vegetables market had become stagnant by the early 1980s, as supermarket own-label offerings had taken significant market share. Morton Brands was sold to Hillsdown Holdings for £8.5 million in 1986.

The Lowestoft factory, which employed 160 people, 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: a history of J A Sharwood

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

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

Source

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 declared bankrupt and sent to debtors’ prison 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.

Sharwood establishes a grocery business
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 Viceroy 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 is incorporated as a limited company
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 advertised 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.

Sale of J A Sharwood and subsequent growth
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 factory in Greatham, Hartlepool.

Cerebos was acquired by Rank Hovis McDougall in 1968.

Sharwood’s dominated the British chutney market by the 1970s. The brand was heavily marketed.

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

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

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

Sharwood’s held a third of the Oriental foods market by 1998.

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.

Note
According to information from Premier Foods, 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 from 1848. Cope Brothers had entered into tobacco manufacturing by 1853, with a factory on Lord Nelson Street, located adjacent to Lime Street Railway Station.

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 were to prove capable, and 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 by 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 died in 1884 with an estate valued at £199,000.

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

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

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 manufacturer 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 by the British Government, and Gallaher acquired Cope Brothers to increase its quota allowance. Gallaher was also attracted by the fast-growing Old Holborn rolling tobacco brand.

Gallaher closed the Cope Brothers factory and sold the site 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.