Category Archives: Drink

Welsh fire: Idris & Co

Idris “Fiery” ginger beer is manufactured by Britvic and sold throughout Britain.

Thomas Howell Williams (1842 – 1925) was born at Vallen, Pembrokeshire, the son of a Welsh-speaking Baptist farmer. He was apprenticed to an Ebbw Vale chemist from the age of twelve.

Williams emigrated to London in 1863, and went to work for a well-known firm of chemists. Soon, he entered into business for himself, with a chemist shop on Seven Sisters Road. There, he introduced soft drinks under the Idris brand, named for a Welsh mountain.

Manufacturing chemists of the era often produced soft drinks, which were purported to have medical benefits. Ginger ale, Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper were all created by chemists.

The soft drinks arm was successful, and Williams divested his chemists business and established Idris & Co, soft drink manufacturer, on Pratt Street, Camden Town from 1875.

Idris & Co employed 400-500 men by 1891. That year, a generous profit-sharing scheme was introduced for the employees.

Idris & Co was incorporated in 1892 with a nominal capital of £100,000. The company was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in the world.

Williams added Idris to his surname by deed poll in 1893.

Thomas Howell Williams Idris (1842 – 1925), c.1905

Idris & Co employed two automated carbonated soft drink filling machines, which were designed by T H W Idris himself.

Idris & Co nearly doubled in size between 1895 and 1897. Additional factories had been established at Southampton by 1896 and at Liverpool by 1898. A public offering in 1897 raised company capital to £150,000. The company had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria by 1897.

An amalgamation was proposed between Idris & Co and the Chemists’ Aerated & Mineral Waters Association in 1898. With a capital of £400,000 the business would have had the scale to rival Schweppes, but ultimately the merger plans did not come to fruition.

Idris & Co had a share capital of £216,000 by 1900. Depots were located at Teddington, Watford, Reigate, Folkstone, Portsmouth and Bournemouth. The company employed almost 1,000 people, including nearly 200 at the Camden Town factory. That year, five million bottles of carbonated soft drinks were sold, as well as millions of non-carbonated drinks. That year, an additional factory was opened at Canterbury.

Motorised distribution was introduced from 1901. Horse-driven carts had previously limited road distribution to within a 17 mile radius.

Politically, T H W Idris was a radical and a progressive. He invited representatives of the Social Democratic Federation and the National Democratic League to inspect his wages bill in 1902. They declared that Idris & Co paid the highest wages in the industry, that retired workers received pensions and that the profit-sharing scheme had distributed thousands of pounds to staff.

IT H W Idris served as the Mayor of St Pancras in 1904-5. He was the Liberal Member of Parliament for Flintshire from 1906 to 1910.

Idris & Co held a Royal Warrant to supply Edward VII by 1908.

120 women and girls at the Camden Town factory went on strike in 1911 in protest at the dismissal of an employee. The strikers agreed to an independent review of the case by the Board of Trade. The review cleared Idris & Co of any wrongdoing.

Idris & Co was distributing soft drinks within a 50 mile radius of its Camden Town factory by 1912. Depots were situated at Watford, Teddington, Enfield and Southend. The company had over one million bottles. The company had 21 lorries by 1914.

Idris “Fiery” ginger beer (2018)

Idris & Co held a Royal Warrant to supply George V by 1916.

Thomas Howell Williams Idris died in 1925 with an estate valued at £30,317. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Walter Howell Williams Idris (1875 – 1939).

Idris & Co established a new depot at Chelmsford, Essex in 1936.

W H W Idris died in 1939, with a gross estate valued at £20,230. Joseph Edward Southwell succeeded him until 1943, when Ivor Trevena Idris (1911 – 1993), the grandson of the late founder, became chairman.

Idris mineral water was not available during the Second World War due to Government restrictions aimed at rationalising production.

Coca-Cola Bottlers of Scotland was acquired in 1961.

Idris entered into a joint venture with Fuller Smith & Turner, the London brewer, for the 7 Up bottling franchise for London and the South East in 1964.

The antiquated Camden Town factories were closed in 1965, and production was relocated to a new site at White Hart Lane, Tottenham.

Idris & Co made a loss of £348,000 in 1965-6, following problems establishing the new factory, and a fire at the Coca-Cola Scotland plant.

The loss-making company was acquired by Beecham, which owned the Lucozade, Ribena and Corona soft drinks brands, in 1967.

Britvic acquired the Beecham soft drinks business in 1987. Idris “Fiery” ginger beer is still sold as of 2018.

On the rocks: H D Rawlings

H D Rawlings was one of the largest and most prestigious soft drinks manufacturers in Victorian England.

In press advertising from 1860, Rawlings & Co claimed an establishment date of 1815. John Rawlings (1771 – 1848), ginger beer manufacturer, was certainly based at Nassau Street, Fitzrovia by 1827. The exact address is confirmed as 2 Nassau Street by 1831.

John Rawlings died in 1848 and the business was inherited by his sons, John (1806 – 1853) and James (1814 – 1882). In 1851 James Rawlings lived at 2 Nassau Street and was a ginger beer manufacturer employing 20 men. John Rawlings lived at 3 Nassau Street, and was also a ginger beer manufacturer.

John Rawlings died in 1853 and his stake in the business was inherited by Sarah Rawlings (1819 – 1863), his widow.

The business occupied 2-4 Nassau Street by 1856, and the range of drinks had been expanded to include lemonade and soda, as well as ginger beer.

Sarah Rawlings married her clerk, Henry Doo (1837 – 1904) in 1857, and he took on the name Henry Doo Rawlings.

Premises had extended to include 8 Charles Street, Fitzrovia by 1860.

At the instigation of James Rawlings, a works’ brass band was established in 1862. The firm enjoyed a strong relationship with its workforce, which it treated to an annual dinner or excursion.

Sarah Doo (nee Rawlings) died in September 1863, with an estate valued at under £7,000. H D Rawlings became principal partner in the firm, although James Rawlings also had a stake, and the firm traded as H D & J Rawlings.

Less than four months after the death of his wife, Henry Doo Rawlings married Jane Sewell in Paris.

H D & J Rawlings had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria with soft drinks by 1864.

Henry Doo Rawlings was described in the Marylebone Mercury in 1866 as “lively, open-hearted and genial, easily approached, with no manifest sense of self-importance”. James Rawlings was described as more reserved, “but thoroughly cordial and kind when the ice was broken”.

The firm was a generous contributor to the Licensed Victuallers Asylum, a charity for retired victuallers.

The firm supplied the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Emperor of France by 1869.

James Rawlings retired in 1870, and the firm was continued under the name H D Rawlings.

There was a gas explosion at the Nassau Street factory in 1877. Henry Doo Rawlings and two other men received burns to their faces and hands, and had to be taken to Middlesex Hospital.

The firm was based at 2 Nassau Street and Berners Street in 1879.

Henry Doo Rawlings was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1886.

R White & Sons of Camberwell acquired H D Rawlings in 1891.  It was also incorporated as a limited company at this time. The Rawlings brand continued as the “premium” offering alongside the “standard” R White’s soft drinks.

H D Rawlings advertised that it could supply up to 120,000 stone bottles of ginger beer within notice of a few hours in 1892. The Rawlings factory was on Neate Street, Camberwell by 1894.

Henry Doo Rawlings died in Paris in 1904. He left an estate valued at over £47,000.

H D Rawlings was based at 8 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia and Neate Street, Camberwell in 1914. The company employed about 400 people.

The licensed trade in the London area was the principal customer for H D Rawlings products by 1952.

R White & Sons was acquired by Whitbread, a national brewer, in 1969.

H D Rawlings was based at Winsor Terrace, London by 1975. By this time the brand was primarily being marketed as a mixer for spirits, and was largely affiliated with the on-trade of clubs, hotels and public houses.

Whitbread and Bass merged their soft drinks operations to form Canada Dry Rawlings in 1980. Bass owned 65 percent of the venture and Whitbread owned the remainder. The business concentrated on supplying the licensed trade.

Britvic acquired Canada Dry Rawlings in 1986. Britvic phased out the Rawlings name in favour of the Britvic brand.

Popular: Ben Shaw’s of Huddersfield

30 million cans of Ben Shaw’s soft drinks are sold every year. The highest selling product is cloudy lemonade.

Benjamin Shaw (1836 – 1901) was born at Kirkheaton, Huddersfield, the son of a farm labourer. He found work in the Huddersfield textile trade, initially as a woollen spinner, and then as a supervisor.

Benjamin Shaw (1836 – 1901)

Shaw established a partnership with his brother George in 1871, bottling Pennine spring water from premises on Charles Street, Huddersfield. Soon, the firm expanded into non-alcoholic “botanic” porter and ginger beer, distributing their products by horse and cart.

Benjamin Shaw bought out his brother’s stake in the partnership for £317 in 1876, to become sole proprietor of the business. The firm employed seven men in 1881.

Shaw was a keen advocate of the temperance movement. He supported good causes, such as the establishment of a working men’s club in Huddersfield. He was nominated as a member of Huddersfield Town Council in 1881.

The firm relocated to a new factory on Upperhead Row, Huddersfield in 1883.

Production was relocated to a purpose-built factory on Willow Lane, Huddersfield from 1894. By this time the firm traded as Benjamin Shaw & Sons.

Benjamin Shaw died in 1901, and left an estate of £6,955. He was succeeded in business by his two sons, Ernest (1858 – 1924) and Frank Shaw (born 1870).

Benjamin Shaw & Sons was registered as a private company with capital of £20,000 in 1913.

Ernest Shaw died in 1924 with an estate valued at over £20,500. Beaumont Stephenson (1877 – 1948), a son in law of Benjamin Shaw, took charge of the company.

Clifford Stephenson (1902 – 1992) took control of the company, following the death of his father in 1948.

Distribution was extended into the neighbouring county of Lancashire in 1957.

Ben Shaw’s became the first company in Europe to can soft drinks in 1959.

A new factory was opened at Brockholes near Huddersfield in 1966. It could produce 100,000 cans a day by 1970. The fully-automated factory employed a staff of just 30.

Ben Shaw’s held around three percent of the British carbonated soft drinks market by 1989.

Overexpansion in the early 1990s saw family control lost to the Rutland Trust. It was acquired by Chaudfontaine of Belgium in 1994.

The Willow Lane site was acquired by Britvic in 2004 when it bought the Ben Shaw’s bottled water business, including the Pennine Spring brand.

Cott Beverages of Canada acquired Ben Shaw’s in 2005.

Britvic closed the Willow Lane factory in 2013. Production of the Pennine Spring and Drench bottled water brands was discontinued.

Alright, R White

R White’s is the leading lemonade brand in Britain.*


Robert White (1825 – 1901) was born at Horsleydown, London. He sold homemade ginger beer from a cart in the streets of Camberwell from 1845. Assisted by his wife Mary, he eventually bought a market stall.

Sales grew, and a factory was established at Charles Street, Camberwell. The factory was greatly extended in 1866.

Ginger beer, soda water and lemonade were distributed throughout London. Unfortunately, Robert White overreached himself, and was forced to declare himself bankrupt in 1867.

White was far from discouraged, however, and by 1871 he employed twelve people. By this time he had been joined in partnership by his two sons, Robert James (1849 – 1921) and John George (1851 – 1942), to form R White & Sons.

By 1881 R White & Sons had established a factory at Cunard Street in Camberwell, and employed a workforce of 50.

H Wilcox, soft drinks manufacturers of Rodney Road, Walworth was acquired in 1884.

R White & Sons had a stock of three million stone bottles by 1886. Unlike some manufacturers, the firm had not yet made the transition to glass bottles, which were increasing in popularity.

Artis Capel & Co, soft drinks manufacturers of Neate Street, Camberwell, had been acquired by 1888.

Robert White retired from the partnership in 1888. There were two factories on Neate Street and one on Cunard Street, all in Camberwell; one on Rodney Road, Walworth; one at Kingston upon Thames; and one at Barking. Neate Street was the principal manufacturing site.

R White & Sons grew largely as a result of the low cost of sugar. In 1890 R White’s sold 46.8 million bottles of soft drinks, over 410,000 gallons of soft drinks in casks and over 31,000 gallons of cordials.

H D Rawlings, a prestigious soft drinks manufacturer of Marylebone, London was acquired in 1891.

R White & Sons was incorporated as a public company in 1894, with a share capital of £300,000. By this time it was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in London. The company had seven modern factories and thirteen depots in London and the Home Counties. It supplied 40,000 trade customers via a distribution network of 639 horses and 325 vans. The company was largely debt-free (under £3,000).

The business continued to grow rapidly, and an 1897 advertisement claimed that the company was the largest manufacturer of soft drinks in the world.

R White & Sons was awarded the licence to distribute Kops Ale, a non-alcoholic beer in the London district from 1892. The Kops Brewery business was acquired outright in 1898.

R White & Sons had thirteen factories, including sites in Birmingham and Manchester, by 1899. There were also three breweries where Kops Ale was produced. There were 15 depots located throughout the South East of England. That year, share capital was increased to £800,000.

A factory at George Street, Camberwell, used for producing flavouring and preservative chemicals, was destroyed by fire in 1903, with damage estimated at £100,000 to £150,000.

Robert James White and one of his managers were found guilty of avoiding duty on saccharine in 1903, and fined £4,176.

R J and J G White were well regarded as employers, and the workforce was a contented one. An employee sick fund was established in 1895.

R J White was a local philanthropist. He donated £500 to the Camberwell library in 1901. In 1902 he opened the largest and best-equipped soup kitchen in Camberwell at his Albany Road factory. He funded the distribution of 143,000 quarts of soup in 1903. In 1905 he took 1,400 poor Camberwell children on an excursion to his farm at Ewell.

It was claimed that R White’s produced half of all lemonade and ginger beer sold in England in 1908. The London factory covered 20 acres, and the company employed 3,000 horses and 1,000 lorries.

R White’s paid damages of £300 in 1909 after a bottle of hop ale was ruled to have contained zinc chloride, a powerful corrosive.

200 girls went on strike at the Waltham Cross factory in 1912, in protest at the reinstatement of an unpopular supervisor.

Company capital was reduced in 1910, and again in 1914, to £82,000.

Over 600 R White & Sons men were serving in the armed forces by 1918.

In 1920 R White & Sons was found guilty in court of selling a bottle of lemon squash containing a dead mouse, and ordered to pay compensation to the claimant.

In 1921 R White & Sons was fined by Surrey County Council for misleading the public by advertising its lemonade as being made with “Messina lemons”. An analysis found that R White’s lemonade was simply carbonated sugar water acidified with phosphoric acid, four times the maximum amount allowed by the British Pharmacopoeia. There was no trace of lemon juice in it. The company stated that it had used phosphoric acid for forty years as it enhanced the lifespan of the product, and that they used lemon oil for flavouring purposes. The company was fined £41 including costs.

Robert James White died in 1921 with an estate valued at £96,506.

In 1925 company capital was increased to £164,000. R White & Sons was reconverted into a private company in 1927.

Sydney John White (1884 – 1938) died in 1938 with an estate valued at £192,484. He had been a director of R White & Sons and the managing director of H D Rawlings.

John George White died in 1942 with an estate valued at £268,073.

R White & Sons employed 725 people in 1951. In 1952 the company had seven factories in London, the Home Counties and Birmingham, with a production capacity of over 1.5 million bottles per week, and a fully-paid capital of £500,000. Net tangible assets amounted to £847,000. That year, the family-controlled company was forced to go public due to the cost of death duties.

Harold Artis White, a director of R White & Sons, left an estate of £122,933 in 1957.

In 1969 R White & Sons was acquired by Whitbread, a brewer, for £3 million. The takeover was recommended by the directors, who sold their 60 percent stake in the company. It was Whitbread’s first major venture into soft drinks, and was to prove difficult and unrewarding for the brewer, despite substantial investment.

Whitbread divested the R White & Sons factory at Barking in 1972, and transferred production to a new factory at Beckton, East London, where it continues to this day. Built at a cost of £4 million across a 6.5 acre site, it was one of the largest soft drinks bottling plants in Britain.

In 1973 the popular “Secret Lemonade drinker” television advertising campaign was launched. It continued to air until 1984.

By 1975 R White & Sons held a franchise to produce Pepsi-Cola. Between 1975-77 the company held the franchise to produce A G Barr’s Irn-Bru for the London area.

In 1977 R White & Sons held 10 percent of the British market for carbonated drinks (excluding cola), but was the brand leader in lemonade, with a 40 percent share.

In 1980 Whitbread and Bass merged their soft drinks operations to form Canada Dry Rawlings. Bass owned 65 percent of the venture and Whitbread owned the remainder. The business concentrated on supplying the licensed trade.

In 1985-6 R White’s had 2.5 percent of the carbonated soft drinks market (excluding cola).

Britvic acquired Canada Dry Rawlings in 1986. The merger brought together Britvic’s strength in fruit juices and cordials, and Canada Dry Rawling’s strength in carbonated drinks.

In 1989 R White’s had the fourth highest sales for a carbonated drinks brand in Britain, behind only Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Schweppes.

As late as 1994 R White’s produced dandelion and burdock, cream soda and ginger beer, as well as lemonade, but these were soon phased out until only lemonade was available.

In 2009 R White’s was the third highest selling soft drink brand in the British on-trade (sales in pubs and bars).

By 2010, sugar in R White’s had been replaced by artificial sweeteners.

Note: Sprite and 7 Up are lemon-lime drinks, and thus not “lemonade”.

As easy as: ABC tea shops

The ABC tea shop was a ubiquitous part of early twentieth century London life, mentioned by T S Eliot and Virginia Woolf, and lambasted by George Orwell.

The Aerated Bread Company (ABC) was incorporated in London in 1862 with a nominal capital of £500,000. It was formed to manufacture bread using a new patented process which used carbon dioxide instead of yeast.

As a mass producer, the ABC had a large number of contracts with institutions such as schools and hospitals. It also had a number of retail outlets in London which sold bread and cakes directly to consumers.

In 1884 a manageress at a ABC bakery shop near London Bridge Station suggested to the directors that on-site sales of tea might increase revenues. This proved successful, and was rolled out across all outlets.

The tea shops proved popular among clerical workers, who appreciated their affordable prices, and by 1889 there were around 70 outlets.

An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown
An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown

From 1891, production at a centralised bakery in Camden Town helped to keep costs low. The low-margin business received criticism for the low-pay of ABC waitresses, who worked a 62 hour week.

J Lyons opened its first tea shop in 1894. Lyons branches were more upmarket and better managed than the ABC shops, and by 1911 Lyons had overtaken its rival in number of central London outlets.

ABC served over 1.25 million customers in 1911. By 1912 there were 150 branches. By this time the tea shops had evolved into cheap restaurants. In 1911 a commentator wrote that service was slow, but the quality of the tea was “beyond reproach”.

By 1913 ABC was far better known for its London tea shops than its bread manufacture.

In 1918 ABC acquired W & G Buszard, a London bakery chain with 140 shops. ABC were attracted to the merger by the strong management team at Buszard. Buszard directors, led by Charles Cottier (1869 – 1928) and Frederick Hutter (1876 – 1927), quickly came to dominate the ABC board.

Cottier was a forceful personality, and led by him, ABC undertook numerous acquisitions from 1919. These were Bertram & Co (railway catering), James Cottle (Liverpool and Manchester restaurants), Cabins, JP Restaurants (with 80 outlets around London), Newberys (shop-fitters), Abford Estates (a large property development) and a controlling interest in W Hill & Sons (29 shops), at a combined cost of just under £500,000.

By 1921 the managing director of ABC, Frederick Hutter, was described as the “Napoleon” of the London catering trade. Hutter had humble origins, beginning his career as a baker’s assistant. As well as hundreds of tea shops the company also owned the prestigious Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly.

By 1922 ABC had a total of 200 to 250 tea shops and restaurants. By 1925 over 2 million people drank tea in either a Lyons or an ABC tea shop in London every week. The manufacturing site at Camden Town covered over four acres.

By 1926 ABC had 156 branches across London. That year also saw the prim Victorian black and white waitress uniforms replaced by blue dresses.

In 1926 ABC built the largest single tea shop in Britain, opposite Victoria Station. The site was bought from the Duke of Westminster, supposedly for £500,000.

By 1929 paid up capital at ABC amounted to £1.75 million.

In 1929, in the wake of low profits, the well-known accountant Sir W H Peat was contracted to perform an independent review of the company. He argued that the numerous acquisitions did not tie in with the core ABC business, and as such, very few economies of scale could be made. He also argued that the company had paid excessive dividends, and had failed to update and modernise its shops, which had become run down.

The manufacture of aerated bread ended in 1954.

In 1955, ABC, with 164 tea shops, was acquired by Allied Bakeries, controlled by W Garfield Weston, for nearly £3 million. By this time ABC was the second largest chain of restaurants in Britain. Allied Bakeries was motivated by the increase in outlets for its bakery products, and valued the ABC estate at between £1.7 million and £2 million.

Unprofitable branches were quickly sold off, and new outlets opened at better locations. Allied Bakeries invested in the stores to bring them up to the standard of their competitors. The changes worked, and by 1959 the loss-making venture had become one of the most profitable parts of Allied Bakeries.

In 1959 Allied Bakeries sold the Abford House subsidiary, which consisted of a large freehold property in Victoria, London, for over £500,000 to Spiers & Pond, a catering company.

In 1962 ABC reported a profit before tax of over £850,000. In 1966, a pre-tax profit of £735,000 was reported.

Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s the trade of the tea shops began to decline. Rivals with no or limited seating had lower overheads. By 1976 there were 200 ABC outlets, but the tea shops were being phased out in favour of take-away bakery shops.

In 1976, production of small, hand-finished cakes at the Camden Town site was ended. This resulted in the loss of over 400 jobs. The Camden Town site was antiquated, and unsuited for modern production, and in 1982 it was closed for good, with the loss of a further 200 jobs. The ABC tea shops also disappeared around this time.

The Camden site was demolished a few years later, and a Sainsbury’s supermarket now stands in its place. Any residual ABC trademarks are held by Associated British Foods, the successor company to Allied Bakeries.

Largest brewery in the world: historic claimants

In 1750 to 1760, John Calvert of London had the largest brewery in the world.

From at least 1780 until 1808 Whitbread of London was the largest brewer in the world.

In 1809 Barclay Perkins of Southwark, London became the largest brewer in the world.

In 1858 Allsopp & Son erected the largest brewery in the world at Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands.

By the 1870s Bass at Burton upon Trent was the largest brewer in the world.

By 1886 the Guinness site at St James’s Gate in Dublin was the largest brewery in the world.

By 1929 as many as 10 million glasses of Guinness could be sold in a single day.

In 2015 the Miller Coors facility at Golden, Colorado is the largest single-site brewery in the world.

Brewing up a storm: Tetley tea

After successfully introducing the tea bag to Britain, Tetley grew to lead the market.

Joseph Tetley (1811 -1899) and his brother Edward began to sell salt from a horse and cart in Bradford, Yorkshire from 1837. Before long, tea was added to their wares.

The business had relocated to Huddersfield by 1851, and employed 14 people. The Tetley brothers relocated to 25 Cullum Street in London, close to the tea auction houses of Mincing Lane, from 1856. The business employed 18 people in 1861.

Edward Tetley left the business in 1865. Joseph Ackland entered the business as a partner and the business traded as Joseph Tetley & Co.

Joseph took on his son, Joseph Tetley Jr (1850 – 1935) and long-term employee Samuel Furniss as partners in the business from 1871. Tetley & Co also expanded into blending and packaging tea for itself.

Joseph Tetley and his son acquired the Ackland and Furniss stakes in 1880. By this time the premises were at 31 Fenchurch Street. The firm established a sales agency in New York from 1888.

Joseph Tetley & Sons was incorporated as public company in 1907, and as a private company a year later. By this time the company was a leading London wholesale tea dealer. By 1913 the American business had substantially expanded, and a subsidiary company was established in New York.

Joseph Tetley Jr died in 1935, with an estate valued at £75,000 (equivalent to £29.5 million in 2015). His nephew, William Tetley-Jones took over the company, but died just a few months later. The company was inherited by his son, Tetley Ironside Tetley-Jones (1912 – 1990).

In 1939 Tetley-Jones visited America where he encountered the growing popularity of the tea bag, as opposed to brewing with loose tea leaves. He pioneered mass production of the tea bag in Britain from 1940. Initially production was for export only, due to rationing in Britain.

In 1941 the London premises were damaged during the Blitz, and a new production facility was opened at Bletchley in Buckinghamshire. By this time the head office was at Mansell Street, still close to Mincing Lane.

In 1951 the company was converted back into a public company, with a share capital of £410,000 (£50.7 million in 2015). Net assets were valued at just under £600,000 (£74 million in 2015).

The end of rationing allowed Tetley-Jones to introduce the tea bag to the British consumer in 1953. Tetley-Jones spearheaded the initiative, and had to fight the scepticism of his board of directors. The head tea buyer for Brooke Bond, the largest tea company in the world, announced that his company would never produce tea bags, which he believed imparted the taste of paper to the product.

In 1958 the Bletchley plant was sold off, and all production was centered at a new factory at Eaglescliffe in County Durham. The same year, a new factory was opened at Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Total company capital rose to £750,000 (£58 million in 2015).

Tetley-Jones believed that the company was too small to compete against larger companies such as Brooke Bond, and had been searching for a buyer for years. In 1961 Tetley & Co was acquired by Beech-Nut Life Savers of New York for £2.3 million in cash (£148 million in 2015). Whilst a leader in the small UK tea bag market, most company profits came from the American subsidiary.

Beech-Nut Life Savers provided the capital necessary for expansion of production and marketing of the tea bags. By 1964 tea bags had taken five percent of the British tea market, and all of production belonged to Tetley. It was only that year that the major tea packers introduced their own tea bags.

Tetley tea bag sales grew 58 percent to the catering trade, and by 41 percent to the domestic trade in 1965. The company was exporting millions of tea bags every year.

Tetley tea bag sales rose 63 percent to a total of two billion bags in 1967. Tetley held two thirds of the retail market for tea bags, and 50 percent of the catering market.

In 1968 Tetley sold 5,000 tonnes of tea bags. By 1969 Tetley had 65 percent of the British tea bag market.

In 1973, J Lyons, the British catering giant, and a major tea producer itself, acquired Tetley for £23 million (£524 million in 2015).

The “Tetley tea folk “advertising campaign was launched in 1973.

The Eaglescliffe plant was the largest tea bag factory in the world by 1986.

Tetley introduced the round tea bag in 1989. In 2000 Tetley was acquired by Tata, an Indian conglomerate, for £271 million.

Tetley is the third highest selling tea brand in Britain, with a 16 percent market share as of 2016.

Note: all current day wealth calculations are measured as a percentage of GDP, and are taken from

Top tips: Typhoo tea

Typhoo has been one of the highest selling tea brands in Britain since the 1930s.

William Sumner (born c. 1796) established a grocery business with an emphasis on tea, at 96 High Street, Birmingham in 1820. In 1852 it passed to his son John Sumner Snr.

John Sumner Jr (1856 – 1934) joined the family business after leaving school, and began to package and market a blend of tea leaf tips from 1903. Packaged tea was a relatively unknown item in Britain at the time, as the product was generally sold loose from shops.

Previously the market had been dominated by whole leaf tea, and the tips had been discarded. Sumner successfully marketed the tips as a cure for nervousness and an aid to digestion under the brand name Typhoo Tipps. He derived the Typhoo name from a Chinese word meaning doctor.

Sumner divested the grocery business in 1905 and founded a private company to produce and market his packaged tea. A factory was established at Castle Street in Digbeth, Birmingham. Rapid expansion occurred with assistance from aggressive marketing.

Sumner established a blending operation in Ceylon in 1909. This allowed him to buy directly from growers, thus saving costs by cutting out the middleman.

Sumner retired in 1926 and dedicated much of the rest of his life to philanthropy. The business was taken over by his son, John Richard Hugh Sumner (1887 – 1971). The factory was relocated to Bordesley Street, also in Digbeth, in 1930.

Typhoo tea was sold in over 40,000 outlets by the early 1930s, making it one of the highest selling packet teas in Britain.

u_20260840_Half Moon Bay_Magnets_typhoo-tea-fridge-magnet

Operations ended in Ceylon in 1933, after it was discovered that the Ceylon agents were overcharging the company for inferior tea.

John Sumner died in 1934 and left an estate valued at £740,041.

Wartime bombing damaged the company factory in Birmingham in 1941. With reconstruction materials scarce, limited production was relocated to Brooke Bond and J Lyons for the remainder of the war.

Typhoo was incorporated with a capital of £750,000 in 1949. This figure was increased to £1.1 million in 1954.

A £22 million takeover bid by Kraft of Chicago was rejected in 1960. Typhoo held around 15 percent of the British tea market throughout the 1960s, behind Brooke Bond and the Co-op, and alongside J Lyons.

Sumner retired in 1966 and the managing director, Henry Claude Kelley (1897 – 1974), became chairman.

Typhoo began to manufacture tea bags from 1967. Due to its late entrance, rival companies such as Tetley and Brooke Bond already had firm footholds in this increasingly significant market.

Typhoo was acquired by Schweppes, the soft drinks concern, for £45 million in 1968. Schweppes intended to utilise its strong marketing skills and global distribution network to increase Typhoo sales. It was almost a merger of equals, with Typhoo shareholders holding around 40 percent of the combined entity.

Schweppes merged with Cadbury in 1969. Immediately, Cadbury Schweppes considered relocating Typhoo production to their large factory in Bournville, but the low potential resale value of the Digbeth site meant that the proposal was discarded at that time.


The 160,000 sq ft factory in Digbeth, Birmingham employed 550 workers when it was closed in 1978. All the workers were offered alternative employment by Cadbury, who had significant operations in the area. The closure occurred as the Birmingham site was unsuitable for conversion to high-speed production.

Production was relocated to Moreton, Merseyside, which had been acquired by Cadbury in 1953 as a biscuit production plant. Moreton is conveniently located just a short distance away from the Port of Liverpool, where tea arrives by boat.

Typhoo was subject to a management buyout in 1986, and the company became known as Premier Brands. That year Melrose, the Scottish tea business, was acquired.

Typhoo was acquired by Premier Foods in 1990. In a marketing-led industry, the brand lacked an advertising campaign with the memorability of the PG Tips chimpanzees or the Tetley tea folk. Its share of the tea market was down to three percent by 1993.

Premier Foods sold Typhoo to Apeejay Surrendra Group of India for £80 million in 2005.

Typhoo placed fifth in the British tea market in 2015, with around ten percent market share.

Typhoo tea is still manufactured at Moreton, where 260 people are employed. The factory is the largest packer of own-label tea in the UK, supplying all but one of the major retailers. The factory produces about 25 percent of all tea consumed in Britain.

A history of the largest tea companies in Britain

The highly competitive nature of the British tea industry has seen a number of different market leaders emerge at different points in time.

Horniman & Co was the first company in the world to package tea (as opposed to loose-leaf sales by grocers). By 1867 they claimed to have the largest stock of tea in Britain in their warehouses. By 1880 they sold over 5 million packets a year. By 1890 they had export sales of 500,000 lbs a week.

By 1892 Horniman had been overtaken by Mazawattee, who sold over 14 million packets of tea each year. Mazawattee had introduced a brand that was blended entirely from fashionable Ceylon tea leaves. They also advertised more heavily than Horniman.

By 1897 Lipton & Co claimed the largest sales of tea in the world, with one million packets sold each week. Lipton had acquired their own tea plantations in Ceylon, and by cutting out the middleman, were able to offer lower prices to the consumer.

In 1903 John Sumner began to package a new blend which used only the tips of the tea leaf. With the distinctive name of Typhoo, it had lower tannin levels and a higher caffeine content, Sumner claimed digestive properties for his product.

By 1915 J Lyons & Co sold 5 million packets of tea each week, and were far and away the market leader in Britain, stocked in 160,000 outlets. In 1922 they claimed that 7 million people drank their tea every week.

In 1923 the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) claimed that it was the largest tea business in the world, with a sale of over 60 million lbs of tea every year. By 1932 this figure had increased to 100 million lbs a year.

In 1939 the CWS was the largest tea blender and distributor in the United Kingdom, controlling around 25 percent of the supply. It was followed by Lyons, Brooke Bond and Allied Suppliers (who controlled Lipton).

CWS tea sales declined with the rise of the supermarket chains: the new chains saw CWS, who operated their own grocery stores, as a rival, and refused to stock their tea.

By 1957 Brooke Bond was probably the largest tea company in the world, with around one third of the British and Indian tea markets.

In the 1960s, Tetley grew from a minor player to a major force in tea after it pioneered the use of the tea bag in Britain.

Brooke Bond was still the largest tea company in the world when it was acquired by Unilever in 1984. Unilever had acquired Lipton in 1971.

Today Lipton is the largest tea brand in the world, with most production centered on a single site in Dubai.

A potted history of Twining & Co

Twining’s is sold in over 115 countries, and is the leading premium tea brand in the world.

The Twining family originated from Gloucestershire, and often found employment in the weaving industry. Recession in the trade led Daniel Twining to migrate to London with his family in 1684. In 1706 his son, Thomas Twining (1675 – 1741), acquired Tom’s Coffee House on Deveraux Court, at the back of 216 Strand. The shop was well-sited to serve the aristocracy.

The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.
The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.

As well as coffee, Twining began to sell the rare but fashionable tea. Twining was supplying tea by royal appointment to Queen Anne by 1711. In 1717 Twining acquired the Golden Lyon at 216 Strand: the company still trades from the same premises today. Coffee had been phased out in order to focus on tea by 1734.

Thomas’s son, Daniel Twining, took over the business, and by 1749 was exporting tea to America. Between 1762 and 1782 the firm was run by Daniel’s widow, Mary Twining.

In 1782 Richard Twining (1749 – 1824) took over the company’s management. In 1784 he advised the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, to dramatically reduce the tax on tea to reduce smuggling. Tea sales subsequently quadrupled.

In 1787 Twining introduced its current logo, reputedly the oldest commercial logo to be in continuous use since its inception.


In an 1814 letter, Jane Austen revealed herself to be a Twining tea customer.

The company also developed a substantial banking arm, and in 1824 it was established as a separate entity.

In 1838, Twining received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. It has held a Royal Warrant from each successive British monarch ever since.

Twining exclusively used tea from China until 1839, when they also began to use tea from India and Assam. From 1879 Ceylon tea began to be used.

From the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century, staff in the shop wore swallow tail coats and white ties. Moustaches were banned.

The Twining bank struggled to compete as rivals grew larger, and in 1892 it was acquired by Lloyds Bank.

Twining survived by keeping up with modern developments. Also, Twining & Co was fortunate in that family members who ran the company had all been excellent businessmen. Also, unlike many other tea companies, Twining’s never owned tea plantations, which meant that it wasn’t tied to its own producers, and could select the best tea crops each year.

Following the acquisition of the tea interests of Harrisons Crosfield of Bankside in 1916, a private company was incorporated as Twining Crosfield. The company had a share capital of £50,000. It was likely the second largest tea blending company after Brooke Bond.

In 1941 part of the Twinings shop and the entire back premises were destroyed by the Luftwaffe. Business continued throughout the war, although the damages necessitated that administration was relocated to Vincent Square in Westminster, followed by the Minories in the City of London, until the premises were rebuilt in 1953.

In 1952 Twining became a public company with a share capital of £400,000. The company employed a staff of 450, and had net assets of almost £525,000. Manufacturing premises were at Wellclose Square, with floorspace of over 42,000 sq ft. There were also smaller factories at Belfast and Staffordshire. As well as the Strand location, the company operated shops at Wigmore Street and William Street, Knightsbridge.

Twinings undertook advertising for the first time in 1956. This move was prompted by the rise in sales of branded teas such as PG Tips.

In 1964 Twining was acquired by Associated British Foods in a friendly takeover. ABF, controlled by George Weston, beat a hostile takeover from Beech-Nut Life Saver of New York, who bid almost £2 million. Beech-Nut had planned to merge Twining with its own Tetley Tea operation. ABF vowed to maintain the business as it had been run before.

The main plant in southeast London was struggling to cope with demand. In 1966 production was relocated to a new plant in Andover, Hampshire that cost almost £3 million. Across seven acres, it was one of the most modern automated factories in the world, and employed 700 workers.

In 1970 an additional factory was opened at North Shields in the northeast of England.

A dedicated marketing manager, Brynley Evans, was brought in from Rank Organisation. In 1973 he became managing director.

By the 1970s Twining’s tea had strong sales overseas. Japan and France were the leading export markets, whilst American sales continued to grow strongly, with a 55 percent rise between January and October 1971. Meanwhile the company gained distribution in British supermarkets with its speciality teas such as Earl Grey.

By October 1974 Twining was the second largest supplier of black tea in Japan, with 32 percent of the market.

Company turnover in 1976 was over £18 million. Between 1969 and 1976, export sales more than quadrupled to £8 million, and Twining was exporting to over 80 countries. The company blended and packed 23 different types of tea. Twining was the biggest British buyer of tea from China. Twining supplied 26 percent of all the tea consumed in France.

In 1980 Twining opened a $6 million tea manufacturing facility at Greensboro, North Carolina, its first such plant in America.

By 1983 annual export sales had reached £17 million. By this time Twining was a brand leader in Japan.

By 1984 Twining was Britain’s largest exporter of tea to America. Earl Grey was the company’s bestseller worldwide.

The Greensboro plant was closed in 2005, with the loss of 90 jobs.

In 2011 Twining closed their North Shields factory and halved the workforce at the Andover plant, and moved all export production to Swarzedz, Poland. Nearly 400 jobs were lost in Britain. Twining also applied to the European Union for €12 million in investment grants to assist with the relocation, but this was denied.

Twining is the second highest selling brand of tea in the UK as of 2016, with a market share of 20 percent.