Category Archives: Spreads & sauces

Keen as mustard: Keen Robinson

Keen & Co was perhaps the largest mustard manufacturer in the world before it was overtaken by Colman’s in the 1860s.

Thomas Keen establishes a mustard factory
Mustard became an increasingly popular condiment throughout the eighteenth century, with production largely centered at Durham and Tewkesbury.

Thomas Keen became the first commercial producer of mustard powder in the City of London from 1742, with a factory at Garlick Hill.

The business traded as Sutton, Keen & Smith by 1794.

The factory was entirely destroyed by fire in 1806.

The business traded as Keen, Son & Co by 1818.

A Joseph Teale exited the business in 1824, leaving John Keen, John Henry Keen and James Keen (1780 – 1849) as partners.

John Keen retired in 1828, leaving Thomas Keen (1800 – 1862) and James Keen as sole partners.

The business was known as Keens & Welch by 1841. James Keen left the partnership in 1849, leaving Thomas Keen and John Welch (1805 – 1856).

Thomas Keen was a wealthy man by 1851; he kept nine servants in his household.

Keen Robinson Bellville & Co
Thomas Keen died in 1862, and Thomas Keen & Son was merged with Robinson & Bellville of Holborn, manufacturers of patent barley. The merged firm traded as Keen Robinson Bellville & Co.

Keen’s mustard was described as “world famous” in the Morning Post in 1868.

William John Bellville (1829 – 1891) was sole proprietor of the firm by 1876.

William John Bellville (1829 – 1891)

Keen operated the largest mustard factory in London by 1881, and it was supposedly the oldest mustard factory in the world. Additional factory premises were acquired at Denmark Street, London, in the 1880s.

William John Bellville died with an estate valued at £638,000 in 1891. The firm was inherited by his wife, Emma Bellville (born 1847).

The Garlick Hill premises was said to the oldest factory in the City of London by 1892. It spanned five floors. Most mustard seed was grown in the East of England, although some was imported from the Netherlands. There were extensive granaries in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and Boston, Lincolnshire. The firm employed over 1,000 people, and was notable for not employing women, except for in sack mending.

Keen Robinson is acquired by J & J Colman
The business was registered as Keen Robinson, with a capital of £300,000,  from 1893.

Keen Robinson was acquired by J & J Colman of Norwich, a rival mustard manufacturer, in 1903. Frank Ashton Bellville (1870 – 1937) joined the Colman’s board of directors.

It appears that Keen’s mustard advertising was immediately withdrawn in favour of the Colman’s brand.

Production was centralised at Colman’s Carrow Works in Norwich from 1925.

The two brothers and heirs to the Keen Robinson fortune both died in 1937. Frank Ashton Bellville left an estate valued at £394,397, and William John Bellville (1868 – 1937) left an estate valued at £393,709.

The Keen’s mustard brand appears to have been phased out in Britain following the Second World War.

Colman was sold to Unilever in 1995.

The Australian rights to Keen’s mustard, where the brand remains popular, were sold to McCormick & Co in 1998.

Unilever continue to produce Keen’s mustard for the Canadian market.

Henry Sarson & Sons

Sarson’s is the leading brand of malt vinegar in Britain.

Early days
Sarson’s claimed in 1860 that the business had been established for “upwards of fifty years”, which suggests an establishment date of around 1810.

A Mr Sarson was established as a vinegar brewer on Craven Street, City Road, London, by 1822.

Premises had been removed to the corner of Brunswick Place, City Road, London by 1830.

James Sarson (born 1791) was head of the business by 1841.

Sarson’s “Pure Malt Vinegar” was being advertised in the press by 1842.

James Thomas Sarson (born 1821) had joined his father in business by 1846, and the firm began to trade as Sarson & Son.

Henry Sarson enters the business
Henry Sarson (born 1825), brother to J T Sarson, had joined the business by 1847.

James Thomas Sarson was described as a vinegar and mustard merchant in 1851. The business was relatively small at this time.

Sarson & Son branded its product as “Virgin Vinegar” from 1861 in order to indicate its purity at a time when food adulteration was rife. Most vinegar brewers added sulphuric acid to their product to decrease the necessary fermentation period.

Sarson & Son did not add caramel to darken their vinegar, unlike most brewers, so their product had a much lighter colour than its rivals.

Sarson was advertised as a high quality vinegar. It was packaged in capsulated bottles to prevent tampering, and sold through 3,523 outlets by 1871.

Henry Sarson employed 20 people, including four carmen, four van boys, three clerks, three women and six salesmen, by 1881. The business was still a relatively modest concern.

Henry Sarson & Sons; mass production
Henry Sarson’s two sons, Henry Logsdail Sarson (1861 – 1918) and Percival Stanley Sarson (1867 – 1951), had entered the business by 1892, which began to trade as Henry Sarson & Sons.

Percy Sarson was a keen businessman, with a feisty personality.

Henry Sarson retired from the business in 1893.

Henry Sarson & Sons had been converted into a private limited company by 1900.

Over one million gallons of vinegar were brewed in 1913.

In 1919 Sarsons fired an employee of 16 years service after she took her sick child to hospital.

In 1921 the company was accused of fixing the market to keep the price of malt vinegar artificially hight.

Acquisition by Crosse & Blackwell
Crosse & Blackwell acquired Henry Sarson & Sons and Champion & Slee, another large London vinegar brewer, in 1929. The merger brought together the three largest vinegar brewers in the South of England. Crosse & Blackwell closed down the Sarson’s brewery and concentrated production at the Champion & Slee site.

The Crosse & Blackwell vinegar interests were merged with those of Distillers and Beaufoy Grimble to form British Vinegar with a capital of £450,000 in 1932.

Over five million gallons (around 23 million litres) of vinegar were brewed in 1950.

The Virgin Vinegar brand name was phased out in the 1950s.

Holbrooks & Co, with a vinegar brewery in Stourport, was acquired in 1954.

A site was acquired from the Co-op at Middleton, Manchester in 1968.

Subsequent ownership
Nestle of Switzerland took full control of British Vinegar in 1979.

The London vinegar brewery was closed in 1991.

The Stourport brewery was closed in 1999 with the loss of 22 jobs. Production was relocated to the larger Middleton site.

Sarson’s vinegar was the leading vinegar brand in Britain by 1999, with around a third of the market.

Sarson’s was acquired by Premier Foods in 2002. Over 5.5 million litres of vinegar were sold every year.

Mizkan of Japan acquired Sarson’s in 2012.

Sarson’s is made from a 9.5 percent alcohol barley wine that the company brews itself. The vinegar is matured for seven days in large oak vats.

Moir than meets the eye: John Moir & Son

John Moir was a pioneer in the early tinned fish and meat trade. It survives as a leading dessert brand in South Africa.

John Moir and Benjamin Moir
John Moir (1766 – 1833) was born in Musselburgh, Scotland. He established himself as a provisions merchant with premises at 56 Virginia Street, Aberdeen.

John Moir became the first person in Britain to mass produce tinned fish, initially salmon, from around 1812. Moir largely targeted export markets. Soon, tinned meats, game, soup and vegetables were also sold.

Progress was initially slow, as a sceptical public had to be convinced of the merits of tinned foods.

Benjamin Moir (1807 – 1872) joined the firm, which became known as John Moir & Son. He was regarded as an excellent businessman.

John Moir died in 1833.

John Moir & Son won extensive contracts to provide preserved meats to British and French troops during the Crimean War in the mid-1850s. For six consecutive weeks the works produced 5,000 6lb tins of meat every day.

John Moir & Son was the largest preserved food manufacturer in Scotland by 1868. Annual preserved meat production averaged around 2.5 million lbs (c. 1.1 million kg). Produce was largely sent to London to be sold through high-end retailers. Key export markets included India, China and Australia. The business held a Royal Warrant to supply the Duke of Edinburgh.

John Moir & Son first produced marmalade for the home trade from 1869.

John Moir Clark
Benjamin Moir died unmarried in 1872, and the business was transferred to his nephew, John Moir Clark (1836 – 1896). The business was to greatly expand under his leadership.

Around 250 people, principally young women, were employed by 1873.

King Alfonso XII (1857 – 1885) of Spain granted John Moir & Son an exclusive licence to pulp oranges for export in Seville from 1877. Close to the source of the fruit, it avoided wastage losses which occurred during transit, and allowed the company to use the freshest oranges.

John Moir Clark relocated the focus of the business to London. He had established a factory at Glasshouse Fields, Brook Street and a head office at 148 Leadenhall Street by 1878.

John Moir & Son is established as a limited company
To increase funds for expansion, John Moir & Son became a limited company from 1881 with a capital of £150,000. The company had over 10,000 wholesale customers.

An American canning factory was established at Wilmington, Delaware from 1881. The one acre site was chosen due to its strong distribution network of waterways and train lines. The building and machinery cost $40,000, and it was one of the best equipped canning facilities in the United States. A staff of 200 to 300 was employed during periods of peak demand. The factory had a capacity to produce five million lbs (c.2.3 million kg) of goods a year. Produce was predominately destined for the London headquarters. Alphonse Biardot, a French chef of repute, was appointed as manager of the factory.

John Moir Clark retired from the board of directors of John Moir & Sons in 1886.*

Company capital was reduced to £50,000 in 1888 due to profit losses sustained in America and elsewhere, and the Delaware factory was divested.

John Moir Clark entered into bankruptcy in 1893, and died in 1896.

The head office was relocated to 9-10 Great Tower Street, London from 1898.

John Moir & Son held a valuable contract to supply rations to the British Army during the Boer War.

King Edward VII awarded John Moir & Son a Royal Warrant for preserved provisions in 1901.

The Aberdeen factory was closed in 1910 in order to reduce costs.

Robert Falcon Scott took Moir tinned meat with him on his fatal expedition to the Antarctic.

The company benefited from extensive military contracts during the First World War.

A small factory was acquired in Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa from 1920.

Decline of the business
The wartime economic boom was soon followed by a slump, which hit the preserved foods industry hard. The British business made successive profit losses due to low sales between 1920 and 1925. The South Africa subsidiary remained profitable.

John Moir & Son rejected numerous takeover offers in 1925, and instead entered into steady decline. The Virginia Street premises in Aberdeen were divested in 1927. Company capital was reduced from £150,000 to £45,000 in 1933.

The South African subsidiary was divested in 1948.

John Moir & Son entered into voluntary liquidation in 1950 and the London premises were divested.

The South African branch continued to prosper however, and as of 2015, Moir’s is the leading brand for jellies, custard powder and instant desserts in that market.

* John Moir Clark presumably resigned due to pressure from the other board members, given the company’s decline in profitability.

Machinations: Batger & Co

Batger & Co was the largest jam manufacturer in Britain by the 1870s, and became one of the largest employers in East London, with a workforce of 2,000 people.

Batger & Co was acquired by Needlers in 1970. Is last-surviving product, Chinese Figs, was discontinued around the turn of the 21st century.

The Batger (pronounced Batch-er) family had a background in the London sugar refining trade. The business claimed that it was established by a Miss Batger in 1748.

John Batger (1754 – 1825), a Quaker, had established a grocery business at 16 Bishopsgate Street, London by 1783. He was manufacturing confectionery by at least 1813.

Batger & Co had a four-storey factory at 15-16 Bishopsgate Street by 1847.

Samuel Hanson & Son acquire Batger & Co
Batger & Co was acquired by Samuel Hanson & Son, wholesale grocers of Botolph Lane in Eastcheap, in 1856. There were around twelve employees.

An annual, expenses-paid excursion for staff was introduced from 1856. About 25 people were employed by around 1860.

A new factory was established at 103 Broad Street, Ratcliff, London from 1863.

Frederick Machin enters the business
Frederick Machin (1826 – 1902) and Samuel Hanson (1804 – 1882) had control of Batger & Co by 1864. Machin was responsible for the subsequent growth of a relatively small and declining business.

The Bishopsgate premises were divested in 1867.

Batger & Co employed 200 people by 1871. “Harlequin” Christmas crackers began to be produced from 1872.

Batger & Co was described as the largest jam manufacturer in Britain in 1873.

The Batger & Co factory covered two acres, all built upon, by 1875. 450 people were employed; rising to 550 at Christmas and 700 during the English fruit season, when jam was made. Around 2,000 tons of sugar and 1,000 tons of English fruits were used each year. Machinery was used extensively.

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Frederick Machin had assumed full control of Batger & Co by 1880.

Batger & Co employed 400 people (250 men, 100 women and 50 boys) by 1881. The company was one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London.

Batger & Co employed a workforce of 500 to 600 people during peak periods by 1887.

Batger & Co was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in Britain by the turn of the 20th century. Nearly 1,000 workers were employed. Batger & Co was credited as the longest-established confectionery business in Britain.

Frederick Machin died in 1902 with a net personalty valued at £48,995. Control of the firm passed to his son, Stanley Machin (1861 – 1939).

Sir Stanley Machin (1861 – 1939) in 1932

Batger had introduced Chinese Figs by 1903. They were oval sweets consisting of real figs, fruit jelly and a sugar coating.

Christmas crackers were a major part of the Batger & Co business, and proved popular due to their high quality and low price.

A healthy export trade saw Batger & Co enjoy record sales in 1906, and the factory was extended.

Batger & Co was the largest ratepayer in East London by 1910.

Batger & Co employed a workforce of up to 2,000 people during peak periods by 1912. Joseph Hetherington (1873 – 1937) was manager of the confectionery factory by this time.

Batger & Co won a lucrative contract to supply the Army with jam during the First World War.

Chinese Figs were well-established as the most important confectionery line by 1920, with thousands of boxes sold during the festive period.

Batger & Co is acquired by Crosse & Blackwell
Batger & Co was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell for £522,902 in 1920. Batger retained its old management, and Stanley Machin was appointed a director of Crosse & Blackwell.

Batger & Co was the sole profitable Crosse & Blackwell subsidiary in 1923. However Crosse & Blackwell directors discovered that a confectionery business lacked synergies with a company largely concerned with preserves.

Machin and Hetherington family ownership
Crosse & Blackwell divested Batger & Co Ltd as a private company under the sole control of Stanley Machin and Joseph Hetherington in 1926.

Stanley Machin died in 1939. An obituary hailed him as one of the “leaders of commercial life in the City of London”.

Harold Stanley Machin (1891 – 1979) succeeded his father as managing director of Batger & Co.

The Broad Street factories were destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. A new factory was opened at 44 Southside, Clapham Common.

Christmas cracker production is believed to have ended in around the late 1960s.

Sale to Needlers
Batger & Co was sold to Needlers Ltd of Hull, a rival confectionery manufacturer, for £263,000 in cash in 1970. John Hetherington and Colin Machin joined the Needlers board of directors.

The Batger factory in Clapham was sold for £330,000 in 1971, and production was relocated to Hull.

The last remaining Batger’s product, Chinese Figs, was discontinued around the year 2000. Its demise represented the end for one of the longest-established confectionery brands in Britain.

Sour grapes: Lipton’s jam

Lipton’s was one of many large preserves factories in Bermondsey. Others included Hartley’s, Pink’s and Lazenby’s (Crosse & Blackwell).

Thomas Lipton opened a jam factory at Rouel Road, Bermondsey, London in 1892.

Lipton had 200 shops through which he sold various grocery goods, including his jam, by 1898.

In 1899 the Sanitary Inspector found two tons of fruit that was “rotten, bad-smelling and in some cases maggoty” at Lipton’s factory. The Inspector said there was no doubt that Lipton’s had intended to use the fruit for jam-making.  Lipton received all of its fruit from contract growers, and was perfectly entitled to reject the fruit, but at the time, demand was high and supply was short. William Shaw Carmichael, secretary of Lipton’s, was fined £50.

The 1911 Bermondsey women’s strike won higher wages for the staff at Lipton’s factory.

There were over 550 Lipton shops throughout the United Kingdom by 1921.

An additional jam factory had been opened at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, in Britain’s fruit-growing heartland, by 1923.

200 workers at Rouel Road went on strike for one day as a protest against the employment of non-union labour in 1924.

The Home Secretary ordered Lipton’s to provide cloakrooms, mess rooms and washing facilities for its staff at Rouel Road in 1932.

The Lipton jam-making business was acquired by Allied Suppliers in 1934.

Allied Suppliers acquired T W Beach & Sons, preserve manufacturers, in 1941.

Rouel Road and Wisbech had a combined annual capacity of 13,000 tons by 1944.

The Rouel Road factory was demolished in March 1969. The site is now occupied by the Lucey Way housing estate.

T W Beach was acquired by Cavenham in 1972. Preserve manufacture was phased out in favour of soft drinks production, and T W Beach became a part of Britvic.

Plenty of bottle: Fletcher’s Sauce of Selby

Fletcher’s was best known for its Tit-Bits and Tiger bottled sauces. Fletchers sauce was sold in Britain into the 1990s.

J P Fletcher establishes the business
Joshua Percy Fletcher (1879 – 1960) was the son of a prosperous coal merchant in Silsden, West Yorkshire. He had established himself as a drysalter (pickle manufacturer) by 1901.

Fletcher initially produced sauce at the Airedale Works in Shipley. He also had a glass bottle manufacturing plant in Leeds.

Fletcher’s (Shipley) Ltd was registered with a share capital of £20,000 in 1907.

J P Fletcher described his principal occupation as sauce manufacturing by 1911.

Fletcher’s acquired the rights to produce the popular Tit-Bits sauce from Stamp, Bointon, Junior & Co in 1913.

The sauce and bottling works were transferred to a model garden factory at Selby near York in 1915.

An employee profit-sharing scheme was introduced in 1917. This followed a larger scheme of employee welfare work, such as the encouragement of gardening and other outside interests.

Millions of bottles of Tiger Indian Sauce were sold each year by 1922. A fruity brown sauce, it was so-named because it used spices from the Indian subcontinent.

Arthur Lambert Foster (1880 – 1955) was managing director by 1931, with J P Fletcher assuming the role of chairman.

Foster was later joined in management by Tom Byass Fletcher (1912 – 1994), the only son of J P Fletcher.

Fletcher’s is acquired by HP Sauce
HP Sauce of Birmingham acquired Fletcher’s Sauce Co Ltd in 1947. HP was motivated by the opportunity to increase its presence in the North of England, particularly Yorkshire. The management of A L Foster and T B Fletcher was continued.

J P Fletcher died in 1960 and left an estate valued at £93,324.

Fletcher’s was a leading brown sauce in the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire as late as the 1970s.

HP sold the Selby site to Hazlewood Foods in 1982, and transferred the production of Fletcher’s sauces (to which they retained the rights) to their Birmingham site. Hazlewood manufactured pickles and cooking sauces at Selby.

The Selby pickle factory as of 2006

Tiger Sauce and Tit-Bits Sauce survived until as late as 1994. HP may have discovered that Fletcher’s sauces were cannibalising sales of HP Sauce, and there were synergies involved in concentrating on their leading product.

Meanwhile, Hazlewood was acquired by Greencore in 2000, who continue to operate the factory at Selby. It is the largest manufacturer of private label pickles and sauces in the UK.


The acid test: Slee & Co

The Slee & Co vinegar works were operated on the same site in London from 1812 until 1992.

Slee & Co was founded by Noah Slee at Church Street, Horsleydown, London in 1812. He was soon joined by Josias Slee (1773 – 1829), who emigrated to London from Honiton, Devon.

John Vickers joined in partnership from 1823, and the business traded as Vickers & Slee.

Josias Slee left the business in 1826.

Vickers & Slee was the fifth largest vinegar brewer in Britain and Ireland by 1832. The firm held about seven percent of the market.

In an age before refrigeration, vinegar was a much more important commodity than it is today, due to its preservative effect on foodstuffs.

John Vickers left the partnership in 1838.

The business was owned by Noah Slee, William Payne and Edward Richardson Slee (1815 – 1878), the son of Josias Slee, in the 1840s. Payne was a brother-in-law.

Noah Slee was declared bankrupt in 1842, and the business continued as Payne & Slee.

Payne & Slee was the fifth largest vinegar brewer in Britain by 1844.

An analysis conducted for The Lancet in 1852 found that Payne & Slee vinegar contained the highest amount of sulphuric acid of any of the major vinegar producers in Britain. The addition of sulphuric acid was a low-cost method of speeding up the acidification process of the vinegar, but it was considered hazardous for health.

Payne left the business in 1860.

The business employed 36 people in 1861.

The business traded as Slee & Slee by 1868.

49 people were employed in 1871.

The Horsleydown site sourced water using an artesian well, sunk to a depth of 303 feet. The water source was of a high quality for brewing vinegar, and had a high content of calcium sulphate and sodium chloride.

Slee, Slee & Co held a stock of nearly half a million gallons (c.2.3 million litres) of vinegar in 1874.

Batty & Co, sauce and pickle manufacturer of Finsbury Pavement, was acquired in 1874.

Edward Richardson Slee died with a personal estate valued at under £60,000 in 1878. His stake in the business was inherited by his son, Herbert Hutton Slee (1853 – 1933).

The business was run by Cuthbert Britton Slee (1818 – 1900) and Herbert Hutton Slee from 1878.

Slee, Slee & Co was one of the longest-established vinegar brewers in Britain by 1887. One of their vats had been in use since the reign of George III (1739 – 1820).

Export sales began in earnest, principally to New Zealand, from 1889.

The business became a limited company from 1895.

Batty & Co was sold to Heinz, who desired a British manufacturing facility, in 1905.

Champion & Co, vinegar brewers of City Road, London was acquired to form Champion & Slee Ltd in 1907. The company had a share capital of £140,000. The takeover was motivated by the scope for economies of scale. The Slee brand was phased out, but all production was relocated to the Slee premises, where there was ample room for expansion.

A large proportion of production was exported to foreign and colonial markets.

Champion & Slee was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell, who merged operations with Sarson’s, in 1929 The Champion brand was phased out in favour of Sarson’s.

The Slee vinegar works were closed in 1992.

Where there’s muck there’s brass: Hammonds Sauce

Hammonds Sauce Co was the largest privately-owned sauce manufacturer in Britain. Hammonds became best known for its Chop Sauce, a light and spicy brown sauce.

Herbert Bowdin Hawley (1880 – 1952) was born in Grassington, Yorkshire, the son of a farmer of 95 acres.

Hawley left home at the age of 21 with just £10. He worked in a grocer’s warehouse in Halifax, and later as a salesman. He had established himself as director of a soap manufacturing company in Shipley, near Bradford by 1911.


Herbert Hawley entered into partnership with his brother Richard to form H B and R Hawley Ltd, cake flour manufacturers, in 1914. H B Hawley acted as chairman of the company, which had a nominal capital of £50,000 in 1920.

Hammonds Sauce Co
H B Hawley founded a sauce manufacturing company, at Wellcroft Mills, Shipley, in 1924. Initially there were four employees.

As demand increased, additional space was acquired at the site in 1926 and again in 1928.

Expanding sales saw production relocate to a new factory at Dockfield Road, Shipley, from 1930. Hammonds Chop Sauce was introduced from that same year, and soon became the principal product.

The company took on the name of Hammonds Sauce Co from 1933.

Over one hundred people were employed by 1934.

The factory was expanded to accommodate increasing demand for Hammonds Chop Sauce around 1935.

During the Second World War most of the factory was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a storage warehouse, although production of Hammonds Chop Sauce continued.

H B Hawley was a keen bandmaster and composer, and he formed the Hammonds Sauce Works Band in 1946.

H B Hawley died in 1952, and left an estate valued at £27,000. He was hailed as one of the leading bandmasters in Yorkshire. His son, Horace Routledge Hawley (1910 – 1983), took over Hammonds Sauce Co.

Hammonds Sauce Co employed a staff of around 100 by 1954.

Goodall, Backhouse & Co of Leeds was acquired in 1959. Goodall’s were sauce manufacturers best known for Yorkshire Relish.

Hammonds Sauce Co was the largest privately-owned sauce manufacturer in Britain by 1974, with a range of 70 products. 34 million bottles of sauce were sold that year, with a significant proportion exported, largely to the United States. The American market was particularly fond of Hammonds Steak Sauce and Yorkshire Relish.

Horace Hawley retired as managing director in 1975, but continued as company chairman.

Loss of independence
Hammonds was acquired by US food conglomerate Pillsbury, best known in Britain for Green Giant sweetcorn, for £2.4 million in 1982.

Pillsbury centralised all production at a new £1 million factory on Harrogate Road, Bradford from 1985. The Goodall Backhouse factory in Leeds and the Hammonds factory in Shipley were closed.

Pillsbury was acquired by Grand Metropolitan in 1988 who sold the UK business to Dalgety in 1990. Hammonds had an annual turnover of £11 million in 1990.

Hammonds was acquired by Albert Fisher for £12 million in 1991. Albert Fisher ended sponsorship of the Hammonds Sauce Works band after 47 years in 1993.

Hammonds was acquired by Unigate in 1999. The Bradford factory was closed in 2002 and production was relocated to a former vinegar brewery on Whitelees Road, Littleborough, Lancashire.

McCormick, the American seasonings company, acquired Hammonds for £12.2 million in 2003. Hammonds Sauce largely served the catering industry.

The three principal ingredients in Hammonds Chop Sauce are water, sugar and modified corn starch as of 2020. The sauce derives its flavour from acetic acid, spirit vinegar, apple puree, molasses, tomato paste and spices.

The House of Orange: James Robertson & Sons

Robertson’s Golden Shred is the leading marmalade brand in Britain, with around a quarter of the market.

James Robertson establishes the business
James Robertson (1832 – 1914) was a grocer in Paisley, a town outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Robertson noted that preserves had a superior profit margin to fresh produce after his wife made a jelly from a surplus barrel of apples. Robertson introduced his marmalade from 1866, and the tangy preserve would quickly grow in popularity.

James Robertson circa 1890
James Robertson (1832 – 1914) circa 1890

The grocery business was divested in order to concentrate on marmalade production. Rapid expansion of the business saw a freehold site acquired at Paisley in 1873 where a large factory was erected.

The Golden Shred brand name had been introduced by 1883.

Expanding sales in England saw a factory acquired at Droylsden, Manchester, from 1891.

A large factory was erected at Catford, Kent in 1900. Its location was convenient for both the fruit gardens of Kent and the large London market.

James Robertson appointed his numerous sons to manage his various factories. John Robertson (1859 – 1937) was in charge of the Paisley factory, William Robertson led the Droylsden site, and David Robertson (1870 – 1948) managed the operations in Catford.

James Robertson & Sons was incorporated as a limited company from 1902. Control of the business remained in family hands.

By 1909 Golden Shred had been joined by Silver Shred marmalade, which was flavoured with lemon, Wild Bramble Jelly, and mincemeat.

A factory had been established at Boston in the United States by 1910. It was in America that John Robertson encountered the golliwog character. The mascot was added to the label of Robertson’s products from 1910.

The Bristol factory
A view of the Bristol factory, c.1914

A new factory was established at Brislington, Bristol, from 1914. The site was chosen for its strong railway links. Output at the site was estimated at 150 tons a week.

The second and third generation take over the business
James Robertson died in 1914, and he was succeeded as chairman by his son, John Robertson.

James Robertson & Sons described themselves as the “largest manufacturers of marmalade” in 1919.

James Robertson & Sons introduced its own brand of thick-cut marmalade from 1929.

The Boston factory had closed by 1931. American consumers regarded the marmalade manufactured in the United States to be inferior to the imported Paisley product.

James Robertson & Sons employed 1,400 people by 1931. The Paisley site exported one third of production to markets such as North America, Australia, China, Africa and the West Indies.

John Robertson retired as chairman in 1937, and he was succeeded by his son, David Robertson (born 1893).

Company headquarters had been transferred to Bristol by 1939.

A shortage of oranges saw Robertson’s marmalade withdrawn from sale during the Second World War.

David Robertson retired in 1960, and he was succeeded as chairman by Charles James Robertson (1909 – 1983), a grandson of the founder.

James Robertson & Sons produced more jam and marmalade than any other business in Britain by 1964. However, success was largely confined to the home market, with just an estimated four percent of production destined for overseas. C J Robertson resolved to change this, and expanded export sales.

The Quantock Preserving Company of Bridgwater, Somerset, was acquired in 1965.

James Robertson & Sons acquired 45 percent of the annual crop of Seville oranges by 1965.

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Unionisation was introduced to James Robertson & Sons from 1966, beginning with 320 workers, out of 600 employees, at the Catford factory.

James Robertson & Sons held 60 percent of the British jam and marmalade market by 1967.

James Robertson & Sons exported to over 70 different countries and territories by 1970.

C J Robertson retired as managing director of James Robertson & Sons in 1970, but remained as chairman. Neil Robertson (born 1937) and J Charles Robertson, great grandsons of the founder, were appointed as joint-managing directors.

James Robertson & Sons was to struggle throughout the 1970s with rising costs, a stagnant jam market and the growth of supermarket own-label products.

The Catford factory was closed in 1970 with the loss of 350 jobs. 207 employees were retained for distribution and administrative functions.

The Paisley factory was closed with the loss of around 250 jobs in 1974.

James Robertson & Sons announced that it would close the Bristol factory, with the loss of 500 jobs, in 1979. Production would be concentrated at Droylsden.

Loss of independence and subsequent ownership
James Robertson & Sons was acquired by Avana, an own-label supplier of foods to Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, in 1981.

The Droylsden factory employed 764 workers, and produced 86 million jars of jam a year by 1986.

Avana was acquired by Rank Hovis McDougall in 1987.

The Golliwog mascot was retired in 2001.

Rank Hovis McDougall were acquired by Premier Foods in 2007.

The Droylsden site was closed with the loss of 253 jobs in 2008. Production was relocated to the Chivers factory at Histon in Cambridgeshire.

Robertson’s jam for the general public was discontinued in 2009. Premier Foods would instead concentrate on its more successful Hartley’s brand.

Robertson’s jam continued to be produced for the catering trade until around 2014.

Premier Foods sold its sweet spreads division to Hain Celestial in 2012.

Robertson’s marmalade and mincemeat continue to be produced.

Original sauce: John Burgess & Son of the Strand

Burgess’ Essence of Anchovies was introduced in 1775, and was the first branded sauce to enjoy a nationwide reputation in Britain. Burgess sauce is still sold.

John Burgess introduces Essence of Anchovies
John Burgess (1750 – 1820) was born in Odiham, Hampshire, the son of an affluent grocer. Burgess served an apprenticeship in London before he established his own premises at No. 101, the Strand by 1774. Burgess held the profession of “Italian warehouseman”, meaning he sold imported speciality foods such as hams and olive oil.

Burgess developed his reputation due to his keen business skills and his honesty. Growing trade saw the business relocate to larger premises at No. 107 the Strand from 1779.

A bottle of Essence of Anchovies from 1911. Image used with kind permission from the Museum of Transport and Technology.

Burgess introduced his Essence of Anchovies in 1775, and it was his best known product by 1788. The recipe was simple: anchovies were crushed, mixed with water and gently heated. Spices may have been added, and the sauce was strained.

His was the original Essence of Anchovies, but it inspired imitations from the likes of Elizabeth Lazenby, who began to sell her anchovy-based sauce from 1793.

His only son, William Robert Burgess (1778 – 1853), entered into an equal partnership with his father from 1800, and the firm became known as John Burgess & Son.

Burgess products were onboard Admiral’s Nelson’s HMS Victory in 1805. Lord Byron referenced Burgess’s fish sauce in his poem Beppo (1817). The novelist Walter Scott claimed that Burgess made the best fish sauce in 1823.

The second and third generation take control of the business
John Burgess died in 1820, and William Robert Burgess became sole proprietor.

By the early 1850s, due to public demand, Essence of Anchovies was adulterated with Armenian bole, an iron-rich clay, to imbue the sauce with a bright red colour. This was the standard industry practice at the time.

By the 1850s Lazenby and Crosse & Blackwell were encroaching upon Burgess’s market share with lower-priced imitations of Essence of Anchovies. W R Burgess stubbornly announced that the only change to Essence of Anchovies production that he would allow would be that twelve days pounding of fish by two men could be altered to six days pounding by four.

After the death of W R Burgess, the business was taken over by his wife, Elizabeth (1804 – 1884) and his son, Arthur Wellington Burgess (1840 – 1900).

A fire broke out at the firm’s pickling vaults and storehouses on the Strand in 1869. A large quantity of olive oil was destroyed.

Arthur Wellington Burgess was declared bankrupt in 1870, and the business was taken over by his mother and his sisters, Mary Ann Burgess and Louisa Elizabeth Burgess.

The Brooks family acquire control of John Burgess & Son
The business was acquired by the Brooks family, relatives of the Burgesses, in 1874.

John Burgess & Son was incorporated as a limited company in 1901.

The company relocated its manufacturing and offices to Hythe Road, Willesden in 1908.

The company was appointed purveyors to George V in 1911. That same year, Robert Falcon Scott took several bottles of Burgess’ Essence of Anchovies with him to the Antarctic.

The shop on the Strand was closed in 1914.

A Burgess gravy browning bottle from the mid 1990s

A takeover offer from George Mason & Co, the manufacturer of OK Sauce, was rejected in 1928.

The Willesden factory was damaged by German bombs in 1940.

John Burgess & Son is acquired by Rayner & Co
Rayner & Co acquired John Burgess & Son from the company directors, who were the sole shareholders, in 1954. Company operations were relocated to Edmonton, North London in 1960.

Burgess creamed horseradish was launched in 1960, following three years of research.

Rayner & Co had sales of just under £2 million in 1971. Burgess creamed horseradish was by now its leading product, a market leader in its field with sales of £100,000 a year. Sales of Essence of Anchovies had steadily declined from their Victorian heyday. Rayner & Burgess was established to jointly handle the increasing sales of both companies in 1972.

Burgess creamed horseradish was still available as late as 1993. It was a premium product.

Essence of Anchovies was still being produced as late as 1999. Latterly, its fans had included the celebrity chef Simon Hopkinson.

Rayner Burgess entered into liquidation in 2007. The Burgess brand was acquired by Greencore, a large Irish foods company. Burgess pickles and sauces continued to be sold as late as 2016. Burgess Gravy Browning is still produced for the catering trade and Asian export markets.