Tag Archives: Caley of Norwich history

A real cracker: A J Caley of Norwich

A J Caley of Norwich was a leading British chocolate manufacturer.

Albert Jarman Caley (1829 – 1895), the son of a silk mercer, opened a chemist shop on High Street, Windsor in 1853. He relocated to London Street, Norwich, where his brother already lived, in 1857.

From 1862 Caley began to manufacture soft drinks. By 1881 soft drinks manufacturing was Caley’s largest branch of trade.

Due to the seasonal nature of the soft drinks trade Caley began to produce drinking chocolate from 1883, followed by eating chocolate in 1886.

A J Caley died in 1895 and his estate was valued at £22,000.

The firm was converted into a limited liability company, A J Caley & Son, in 1898, with capital of £120,000.

From 1898 Christmas cracker production commenced.

700 workers were employed by 1904.

The Caley works in Norwich were built after the First World War at a cost of over £500,000, and employed 1,000 people.

A J Caley was acquired by the Lever Brothers-controlled United Africa Company in 1919. Capital was increased from £120,000 to £1 million. In 1920 four new factories were completed at a cost of around £500,000 which allowed production capacity to treble.

The company was perhaps best known for its Easter Egg production by this period.

By the early 1930s A J Caley was loss-making, and the factory was about to be closed.

In 1932 John Mackintosh & Sons of Halifax stepped in, and acquired A J Caley & Son for £138,000. Caley mostly manufactured chocolate, but also Christmas crackers and soft drinks.

Mackintosh was motivated by the opportunity to increase its productive capacity, which had outgrown their own Halifax site. In the first year of acquisition the Caley works was greatly expanded.

In order to make A J Caley profitable, hundreds of product lines and several departments were discontinued, and some employee redundancies had to be made. However by 1935 there were nearly 1,500 employees at Norwich, more than ever before.

Caley’s expertise in chocolate manufacture allowed Mackintosh to introduce new product lines such as Rolo and Quality Street.

Caley initially operated under independent management, but in 1939 control was brought under the Mackintosh umbrella.

The Caley factory had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed by bombs during World War Two.

The Caley’s brand name was phased out in the early 1960s.

The Norwich factory was closed in 1994.