Tag Archives: chinese figs

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 up to 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.

Origins
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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

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.

Christmas crackers were a major part of the Batger & Co business, and their popularity was such that the company struggled to meet demand. 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.