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Making bacon: Henry Denny & Sons

Henry Denny & Sons was the largest bacon manufacturer in Europe.

Henry Denny (1790 – 1870) established himself as a provisions merchant in Waterford, Ireland from 1820.

As late as 1839 his principal trade was in butter. It is not until 1846 that we see him described as a bacon merchant.

Henry Denny was elected Mayor of Waterford in 1854. Abraham Denny (1820 – 1892), a trained architect, joined his father in the business from 1855. Abraham Denny is said to have been instrumental in expanding the business.

The firm introduced improvements to existing curing techniques. It was granted a patent for a process that cured bacon with ice in 1857. Known as “mild curing”, it made the bacon more palatable by using much less salt for preservation. In an era before refrigeration, large shipments of ice had to be ordered in from Norway.

Improved preservation techniques allowed Irish meat to be exported year round. The firm used over 1,000 pigs every week by 1866.

Henry Denny died in 1870 and the business was taken over by Abraham Denny.

Operations were extended to Limerick in 1872.

The Henry Denny works at Waterford probably represented the largest bacon curing plant in Europe by 1882.

Operations were extended to Cork in 1889.

Henry Denny & Sons went public in 1891 with a capital of £400,000.

By 1892 operations had been established in Hamburg, Germany.

Abraham Denny died in 1892. He left personalty valued at £174,967. By this time he was one of the largest employers in Waterford. He was succeeded by his son, Charles Edward Denny (1849 – 1927) .

Due to an insufficient supply of pigs in Ireland, Henry Denny & Sons acquired a Danish meat company in 1894. The company introduced Irish meat curing techniques to Denmark.

Edward Maynard Denny (1832 – 1905), cousin to Abraham Denny, died in 1905. He was chairman of E M Denny & Co, the London sales branch of the company. He left a gross estate valued at £584,789.

Thomas Anthony Denny (1819 – 1910) died in 1910 with a gross estate valued at £226,150. He was a co-founder of E M Denny & Co. He had been a prominent supporter of the Salvation Army.

Over 3,000 pigs were used every week by June 1914. The company was a substantial supplier of Irish bacon to the British armed forces during the First World War.

Henry Denny & Sons was advertising itself as the largest bacon manufacturers in Europe by 1919.

Charles Edward Denny died in 1927, with an English estate valued at £475,248 and an Irish estate valued at £66,277.

The factory on Morgan Street, Waterford, was the largest of its kind in the British Isles in 1933. 400 workers were employed during peak periods. The site could handle up to 4,000 pigs every week.

In 1935 a Wiltshire cure bacon factory was opened in Portadown, Northern Ireland. It initially had a capacity to process 2,000 pigs a week, and employed a workforce of 200.

Frederick Anthony Denny (1860 – 1941) died in 1941.

J & T Sinclair was acquired in 1963.

The Irish operations were acquired by Kerry Foods in 1982.