Tag Archives: history of Meredith & Drew

Strange but true: Meredith & Drew

Meredith & Drew was the largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain by 1946.

William Meredith founded a bakery at Shadwell, London in 1830, with William George Drew (1813 – 1867) as his principal assistant.

After a quarrel, Drew established his own business nearby in 1852. Drew was a biscuit baker employing 30 men by 1861.

William G Drew died of a heart attack in 1867, and his obituary hailed him as “a man of remarkable energy and enterprise”, remembered for his charitable interests. He was succeeded in his business by his wife Barbara, and his son, Lear James Drew (1840 – 1917).

Drew & Sons was using steam-powered machinery to produce over 100 different varieties of biscuit by 1877.

Frederick Meredith and Lear James Drew (1840 – 1917) merged their interests as Meredith & Drew in 1891, with a capital of £107,000.

Meredith & Drew received its first Royal Warrant, from Queen Victoria, in 1894.

The company factory at Shadwell, London was extended in 1896. Production concentrated on the manufacture of biscuits for the public house trade.

Meredith & Drew merged with Wright & Son of Shadwell in 1905 in an exchange of shares. Day-to-day management of the firm was taken over by the shrewd and dynamic Thomas Reuben Wright.

A factory was acquired in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire in 1927.

The London factory was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, and production was permanently relocated to factories at Oldham, Brighouse and High Wycombe. Headquarters had been relocated to Ashby-de-la-Zouch by 1943.

Meredith & Drew advertised itself as “Britain’s biggest biscuit bakers” in 1946. Meredith & Drew had an authorised share capital of £1 million, and 2,500 employees by 1951.

A new biscuit factory at Cinderford, Gloucestershire began production from 1951, with 300 staff, including 150 women. Meredith & Drew divested its Brighouse factory in 1954. Throughout the 1950s the company reduced seven factories to three, with production centralised at Halifax, Cinderford and Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

Meredith & Drew had around five percent of the British crisps market by 1963, with own-label production for Marks & Spencer and a strong presence in the licensed trade.

A new crisp factory was acquired in Lanarkshire in 1963, as the snack product contributed an increasing share of turnover, and the Ashby-de-la-Zouch facility was struggling to meet demand. The Lanarkshire site employed 280 people.

In 1967 the company was strong in own-label production, savoury biscuits, the catering trade and potato crisps. Meredith & Drew, with four percent of the British biscuit market, was acquired by United Biscuits in 1967.

The Meredith & Drew biscuit factory in Halifax employed hundreds of workers in 1968.