Tag Archives: History of Rawlings soft drinks

On the rocks: H D Rawlings

H D Rawlings was one of the largest and most prestigious soft drinks manufacturers in Victorian England.

The Rawlings family
Rawlings & Co claimed an establishment date of 1815 in a press advertisement from 1860.

John Rawlings (1771 – 1848), ginger beer manufacturer, was certainly based at Nassau Street, Fitzrovia by 1827. The exact address is confirmed as 2 Nassau Street by 1831. Ginger beer was supplied in stone bottles.

John Rawlings died in 1848 and the business passed to his sons, John Rawlings Jr (1806 – 1853) and James Rawlings (1814 – 1882). The business employed 20 men by 1851.

John Rawlings Jr died in 1853 and his stake in the business was inherited by his widow, Sarah Rawlings (1819 – 1863).

Henry Doo (1836 – 1904) joined the business as a clerk from 1855.

The business occupied 2-4 Nassau Street by 1856, and the range of drinks had been expanded to include lemonade and soda, as well as ginger beer.

H D Rawlings
Sarah Rawlings married Henry Doo in 1857, and he took her last name to become Henry Doo Rawlings.

Premises had extended to include 8 Charles Street, Fitzrovia by 1860.

At the instigation of James Rawlings, a works’ brass band was established in 1862. The firm enjoyed a strong relationship with its workforce, which it treated to an annual dinner or excursion.

Sarah Doo (nee Rawlings) died in September 1863, with an estate valued at under £7,000. H D Rawlings became the principal partner in the firm, although James Rawlings also had a stake, and the firm traded as H D & J Rawlings.

Less than four months after the death of his wife, Henry Doo Rawlings married Jane Sewell in Paris. Henry Doo Rawlings was described as “lively, open-hearted and genial, easily approached, with no manifest sense of self-importance”. James Rawlings was described as more reserved, “but thoroughly cordial and kind when the ice was broken”.

The firm was a generous contributor to the Licensed Victuallers Asylum, a charity for retired victuallers.

H D & J Rawlings held a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria with soft drinks by 1864. The firm supplied the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Emperor of France by 1869.

James Rawlings retired in 1870, and the firm was continued under the name H D Rawlings.

Following a gas explosion at the Nassau Street factory in 1877. Henry Doo Rawlings and two other men received burns to their faces and hands. Rawlings was examined by Sir James Paget (1814 – 1899), who believed it unlikely that the man would survive; to the doctor’s astonishment he made a full recovery.

The firm was based at 2 Nassau Street and Berners Street in 1879.

Henry Doo Rawlings was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1886.

Draught ginger beer was introduced from 1887.

H D Rawlings is sold to R White & Sons
R White & Sons of Camberwell acquired H D Rawlings in 1891. The business was incorporated as a limited company at this time. The Rawlings brand continued as the premium offering alongside the standard market R White’s soft drinks. Henry Doo Rawlings retired from the business to become vice chairman of Meredith & Drew, a biscuit manufacturer.

H D Rawlings claimed that it could supply up to 120,000 stone bottles of ginger beer within a few hours notice in 1892. The Rawlings factory was on Neate Street, Camberwell by 1894.

Henry Doo Rawlings died from erysipelas in Paris in 1904. He left an estate valued at over £47,000.

H D Rawlings was based at 8 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia and Neate Street, Camberwell in 1914. The company employed about 400 people.

The licensed trade in the London area was the principal customer for H D Rawlings products by 1952.

R White & Sons was acquired by Whitbread, a national brewer, in 1969.

By the mid-1970s the Rawlings brand was primarily being marketed as a mixer for spirits, and was largely affiliated with the on-trade of clubs, hotels and public houses.

Whitbread and Bass merged their soft drinks operations to form Canada Dry Rawlings in 1980. Bass owned 65 percent of the venture and Whitbread owned the remainder. The business concentrated on supplying the licensed trade.

Britvic acquired Canada Dry Rawlings in 1986. Britvic phased out the Rawlings name in favour of the Britvic brand.

Britvic has been known to trace its origins to the establishment of the Rawlings business.