How did T Wall & Sons, the pork butcher to Queen Victoria, become the largest producer of ice cream in the world?
Edmund Cotterill established himself as a pork butcher at St James’ Market, London from 1786. Richard Wall (1777/8 – 1838) became an apprentice to Cotterill from 1790. Wall became a partner, and was the sole proprietor of the business from 1807.
Wall received his first Royal Appointment as “pork butcher to the Prince of Wales” in 1812. This was renewed when the prince succeeded as George IV in 1820, and by William IV in 1830.
Wall leased larger premises at 113 Jermyn Street from 1831.
Wall died in 1838 and his widow Ann managed the business. Their son, Thomas Wall (1817 – 1884), took control of the venture from 1840.
T Wall & Sons enters into mass production
Thomas Wall Jr (1846 – 1930) became partner from 1870. He was joined by his brother Frederick Charlton Wall (1855 – 1924) from 1878 and the firm became known as Thomas Wall & Sons.
Thomas and Frederick Wall transformed the firm into the best-known sausage business in Britain. Queen Victoria was supplied with sausages on a weekly basis from the Jermyn Street shop. The sausages for the monarch had a special recipe including freshly-laid eggs and hand-chopped mince.
The firm was beginning to wholesale across Britain by 1900. Increasing demand saw a factory opened at Battersea in 1903.
The business was registered as T Wall & Sons Ltd in 1905, when it acquired an Acton rival.
The six acre Friary House and grounds in Acton was acquired in 1919, and a large sausage factory was built there.
T Wall & Sons is absorbed into Unilever, and enters into ice cream production
William Hesketh Lever (1851 – 1925) acquired the company in 1920. He sold the business to Lever Brothers in 1922, which from 1929 became a part of Unilever. At Lever’s request, the company began to produce ice cream during the summer months, when sausage sales slacked off. Production began in 1922 at a rate of 150 gallons a week.
Frederick Charlton Wall died in 1924 with an estate valued at £210,866.
Thomas Wall Jr was devoted to charities dedicated to the education of young people. The capital released from the sale of his company allowed him to established the Thomas Wall Trust, with capital of £233,000, to fund students at schools and universities. Wall died in 1930 with an estate valued at £288,116. The bulk of his estate went to the Thomas Wall Trust.
Seven million tons of ice cream were produced in 1945.
3,000 people were employed at factories in London, Manchester and Edinburgh by 1949.
T Wall & Sons was the largest manufacturer of sausages and meat pies in Britain by 1954. They had a factory at Willesden.
A new sausage factory was opened at Godley, Cheshire in 1955. It had a weekly output of 350 tons.
The meat and the ice cream businesses were formally separated in 1956. Much of the meat business was relocated to Atlas Road, Park Royal, London, with Acton left to concentrate on ice cream production.
20 million tons of ice cream were produced every year by 1960, and Wall’s was the largest manufacturer of ice cream in the world, with an estimated 57 percent share of the British market. The Acton factory employed 4,000 people.
A £4 million ice cream factory was established in Gloucester in 1961. The plant employed 700 people. Company headquarters were relocated to Gloucester from 1963.
Mattessons, a processed meat manufacturer, was acquired in 1965.
Robert Lawson & Sons of Aberdeen was acquired for £2.6 million in 1965. Lawson had the largest bacon factory in Scotland, and had a valuable contract to supply Marks & Spencer.
113 Jermyn Street remained as a Wall’s shop, where all Wall’s products could be purchased, as late as 1970.
The Atlas Road site was closed around 1978.
Viennetta, the first branded ice cream dessert, was introduced from 1982.
The Acton ice cream plant was closed in 1988.
The Cornetto was established as the highest-selling Wall’s product line by 1990.
The meat business was sold to Kerry Group of Ireland in 1994. The Wall’s ice cream business remains a subsidiary of Unilever.