The name Hartley has been continuously associated with the manufacture of jams, jellies and marmalades for over 150 years.
The company’s founder and namesake, Wiliam Pickles (his mother’s maiden name) Hartley, was born in the small English town of Colne in 1846. His biography entitled “The Life of Sir William Hartley,” by Arthur S. Peake, published in 1926, described his birthplace like this:.
Sir William was born at Colne, a small but pleasant little town in East Lancashire on the edge of Yorkshire, a few miles north of Burnley. It is situated on a high ridge and is affectionately called by its inhabitants “Bonnie Colne-on-the-Hill.”
According to Hartley’s obituary, found in the October 28, 1922 edition of the “Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic,” he left school at the age of thirteen to help out in his mother’s grocery store and by sixteen had established his own wholesale grocery business. This puts Hartley’s start in business sometime in the early 1860’s.
In 1870, a classified advertisement that appeared in the August 1st edition of the “Leeds Mercury,” described the Hartley business as a “Wholesale Drysaltery,” with an address of “Cloth Hall” in Colne.” At the time, Hartley was attempting to hire an assistant best described as a “jack of all trades;” part bookkeeper, part salesman and part warehouse worker, suggesting that his operation was still quite small at this juncture.
According to his obituary:
Among the goods he supplied was jam…It was sent to retailers in 14-lb. jars, and customers had to take a cup or jar for their pound or half pound.
The obituary goes on to say:
Difficulties with makers led him in 1871 to start manufacturing jam for himself.
Another of Hartley’s classified advertisements, this one in the October 5, 1872 edition of the “Leeds Mercury,” indicated his need to hire a “SUGAR BOILER,” so it appears by then his jam business was beginning to gain traction.
Less than two years later, Hartley, now committed to manufacturing jam, sold the drysaltery and established what he called a “confectionery works” in Bootle, Liverpool. This had certainly taken place by the Spring of 1875 at which time he was looking to hire someone with “extensive and practical knowledge in the manufacture of preserves, jellies and marmalade” to manage it.
While most of the classified advertisements that Hartley ran appeared in local English newspapers, the above ad appeared in several March, 1875 editions of Scotland’s “Glasgow Herald.” This suggests that he was attempting to lure someone away from the well established Scottish business of James Keiller & Son, the makers of “Dundee Marmalade.”
The following year advertisements for Hartley’s preserves and marmalades began appearing in local newspapers. One of the earliest touting them as “Equal to Home Made.” appeared in the May 1, 1876 edition of the “Liverpool Daily Post.”
Another ad, building on the “home made” concept, appeared later that year in the December 19th edition of the “Leicester Daily Mercury.”
The business grew considerably over its first decade as evidenced by a letter Hartley wrote to the editor of the “Derby Mercury.” It appeared in their April 23, 1884 edition.
All the gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, black currants, damsons and blackberries used by me are entirely English – no foreign whatever being used – and to prove that the quantity is not particularly small, my usual season’s make is:- Gooseberry, 800 tons; raspberry, 800 tons; strawberry, 200 tons; black currant, 400 tons; damson, 600 tons; blackberry,100 tons.
Not long after this letter was written, Hartley was in the planning stages for a new factory, this one located in nearby Aintree. The September 4, 1885 edition of the “Ardsley and Winslow Advertiser:” provided the details.
The Liverpool Journal of Commerce gives some interesting particulars respecting a mammoth preserve factory that is to be erected. Mr. William P. Hartley, who has earned a high reputation in Liverpool and throughout the kingdom for the manufacture of preserves, has succeeded in purchasing a farm of forty-seven acres about four miles north of Liverpool Exchange and about two miles from his present premises. On this farm Mr. Hartley intends to erect new works, which when completed will be capable of producing one hundred tons of preserves per day.
The move to Aintree was accomplished the following Spring as evidenced by an item that appeared in the May 19, 1886 edition of the ‘Liverpool Mercury.” It announced that Hartley’s former Bootle site was up for sale.
A tour of the new Aintree facility was featured in a July 2, 1888 story published in the “Liverpool Mercury.” The facility, as described in the story, certainly had a “campus-like” feel to it.
In shape the works are oblong, and consist of a single story, with a chimney and water tower in the center, the handsome frontage being relieved with castellated entrance gates and broken by abutting offices and dining rooms for male and female employees. Railway sidings, partially covered, run on two sides of the works and cart roads on the other two, and there are ornamental grounds and a girls’ recreation ground along the frontage. A central covered street divides the manufactory from the warehouses, and the workpeople in passing on this trunk road turn either to the right or left direct into their respective departments. The works alone, without the grounds or sidings, cover nearly four acres, and 1420 hands are employed. In the warehouse is storage capacity for 6-1/2 million 2lb. jars, allowing ample space for the working of the tramways on which 100 “bogey” carriages are often running at once. Every room and all the appliances are proportionately constructed for the production of 100 tons of preserves every day in the fruit season, the making of marmalade and candied peel occupying the remaining months.
The story went on to say that Hartley wasn’t done.
the visitors also inspected the plans of a model village – a local Saltaire – which Mr. Hartley is about to erect for the housing of his workpeople.
By the early 1890’s another story, this one in the May 2, 1891 edition of the “Leeds Mercury,” announced that the “model village” was nearing completion.
A MODEL INDUSTRIAL COMMUNITY.- Mr. W. P. Hartley’s Marmalade and Preserve Works at Aintree have within a surprisingly short period grown to vast dimensions, so much so that the business carried on may be considered one of the most successful branches of industry in the North of England. The works and premises are unique, being so self-contained, for, from the proprietor’s handsome mansion to the managers’ pretty villas and workpeople’s cozy cottages, all are clustered in well-arranged order, and are entered from a handsome and spacious boulevard, which is laid out and planted in Parisian style. So rapidly does this business increase that new six-story warehouses are being added to the already extensive works, and Mr. Hartley, to give a finishing touch to this model village, is building a noble clock tower one hundred feet in height. The tower will be fitted with a clock of the greatest power and accuracy: the illuminated dials, four in number, will be visible for a considerable distance, as they will measure seven feet in diameter each, while the bell which is being cast will weigh thirty hundredweight, and will have a hammer power of over one hundred pounds.
Certainly committed to his employees, at around the same time Hartley was opening his new Aintree facility he was also making organizational improvements to their benefit. One was the institution of a profit sharing plan that included disbursements on a semi-annual basis. A dinner associated with one such disbursement was described in the December 23, 1891 edition of the “Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.” The story mentioned several other employee benefits as well including meals and medical benefits.
Last Saturday evening, the workpeople in the employ of Mr. W. P. Hartley, preserves and marmalade manufacturer, of Aintree, Liverpool, participated in their seventh profit sharing. A very enjoyable entertainment proceeded the distribution of 385 envelopes containing various sums of money. Mr. Hartley in his speech, said that cheap and tasty dinners were now being provided for those work people who came from a distance, and that he had also arranged with Dr. Sugden for free attendance and medicine to all employed at the works.
Years later, the observations of an American businessman who had the opportunity to visit the Aintree plant in the late 1920’s make it quite clear as to the impact Hartley’s business and programs had on both his employees and the town of Aintree in general. The observations were included in a March 4, 1928 story published in the Brooklyn “Times Union.”
We motored from Liverpool to Aintree, the home of Hartley’s marmalade, on a beautiful winter morning. Our first impression was one of amazement at the tremendous size of the works, more extensive than the plant of any food product manufacturer in America. The town of Aintree, a small city in itself, is built up around the Hartley factories. The Hartley plant is the sole industry of the community; everyone old and young, is dependent on it and vitally interested in it. The company is like a feudal lord around whose home is gathered all his retainers, rejoicing in his power and happy in their service. A walk through the neat town, glimpses into the tidy, comfortable homes of employees. Conversations with workers, their wives and families, disclosed the illuminating fact that here is a cheerful, contented community of healthy, industrious people, all loyal to the company, and among whom labor troubles and dissatisfaction are unknown.
An aerial photograph of the plant and surrounding area, likely taken around the time the above observations were written was found in the “Romance of Great Businesses,” by William Henry Beable, published in 1926.
Right from the start the Aintree factory was apparently operating at its full daily capacity of 100 tons. In fact, according to a May 28, 1890 story in the “Birmingham Daily Post,” it occasionally exceeded that capacity.
The story mentioned that its 105 ton output that day filled 118,495 2-lb. jars and occupied 90 railway wagons. On a single day two years later, a similar story announced that the number of jars filled had reached 145,000.
So, bursting at the seams, Hartley was forced to expand again and in 1901 opened a second factory in London. The announcement was published in the June 26, 1901 edition of the “Liverpool Mercury.”
Yesterday afternoon Mr. W. P. Hartley’s new preserve works in Bermondsey, London were opened, in order to add ten million jars of preserves to the output of the famous Aintree establishment. The factory is of palatial dimensions, and will give employment to about 700 hands.
The story went on to present the reasoning behind the new location in Hartley’s own words.
In connection with the inauguration a luncheon was given at the Criterion Restaurant, London.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. W. P. Hartley said:… It is only during recent years that we have made any attempt to do a London trade – even that was not sought for by us, but was caused by numerous inquiries from private individuals, as to where our brand of preserves and marmalade could be obtained in London. This arose through ladies and gentlemen from the North and Midlands, who had been accustomed to regularly use our goods, coming to reside in London, and also not a few Londoners who purchased them at various seaside resorts. Although our output at Aintree, Liverpool, is over a hundred tons a day, this was not equal to the demand. It therefore became necessary either to enlarge the works at Aintree, or erect works in London.
A rendering of Hartley’s London works also appeared in the “Romance of Great Businesses.”
With the new factory on line, a June 26th advertisement in London’s “Daily Telegraph” announced that the company had increased capacity to over 1,000 tons per week, almost double the weekly 600 ton (100 tons per day) output of Aintree alone.
The advertisement also makes it clear that by then the company had added bottled fruits to their menu.
Shortly after the London expansion, Hartley began advertising table jellies; the first ads appearing in the Spring of 1902. The following was typical of these early ads.
This June 22, 1923 edition of the “Gloucestershire Echo” mentioned their table jellies along with their jams and marmalades, stressing their usage by British soldiers and sailors during World War I.
Out of all the scores of millions of packages of jam sent to our Sailors and our Soldiers during the Great War by Wm. P. Hartley, there was never a single complaint received either about short weight or about quality.
Ask the soldiers whose jam they like best.
During the early 1900’s Hartley was also adding flavors to the jam menu. One was apricot which, as far as I can tell, was included in advertisements beginning around 1911. This rather detailed advertisement for their Apricot Jam appeared in the October 24, 1924 edition of the “Midland Counties Tribune.”
The addition of new flavors continued into the 1930’s with the introduction of a marmalade flavor called “Bittersweet.” The fan fare associated with its unveiling included a celebrity endorsement and a gala luncheon at the Savoy Hotel, London, all of which was reported in a headlined newspaper story that was in truth, nothing more than a Hartley’s advertisement. The story, repeated in part below, appeared in several English newspapers in February, 1931.
It was a happy idea of Messrs. Wm. P. Hartley, Ltd., to invite Miss Evelyn Laye, the popular heroine of Mr. Noel Coward’s successful Musical Comedy “Bitter Sweet,” to christen their new “Bitter Sweet” Marmalade. This she did at a Luncheon Party held quite recently in the Ball Room of the Savoy Hotel, London.
The Chairman (Mr. A.W. Hewson, the London Managing Director of Wm. P. Hartley, Ltd.) in welcoming Miss Laye assured her that if her name was in future associated with Hartley’s “Bitter Sweet” Marmalade, she might feel absolutely certain that the product would maintain that high standard of quality alone worthy of such an association…
Meanwhile the Savoy chefs were busy in their kitchen boiling the first batch of the new Marmalade, to make which Seville oranges had been brought specially by air that morning. At the close of the luncheon two chefs bore it into the Ball Room in a huge copper preserving pan which they placed on a table in the center of the room. Such an event was unique even in the history of the Savoy hotel, which is among the most famous in the world.
Then to the strains of the familiar waltz from “Bitter Sweet,” Miss Laye (who looked ravishing in a pale beige pony skin costume and small beige hat) walked to the table and tasted a spoonful of the Marmalade.
“Simply delicious,” she said, and, in formally christening it “Bitter Sweet,” remarked that, “ever since she was a little girl she had known Hartley’s Jams and Marmalade, and could speak very highly of them. As a title, she said, “Bitter Sweet” is truly descriptive of the aromatic bitter taste released directly when the teeth pierce the thick, mellow, tender peel – and how succulent is the lovely sweet jelly! Miss Laye wished the new product all the success that has attended the delightful operetta “Bitter Sweet.”
In 1933 the Hartley business added the canning of vegetables to their operation. The company’s entrance into this new field was announced in the June 23, 1933 edition of the “Liverpool Echo.”
NEW LANCASHIRE INDUSTRY
When Lord Derby opens Messrs. William P. Hartley’s vegetable canning factory at Aintree on July 7, he will be launching an enterprise that will immediately benefit some seventy Lancashire farmers, and provide employment for hundreds of workers on the land or in the factory itself.
The farmers who have been very hard hit owing to the low prices which potatoes have been fetching in the markets, have already sown about 400 acres of peas and French beans to meet initial requirements.
“Vegetable canning is an entirely new industry in this part of England,” Mr. Arnold Barkby, a director of the firm, stated today. ” At first, we shall be canning mainly peas and French beans, but later we expect to handle asparagus, spinach, celery and small carrots, the growing of which will further assist local farmers.
“All the machinery in the new factory is of British manufacture, and the plant will have an output of 100 cans per minute…
Though the founder, William P. Hartley, passed away in 1922, the business was still under the full control of the Hartley family when the canning operation went on line. According to a July 8, 1933 “Liverpool Post and Mercury” story:
The opening by Lord Derby at Aintree yesterday of Messrs. Hartley’s pea canning factory reminds me that this firm, which now employs 3,000 people and has nearly eight miles of miniature railway, is still controlled by the Hartley family.
Miss Christiana Hartley, the chairman, confessed yesterday that she never dreamed she would be called upon to occupy that onerous position. She indicated, however, that her father, the late Sir William, had great faith in a woman’s judgement, and when she was quite young used to confide to her all sorts of details concerning the business – details which she has recently found of great value. Under her chairmanship the board today comprises five grandsons of Sir William.
Later the company expanded further, establishing factories in Peterborough and Hereford. According to an October 23, 1959 story in the “Peterborough Standard,” the Peterborough factory was established in 1948. When the Herford factory was established is unclear.
The Hartley family was still in control of the business when, in 1959, Schweppes announced a take-over bid. London’s “Evening Standard” covered the announcement in their October 19th issue.
The 17,400,000 (pound) Schweppes tonic water and bitter lemon group today made a surprise 2,100,000 (pound) take-over bid for the Wm. P. Hartley jam and jelly firm. The Hartley chief, Mr. William Hartley Higham, and the members of his family are to collect more than 1,000,000 (pounds) under the deal.
Mr. Higham advises his shareholders to accept the Schweppes bid. Members of the Hartley family “owning more than half the shares” have already said “Yes” to the offer…Four of the firm’s five directors are members of the family.
In mid November the “Birmingham Mail” reported that the acquisition was a “done deal.”
Schweppes Ltd. announces that having received acceptances in respect of more than 90 percent of the issued ordinary share capital of William P. Harley,Ltd., it has declared offer unconditional. Offer remains open for acceptnce until November 30.
Today, Hartley brand products are still manufactured by the “Hain Daniels Group.”
Their website states:
Our jam heritage originally dates back to 1805, when James Chivers started making jam for his family business. Later, in 1871, William Pickles Hartley followed down the same path, and started producing jams, jellies and marmalades.
Today we are still Britain’s best loved jam selling enough each year to spread over 300 million pieces of toast.
In the United States, as early as 1890, despite William Hartley’s claim that prior to building his London factory he had no interest in expanding beyond the North and Midlands of England, at least some of his product was making its way across the Atlantic. The first evidence of this that I can find is an advertisement announcing that a shipment of Hartley’s jams had just arrived in Philadelphia on the British steamer “Princess.” The ad appeared in the October 31, 1890 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
Mention of Hartley’s marmalade and jams also appeared sporadically in early 1890’s grocery store advertisements, primarily in Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Later that decade the firm of R. U. Delapenha began serving as Hartley’s U.S. agent. As early as September, 1899, a list produced by the U.S. Government’s Agricultural Station for North Dakota identified Delapenha as Hartley’s retailer. (At the time, the U.S. government was taking issue with the marmalade’s salicylic acid content).
According to Rudolph Delapenha’s obituary, found in Paterson New Jersey’s “Morning Call, his firm was founded two years earlier, in 1897.”
Born in Jamaica. British West Indies, he came to this country in 1888 and became a salesman for Rockwood & Co., Brooklyn chocolate firm. Four years later he joined Alexis Godillot and Co., New York importers of fancy groceries. He made his home in Montclair (N.J.) from 1897, when he founded his own importing business.
As early as 1899, Delapenha’s business was listed in the New York City directories as a grocer and importer of fancy groceries, confections etc. Originally listed with an address of 81 Murray Street in lower Manhattan, by the early 1900’s the company had moved to 17 Jay Street. This R. U. Delapenha advertisement for Hartley’s Marmalade appeared in the September 20, 1927 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
As far as I can tell, R.U. Delapenha continued to act as Hartley’s agent right up to the Schweppes acquisition.
Over the years I’ve found Hartley’s stoneware jars in two sizes. The larger is 3-inches in diameter, 4-inches tall, and likely their two pound size. Embossed on the base is the phrase “Not Genuine Unless Bearing Wm P. Hartley’s Label.” A 2006 publication entitled “The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archeologies of the 19th Century,” dates the use of this phrase on their pottery to the late 1920’s.
The smaller jar is 2-inches in diameter and 2-1/2-inches tall. It contained maybe a half pound? The base of this jar is embossed W.P. Hartley, Liverpool & London, and includes a lighthouse surrounded by a flock of birds.
“The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archeologies of the 19th Century,” dates the use of this embossing between 1900 and 1920. (I’m ignoring the fact that the positioning of “Liverpool” and “London” are reversed) That being said, the London location didn’t open until 1901, so, I suspect that’s a more likely start date.
Up through the late 1920’s Hartley exclusively packaged his preserves and marmalades in these stoneware pots. Peake’s biography of Hartley provided the reasoning for this in a 1901 statement he made at the time of his London factory opening.
Perhaps I ought to say that all the preserves and marmalade made at these works will be from fresh fruit and lump sugar and no other ingredient whatever. We do not use glass jars because our method is to fill the jam into the jars immediately after it is boiled, so that glass jars would not stand the heat without constant breakages and most serious risk of pieces of broken glass getting into the jam, therefore for twenty years we have practically used only the highly glazed stoneware jars.
In fact many of its stoneware pots were manufactured at pottery works the company owned. This practice continued until the early 1930’s when a shift to glass jars was taking place. A story announcing the sale of one of Hartley’s potteries provides some perspective on the shift to glass. It appeared in the April 5, 1930 edition of the “Liverpool Echo.”
The popular demand for glass jam jars rather than those of the pottery type is more or less responsible for a sale of property by Messrs. W.P. Hartley, Ltd., jam manufacturers, of Aintree.
The firm have sold the Melling Potteries at Kirby to Mr. William Moyers, who is managing director of the Bispham Hall Terra Cotta Co., Ltd., of Orrell, near Wigan…
…Formerly they made a great many of their stoneware jars and bottles there, but the popular demand now is for glass jars, which are made in other parts of the country.
Stoneware jars are still made for the firm at St. Helens and elsewhere…
By the early 1930’s the shift to glass jars was reflected in their advertising, as evidenced by this April 12, 1933 advertisement in the “Liverpool Echo.”
On a final note: According to a June 11, 2001 edition of “The Guardian,” Hartley’s London factory at Bermondsey closed sometime in the early 1980’s and at the turn of the century was being repurposed.
HARTLEY’S JAM FACTORY
It once employed 2,000 workers and churned out millions of pots of jam. But now, nearly 20 years after the last jar slipped off the production line, Hartley’s Jam Factory in Bermondsey is about to be reincarnated as a glamorous live/work development, aimed mainly at affluent young professionals and creative firms.
Two years later, an October 8, 2003 real estate advertisement in the “Evening Standard” listed a two bedroom apartment in a Hartley warehouse.