London’s Larder

During the early 1980s I was involved with producing the Lord’s Hansard, the daily printed record of debates in the Palace of Westminster. Its production took place at a vast Bermondsey factory [left] which at one time had produced a much more interesting produce – Branston’s Pickle.

The building now awaits the fate of much of London’s industrial past and is being developed into apartments.

[O]ther culinary staples produced here included Worcestershire sauce in the 19th century and more recently Crosse & Blackwell sauces and salad cream.


Crosse & Blackwell once had a warehouse in Charing Cross Road which when they moved out became the familiar Astoria, that now is being developed with the arrival of CrossRail.

Bermondsey was once the hub for London’s food production with its docks handling three-quarters of the capital’s butter, cheese, bacon and canned meats. Processing factories moved here and the area became known as London’s larder.

The first tinned food was produced here by Bryan Donkins in 1811. His nascent business was nearly derailed when it was discovered that suspicious meat from Romania was being tinned at the factory in Southwark Park Road. Nowadays only a small white plaque denotes the site of this cutting edge technology.


Other factories from Bermondsey’s past have disappeared without a trace. Hartley’s once employed over 2,000 at its factory in Rothsay Street. Closing in 1960, parts of the buildings now imaginatively named The Jam Factory are now apartments.


Peek Freans was once a familiar and popular biscuit brand. In an area in Bermondsey known locally as Biscuit Town this factory was once the largest biscuit factory in the world. Its ovens went cold in 1989, after United Biscuits took the brand under its wing. The site renamed what else? The Biscuit Factory in Clements Road is now a sprawling industrial complex comprising housing a large number of creative and media businesses.


Once known for its advertising catch-line “Don’t say vinegar, Say Sarsons” this world famous brand was produced in Tanner Street up until the 1990s. Now the premises have gone the way of nearly all food manufacturing in Bermondsey and become apartments.

In 1960 1.5 million Londoners were employed in manufacturing, today he number stands at 250,000 and Bermondsey is not longer London’s Larder.

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