Sweet taste of history

Skip Navigation

Sweet taste of history

Friday January 15, 2010

Many H&F residents may remember the firm of Manbré and Garton, whose sugar refinery was situated between Manbre Road and the river, east of Hammersmith Bridge.

Alexandre Manbré came to the UK from France in about 1855, and three years later lodged his first patent for the manufacture of starch sugar, which is a special sugar used by the brewing trade.

In 1876, the Manbré Saccharine Company Ltd moved from Spitalfields to the site in Fulham, formerly Brandenburgh House Farm.

The company went public in 1897 and built an office block in Winslow Road, Hammersmith.

However, by the time of the First World War it was experiencing financial difficulties, due partly to the very competitive nature of the brewing sugar industry.

In 1919, the Manbré business was bought out by another company, and the new firm was given the name of Manbré Sugar and Malt Ltd. In 1922, the prettily named 'sugar candy houses' were erected, and four years later the firm merged with a Battersea company founded by William Garton in 1855.

Both M Manbré and Mr Garton had started their businesses with the same aim of making a new brewing sugar to enable lighter beer to be brewed.

One of the reasons the company weathered the 1930s depression was because it hit on the advanced idea of supplying liquid sugar in bulk for jam-making and ice-cream manufacture.

Between the wars the company continued to expand, taking over other smaller firms and installing large tanks for liquid sugar storage.

By the 1960s Manbré and Garton were a multi-national firm, with interests particularly in South Africa.

The extensive sugar refinery and works employed some 500 people.

Women had worked in the syrup room from the early days, and one notable character was 'Franny' Smith, who filled 1 cwt sacks of invert sugar; it was said she 'worked like a man, dressed like a man and swore like a man'.

By 1974, the refinery produced various grades of liquid and dry sugar for all uses in the food and drink industries, including sucrose, glucose, treacle and syrup.

At that time, 80 per cent of employees were still living within three miles of Winslow Road.

Soon after, however, the works were threatened with redundancies, and in any case the streets were now too narrow to cope with the tankers that took away the products from the site.

The company was taken over by Tate and Lyle, which closed the factory and demolished it in 1979.

Have you got a local history question? Email: handfnews@lbhf.gov.uk

The H&F Archives and Local History Centre is open to the public and is at The Lilla Huset, 191 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith. Call 020 8741 5159.