Feeling Saucy

Over the years the Museum collection has gathered a significant number of sauce and condiment related items, particularly bottles. Some of these are still well known, others have faded in to obscurity.

Examples include J.B. Coare’s ‘The Royal Agricultural Sauce’, Hayward Bros. ‘Military Sauce’, Seedhouses’ Celebrated Gingerette Essence and the splendidly named ‘Zu-Zu Sauce’.

Gartons Sauce bottle stopper.

One of the smaller items is a bottle stopper, with Gartons embossed upon it. This stopper carries an interesting tale of changing fortunes. Frederick Gibson Garton was a Nottingham grocer who purchased a sauce recipe from Hoe Brothers sauce manufacturers of Bottesford. Garton wanted to name this sauce HP after hearing that that it was was being served in the Houses of Parliament, although it continued to be sold as F.G. Gartons Sauce.

Garton sold the rights for his sauce to Edwin Moore of the Midlands Vinegar Company in the early 1900s in exchange for £150 and the settlement of unpaid debts. It then began to be produced at Aston Cross in Birmingham. Frederick Garton continued as a grocer and wine & spirit merchant and died in 1942 in West Bridgford.

Gartons Sauce was relabeled, including the famous image of the Houses of Parliament, as HP Sauce in 1903 and a vigorous promotional campaign followed. Edwin Moore retired in 1921 and in 1924 the British Share Holders Trust bought the Midland Vinegar Company, and subsequently floated it as HP Sauce Ltd. In 1930 they merged with the Lea & Perrins company for whom they had been the distributors.

The Imperial Tobacco firm began to diversify in to other industries in the early 1960s, HP Sauce Ltd was purchased in 1967 followed by National Canning, the owner of Smedley foods. Their combination passed the popular sauce to Smedley HP Foods in 1972. Imperial Foods sale to Hanson Trust in 1986 resulted in the sale of the HP Sauce brand again, eventually becoming part of Groupe Danone. In June 2005 Heinz bought HP Foods from Danone. Following a referral to the Competitions Commission in October 2005 the takeover was approved in April 2006. In May of that year Heinz announced that production of HP Sauce would be moved to the Netherlands. Despite protests the HP factory at Aston in Birmingham closed in March 2007 and was demolished in the Summer. The HP Sauce sign from the factory now resides with Birmingham Museums and although not on permanent display it may be seen by prior arrangement at their Collections Centre.

An entirely gratuitous shot of the writer pictured, on a day off, in front of part of the HP Sauce sign at ‘The Museums Collection’, Birmingham in 2017. Pic : David Carlin