Back to Bolsover for our latest blog, which features, what might now be regarded as an unusual activity for the area – jam and preserves production.
The Bolsover Home Grown Fruit Preserving Company was established in 1900. The chairman was JP Houfton of the Bolsover Colliery Company. Other directors included members of the Tinsley family, one of whom, farmed 200 acres of fruit locally.
Percy Houfton designed a factory for the company. Opening in 1902 this was situated on a 2 ½ acre site next to the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railweay (LD&ECR ) station at Carr Vale. Apparently one reason the business was established was to absorb some of the surplus female labour in the district – then a mining community. Coal for the factory was mined at the Bolsover Colliery Company with jars from factories in Chesterfield and Worksop.
Farmed strawberries from local suppliers were particularly used in the early years, but Wisbech (in Cambridgeshire) and the Fens also provided other fruit shipped by rail. Along with jam, the factory bottled fresh fruit such as blackcurrant and bilberries. Mincemeat was a winter product.
In the early 1920s the company considered moving into fruit canning. Despite an extension to the factory and installation of some plant, this was fairly quickly abandoned due to a slump in the fruit preserving industry nationally. The company did, however, prosper during the Second World War.
After the war road transport was used to bring in plums and apples from the Vale of Evesham and raspberries from Carse of Gowrie. Oranges and lemons were imported via Liverpool. Despite earlier issues, canning fresh fruit increased in importance, along with canning peas. A regular workforce of around a few dozen were supplemented by several hundred seasonal workers during the late summer. Products seem to have been mainly sold locally.
The late 1950s saw the company facing competition from national brands, changing diets (the consumption of jam reduced), storage issues and lack of capital to mechanise. In 1959 the company ceased production. A year later Bolsover Urban District Council purchased the factory site and part of the old LD&ECR goods yard. For a period Sheffield cutlery manufacturers Walker & Hall used the premises.
The factory was later occupied by a Mercol Lubricants but this closed in the early years of the 2000s, was demolished and is now a housing estate.
There were other local fruit preserving businesses including one at Whittington Moor, Chesterfield.
Our thanks to Bernard Haigh and the Bolsover Civic Society for assistance with this blog. If you’ve any images (or labels) of the fruit preserving concern they would love to hear from you. Contact their secretary – firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s some more photographs and information about the company on our VCH Explore website https://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/items/bolsover-jam-factory
Information for this blog has been sourced from ‘Derbyshire VCH volume III – Bolsover and adjoining parishes’, ‘Now and then Bolsover’ by Bernard Haigh and Geoff Harris and Bernard Haigh’s ‘More Bolsover remembered’ books. Images are sourced from Bolsover Civic Society and Bernard Haigh.