The Midland Fruit Preserving Co., Chesterfield

Last week we took a look at jam and preserve production in Bolsover – this week it’s Chesterfield’s turn, with the Midland Fruit Preserving Co., Avenue Road, off Sheffield Road.*

Extract from the 1919 Ordnance Survey large scale map of the area with the The Midland Fruit Preserving Co. premises marked.

Brief history

The business was established in 1893 by Ernest Shentall, Mr A and Mr J Shentall (all members of the same family with connections into the grocery business).

The Derbyshire Times carried a thorough piece on the concern in its ‘Derbyshire Industries’ series in on 5 March 1932. By this time there were between 200 to 300 employees – mainly women. Presumably, like Bolsover, the variation is due to seasonal activities.

Very few, if any, photographs of the preserves factory have survived. This rather poor quality one of ‘some of the boilers on the left, Seville oranges being prepared for marmalade making’ is one of three that appeared in the Derbyshire Times article on the company in March 1932.

Motor transport was exclusively used at this time. Strawberries came mainly from the ‘eastern counties, Wisbech and district,’ supplemented by some grown locally. The fruit was delivered overnight and by mid-day the 20 or so tons used in a day had already become jam! Between 50 and 100 tons of the stuff were produced in a week.

Marmalade was another staple, along with black and red currant jams. ‘Thousands of jars of pickled onions’ were also produced accompanied by other pickles and sauces. Like the Bolsover concern (which was a completely separate company) winter saw the production of mincemeat. Christmas pudding was yet another product made.

Another 1932 Derbyshire Times image. The process is nearly finished as women fill the actual jam jars.

This ‘very self-contained’ firm kept a ‘large maintenance staff’ and delivered goods ‘by roads to towns at least 100 miles from Chesterfield’. Their premises were said by the Derbyshire Times to cover eight to ten acres.  There was even ‘a fine canteen’ complete with stage.

Closure comes

But by the early 1960s the company was in trouble, ceasing production in June 1962, as the liquidators moved in.  A sale of the plant and equipment was held on 17 and 18 October 1962. The 750 lots included fruit preserving plant, 15 motor cars and 11 lorries. A couple of days previously the factory premises had been auctioned – the total site area was just over 4 ½ acres. It was sold to Henry Wigfall & Co. who paid £30,000 for it. They intended to use the premises for warehousing. It was later occupied by Waldo, a suite manufacturing company. The premises were demolished a few years ago and are now the site of housing.

An early company advertisement from the Derbyshire Times of 12 September 1894.

So, another relatively short-lived jam and preserves factory closed. No doubt influenced, like that at Bolsover, by the change in diet which saw less jam consumed and the dominance of national brands with big advertising budgets and nationwide distribution.

*Although many people local to the area would regard this as being Whittington Moor, in fact the boundary between Newbold and Whittington parishes runs down the middle of Sheffield Road. The Midland Fruit Preserving Company premises were therefore in Newbold parish. Though we haven’t yet prepared our draft text on Newbold’s economic history, the story of this company will be told in that section under Newbold parish.

We’d love to see any photographs of either the jam factory or its subsequent use as a furniture and upholstery manufacturers.