Thursday, 10 June 2010

George Clark & Son's Breakfast Food, Mornington Crescent

Here is a sign that bugged me for some time. Some of the text is obviously easy to read, but on the pictures I took two years ago, what was written on the box drawn on the left remained largely a mystery. Finally I managed recently to go back to Mornington Crescent to take more pictures from a different angle. Then it all became clear...

George Clark, a grocer based on Westminster Broadway, started his business by refining and supplying sugar to the brewing trade. In 1897 John Badger Clark, trading under George Clark & Son Limited (was he George's son?), moved to Millwall Docks, where in 1898-1899 the Broadway Works were developed. Once in its new premises the company also started manufacturing caramel, not as a sweet for direct consumption but as a colouring matter for the food industry. More information about the Broadway Works can be found in Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, edited by Hermione Hobhouse. This excellent work is available online (the part on Broadway Works is half-way down the page) and includes several photos taken during the first decades of the twentieth century.
In 1955 George Clark & Son was bought by Brown & Polson Ltd. The new owners transferred the production of sugar for the brewing trade to Manchester in 1958. The site at Millwall was then used to produce glucose-sugar mixes to the jam and confectionary industries. However as a minor player in this particular business B & P found itself in a difficult position and in 1964 it agreed to sell the Millwall refinery to Tate & Lyle Ltd.

If George Clark & Son was essentially a supplier of sugar-based products to the food and brewing industries, the ghost sign below could suggest the company tried to diversify its production in the early 1920s.

Part of this sign has disappeared but we can still read
Breakfast Food
It's Cooked -
Ready to Serve

To the left is the box previously mentioned, with in its centre a yellow Star of David (were the Clarks Jewish?). Around it, on a roundel similar to a lifebelt, is the name of the company:
George Clark & Son Limited
Above this is:
Creamed [almost completely faded]
Something else was written below the 'lifebelt' but I haven't been able to decipher it.

What makes me believe this sign was painted in the early 1920s is the publication in the June 24, 1922 issue of the British Medical Journal of an advert placed by the company to promote the nutritional value and health benefits of its new product (it is at the bottom of page 17). It reads:
For Food Value and
Digestive Properties you
should recommend
Clark's Creamed Barley
The New British Breakfast Food
Write for a Free Sample.
George Clark & Son, Ltd.,
7, Broadway Works, Millwall Dks.,London, E. 14.

This printed ad could give us an idea of what was written on the now-faded upper part of the wall.

Judging by what is available online, it doesn't look like Creamed Barley was a huge success. That certainly made the Clark's Creamed Barley Breakfast Food delivery van sold at Bonhams in late 2008 all the more valuable (item 505 on the page). This tin toy sold for £1,560...

Location: above Mornington Crescent tube station / Picture taken on: 07/05/2008


Jane said...

You are amazing!

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks Jane. Now I'm blushing. I must admit this was really a tough one to identify. For months I looked time and time again at the pictures I had taken. I also looked on the net for packages of breakfast food that could resemble the one painted up there but couldn't find anything. Fortunately in the end I managed to decipher enough letters to read 'George Clark & Son' and 'Creamed', searched the net to check if I could get a match and... bingo!