Subsidiary Companies




 Henry Telfer Ltd

Henry Telfer Ltd (formally Ticky Snacks Ltd) was always regarded as one of the less appealing activities of Lyons. Their product range, although at times very profitable, always had a down-market image and for many years they were not fully integrated with Lyons in the fear of bringing their whole business into disrepute.

The business had been started by Henry Telfer Thompson and his wife who had returned from a failed South African venture in 1926. He started his business from modest, rented, premises in Croydon and as it expanded he moved to Camberwell Green and then to Garrett Lane in Wandsworth. One of his more famous brands was a pie he called Ticky Snacks and he advertised these as 'Made as Muvver Makes Em'. They were clearly aimed at the working class trade and indeed were sold on pie stalls outside railway stations and in high street pie shops of the period. He registered his company as Ticky Snacks Ltd in 1927. Thompson's business came to the attention of the Salmon family in 1931 and in 1932 they took a 49 per cent share in the business with Geoffrey Salmon appointed to the Board. In 1933, because of failing health, Henry Thompson, his wife and business partner Albert Muteham sold their 51 per cent equity to J. Lyons. In 1938 the company changed its name to Henry Telfer Limited and it became a subsidiary. During the acquisition negotiations an accountancy firm had been employed to carry out a study of the factory. Their report criticised Thompson's management style and the lack of production and hygiene controls. It was concluded that the whole factory area at Wandsworth was unsuitable for food production and Lyons distanced themselves from the business. Production methods in Lyons were modern, hygienic and efficient and there was a team of qualified laboratory technicians testing every stage of manufacture.

Little could be done to improve the factory in Wandsworth and so it moved to new premises, a former brewery, in Lille Road, Fulham in 1934. New and modern equipment was installed similar to that in use a Cadby Hall. By 1940 Telfer's were producing huge volumes of pies and other processed meat products for canteens, factories and hospitals and much of their output at this time was directed to the troops returning from Dunkirk. When the government introduced their Rural Pie Scheme the WVS, to whom rations were allocated, were unable to cope and their food allocations were transferred to baking businesses. As a result Telfer's production soared and Lyons had to set up satellite pie plants in their provincial bakeries.

After the war Telfer's reputation had improved and by the late 1940s their turnover had reached £1 million. However, this was short lived because when rationing ended in 1954 the turnover dropped as fast as it had climbed. Nevertheless the company was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1955 for supplying cooked meat products. Telfer's continued to have a relatively strong presence in the pie market with their outlets associated with hospitals, canteens and the catering trade. They had less success with their sausage trade and in 1958 bought the Excell Meat Company who had a sausage factory in Stratford, east London. By the 1960s the company attempted to develop their own brands but they failed to break into the retail sector. They were fairly successful in supplying the up-and-coming cash and carry warehouses but their was stiff competition from G. Brazil & Co who were market leaders.

In order to save money the Fulham factory closed in 1968 and production was centred on Cadby Hall and Stratford - by this time Henry Telfer Ltd had become a wholly owned company and Jack Silverman was the Managing Director. Despite all the company's difficulties Telfer's were Britain's largest manufacturer of meat products to the catering trade but losses continued to be troublesome. The relocation of meat production to Cadby Hall, itself already at maximum capacity, increased the difficulties of Henry Telfer. Expansion was impossible so a new factory was built at Northampton which became fully operational in 1974.

The cost of the new factory, built on the Moulton Park Estate, was put at £3 million. The factory was of a simple, single story design, occupying a 20 acre site. At the front was a three story office block (with coffee bars on each floor and a medical department) and restaurant adjoining an amenities block, which ran the full length of the factory, with showers and lockers for staff and a staff supermarket. The factory area was spread over 250,000 square feet. A central wall divided the production areas with the bakery where all pastry products were made. The factory area was heated or cooled as necessary. The special flooring (light buff yellow in colour) was designed to be both attractive and hygienic. The durable surface was a single continuous sheet which sealed the floor throughout. The complete absence of stanchions or pillars created a feeling of spaciousness. A 600 car parking area was provided for staff and visitors. The first products produced in the new factory, whose occupation was phased from Cadby Hall and Stratford, were beef-burgers, sausages and Scotch eggs. Most of the Wimpy hamburgers were made here and frozen before dispatch to Wimpy shops.

Shortly after Henry Telfer occupied their new Northampton factory the Lyons business was sold to Allied Breweries Ltd who carried out a study of those part s of the business which were unprofitable. It was found (and known) that the new factory was a drain on Henry Telfer's balance sheet and it was sold in February 1980 to the Unigate Group after first having changed its name to J. Lyons Products Ltd. The business went thought a number of owners and the factory is now used to make own-label sandwiches, probably the largest sandwich making business in the UK.



Courtesy: Norman Hulme

© Peter Bird 2002