Factory Index
Lyons Maid Ice Cream



Bridge Park Ice Cream Factory (Lyons Maid)

Ice cream production was started by Lyons at Cadby Hall - next to their fish department where there was a ready supply of ice - in about 1894 using what was known as the 'turbine bowl' method. This essentially was a spindle driven revolving drum, cooled on the outside by salt and ice. When the mixture froze inside the bowl the operator would scoop the mixture from the inside with a spatula into a variety of containers for further freezing. This method was used until the 1920s when refrigeration methods dramatically improved.

In 1922 a prototype factory was built at Cadby Hall, using the improved freezing technologies, in what was 'A' Block. In August 1922, having tested the technology, a new large ice cream plant was installed in 'R' block. Occupying four floors, the factory space consisted of 69,000 square feet and was the largest ice cream factory in Europe at this time. The main 'engine room' was situated in the basement and here Lyons installed four Brotherhood double-acting, vertical, enclosed crankcase, two cylinder, ammonia refrigerating compressors. Three of the compressor had a capacity equal to 150 tons refrigeration each, while the fourth compressor was an 80 ton machine. From this plant the various ice cream products were produced including choc ices. Progressively new plant and technology was introduced when it became available which in those days was from the US. In 1931, for example, Lyons installed a Vogt J1000 machine to manufacture their famous Pola Maid ice cream which were made in vanilla and strawberry flavours.

Mark Bogod, who was appointed an Employee Director in February 1958, had joined the Company in 1922 coming direct from the Royal College of Science. He joined the Laboratory as an Assistant Chemist and worked there until 1933 when he became joint manager of the Ice Cream Department largely as a result of his work in the Laboratory's Milk Products section. He, and other key figures, notably Harold Boon and Maurice Salmon, were largely responsible for the early development of the Ice Cream Department.

During the Second World War the production of ice cream was banned and it did not pick up again until 1945. At this time Lyons recruited George Handelman to develop the overseas trade (he spoke several languages) and in this he was very successful. In addition he introduced the concept of cold storage depots and a refrigeration distribution system using refrigerated cold boxes on railway sites. The additional sales he generated demanded more production and the Cadby Hall factory was almost at full stretch despite the fact that most food items were still rationed. Some of the extra capacity was satisfied by the acquisition of smaller companies but by the 1950s other food manufacturing departments, other than ice cream, had also outgrown their capacity and it became necessary to relocate the ice cream factory. This would free up space at Cadby Hall for food production expansion and provide a clean sheet to design another ice cream factory. A committee was formed in 1954 consisting of Neil Salmon, Henry Scott, Harry Hudson, Harry Benson, Denis Long, Harold Boon and Mark Bogod to plan a new factory on land adjacent to the Tea Factory at Greenford alongside the Grand Union Canal. At the time this was no more that a 'wheat field' but it became one of the most sophisticated ice cream factories in Europe when it opened in 1955 as Bridge Park.

Designed by the architects Harrison, Stevens, Ashby & Partners the factory was on two levels and from the outset was planned with expansion potential. The building design was somewhat idiosyncratic in that all the heavy equipment was placed on the upper floor while the ground level was given over to engine rooms, cold stores, raw material storage and staff restaurant. The main contractors were G. Percy Trentham & Co Ltd with electrical, mechanical engineering and interior design carried out by the Works Department of Lyons themselves. However, the factory was so specialized that over seventy engineering, seventeen electrical and forty-five building sub contractors were used.

The style of layout was more important that at first appeared; in fact it was the key to the whole factory. The aim was to avoid any possibility of contamination anywhere and for that reason it was decided not to have pipes coming down through the ceiling to the various machines because, apart from being unsightly, they could form dust traps. A completely waterproof upper floor was built and all the pipe-lines for ingredients, water, refrigeration, electricity and other services were led up through it. The result was that the production area presented a clear uncluttered space. The room ventilation had a higher pressure than the outside to prevent the ingress of dust. The production lines were laid out symmetrically and the whole controlled from a central panel from which an operator could direct the flow of the various ingredients to the points needed. The panel showed at a glance exactly what was going on. For reasons of hygiene nearly everything in the production sections of the factory was made from stainless steel. More than 5,000 feet of stainless steel pipelines were so designed that they could be linked together into a continuous cleaning circuit. All the joints and junctions were so made to prevent traps in which material might lodge. The cleaning process was operated from the control panel by a series of time switches. Hot water and sterilizing agents were pumped through under pressure for the required time for any particular cleaning process. The cleaning process which had taken a full shift in the Cadby Hall factory was reduced to 2 hours, each night, thus increasing production capacity. At strategic points around the factory 'capstans' were placed from which water and other cleaning liquids were available for cleaning individual machines or washing floors. In addition there were cleaning and sterilizing trolleys and for personal hygiene showers were provided and wash basins at each factory entrance.

The Bridge Park factory had its own laboratory where each batch of new ingredients were checked for quality. Their most demanding role was the searching bacteriological test on samples of finished product from every freezing unit in use. The samples, which were coded, documented their history of manufacture and were selected at random from the conveyors at various times of the day. Checks were made on the first products of each day's run to ensure that sterilizing had been carried out properly. If for any reason a production line had to be stopped bacteriological sampling was carried out when it started.

In June 1967 it became necessary to extend the factory to provide more space for the Product Development section as well as additional space for production and storage. The factory was continued with a new two level 'L' shaped extension measuring 256 feet long and 25 feet wide thus providing an additional 13,000 square feet of space. As with the original factory, the extension was so designed so as to allow further extensions at a later date. The Product Development team occupied the second floor where they had their own laboratory, a pilot plant to manufacture new products on a small scale, a packaging unit and a taste panel and offices.

In 1968, with the growth of hand-held ice creams, it became necessary to extend the factory again. Building work started in that year and continued for 18 months. The expansion provided for: the central production area to be increased by 25 per cent; the cold-store capacity in the dispatch centre to be increased by two thirds - to hold a total approaching one and a quarter million gallons of ice cream and iced lollies and the plant for canned mix used for Softa-Freeze and Tastee-Freeze soft ice cream for cones and sundaes, then based at Cadby Hall, to be transferred in their entirety to Bridge Park. Much of the scheme was completed for the summer of 1968 with final work completed in 1970. In July 1969, in just one week, the Bridge Park factory turned out 30 million portions of ice cream and ice lollies before the new extensions had been fully completed.

As well as storing its own output Bridge Park was a cold store/distribution depot for the other two factories at Barking, Essex and Laurel Road, Liverpool. About 60 per cent of Lyons Maid production of ice cream was produced at Bridge Park. They handled just about every variety in the Lyons Maid range and many well-known lines were made exclusively there, for example Luv, Zoom, Orbit and Super Sea Jet lollies. With the phenomenal growth of children's ice cream it became necessary, yet again, to improve the production of the stick ice creams and in 1985, as part of a £1 million investment in the factory, a Hoyer Rollo 35 machine was installed which was capable of producing 29,000 ice creams on a stick every hour. As well as these the ice cream made at Bridge Park included many flavours of bulk ice cream, choc ices, family bricks, Pola Maid and Zippy.

By 1992 Allied Domecq felt they did not want to keep the Lyons UK ice cream business and sold it to Clarke Foods Ltd who, after they acquired Lyons Maid, went into receivership in October 1992. The remnants of this collapse were eventually acquired by Nestle Ltd later in the year. Nestle continued to use the three dancing children logo on some of their products/literature and continued to make some of the famous brands such as Zoom, FAB and Mivvi. However, Nestle eventually sold the business to Richmond Foods Ltd in 2003. The packaging and marketing giveaways (trade cards etc) which Lyons Maid issued in the 1960s/70s are now collectors items. The Bridge Park factory closed and one of the largest warehouses in Europe occupies the site.

This picture was taken by Maurice Broomfield of ice lolly production at Bridge Park.

The Zoom production line.

A picture of lolly production taken by Maurice Broomfield. Same date August 1969.

The Zoom production line. The operator's name in the close-up is Mrs N. K. Janjuah and she is operating a Vitaline machine. August 1969.

This picture is dated December 1968. The machine is a Marcialine 1400 and was made by Vanmar Products, Richmond. It was capable of making half a million ice lollies a day. It was one of three ordered by Lyons Maid to keep pace for the demand of Zooms, Fabs and Sea Jets. Each machine cost £30,000

An Ice Lolly stick dispenser designed by sub contractor # Lawrence Projects for a 'special' during the 1970 World Cup.



© Peter Bird 2005