Department Index
Factory Index

Experimental distilling. Photo 1922

Production. Photo 1952

Move to Greenford February 23, 2001

Retail bottle.

......Essence Department.......

Essence Department

The Essence Department was founded in 1921 as part of the old laboratory. It started life in St Mary's College where Lyons developed some of their earliest essences. Their raw materials were cinnamon from Ceylon, oranges from Italy, nutmeg from Singapore, ginger from China, limes from the West Indies and marjoram from France. Citrus flavours were some of the most difficult subjects for the chemists. The vanilla essence was one of the most common flavours. The vanilla plant, from which the essence is made, is a parasite depending on other vegetation for its nourishment and its original home was Mexico. Now most of the thin, brown, dried beans used come from Madagascar. The Essence Department produced not only the familiar liquid essence (sometimes dark brown and confused with the iodine bottle) but also a vanilla paste, which was considered a better flavouring substance for large-scale manufacturing processes.

Essences are the result of carefully controlled distilling processes, but in spite of the care taken in those early days the flavour was liable to be 'unstable' and weak. For this reason much research was centred on the production of other flavours which were made from highly purified materials. Deodorizers and perfumes fall into this category. One of the more stable materials used was peppermint. Lyons obtained their supply of oils from a farm in Mitcham, Surrey, and it was said to be the finest in the world. The flavourings and colourings made by the Essence Department were developed for the company's manufacturing departments and they were extensively used by them. In April 1950 a pioneer van set out to sell a selection of these essences to retailers, and gradually Lyons Culinary Essences were introduced throughout the country and were carried by all Wholesale Bakery salesmen. There were twelve flavourings and six colourings. The one-ounce bottles, measuring 3.5 inches in length and a quarter inch square, were said to be ahead of their rivals in carrying a useful 'dropper-stopper'. This meant that if a recipe called for three drops of essence then three drops could be used. Demonstrations were given in grocers' shops and customers were shown how to make fruit-flavoured milk drinks for children. Rum essence was kept for the elders!!

After the Second World War the Essence Department, which had become known as Lyons Flavours, had outgrown their premises at Cadby Hall and they moved into new premises at Greenford where the business was greatly expanded. In February 1967 the Company formed a relationship with Florasynth Laboratories Inc. (of America) by forming a new company in the UK called Florasynth Limited, with the equity held in equal amounts by each company. By forming this partnership, Florasynth continued to supply products for use within the company and selling in a smaller way to food, drink and confectionery concerns outside the group, but were also able to represent the American company (the fourth largest of its kind in the US). This new venture also took them into the cosmetic and toiletries business, pharmaceutical concerns and other industries. The sale of perfumes and industrial deodorants, both for direct use and aerosols widened the business opportunities. Some minor changes were made to the offices and production areas at Greenford mainly the dismantling of the rooms used for making detergents and ice cream toppings which were discontinued by Florasynth after the formation of the new partnership.

D. E. Groom, formally with Florasynth Cocker Ltd (who represented Florasynth Inc's interests in the UK until the end of 1966) joined Terry Tarbuck to look after sales. John Meredith joined Florasynth in May as General Manager, Sales. He was formally in charge of marketing and sales for Aromatica Ltd, a company specializing in aromatic chemicals and perfume compounds. Jim Wilson was Quality Control & Development. Sidney Cakebread was the General Manager. He had been with the company for 40 years having joined in 1928 as a Senior Chemist at Central Laboratories. He was there continuously until 1959 when he moved to Rolls Confectionery Ltd, then a subsidiary of Lyons, as Research & Development Manager. When Rolls Confectionery was sold to Callard & Bowser in 1961, he returned to Central Laboratories and in 1964 went to Lyons Essence & Process Department to become Senior Research Chemist. In 1966 was made General Manager of Florasynth. Harold Clark, was Factory Supervisor in charge of manufacture, he had started his career with Central Laboratories as a Junior Chemist in 1940. After four years in the RAF he became a Hygiene & Process Inspector for the company and in 1962 he moved to Essences as Factory Superintendent.

It is interesting to note that the Florasynth buildings in Greenford were once used to make custard powder and Lyonaize salad cream. The essence business continued in operation right up to the mid 1980s when it closed as part of the disposal process associated with the Allied Breweries takeover. When it was demolished 20 years later its rooms were still heavily impregnated with the distinct odours of fragrances. The image of the Florasynth Factory at Greenford was captured when filming the removal of the Lyons War Memorials (which stood in a Garden of Remembrance next to it) on 23 February 2001 as part of their relocation

© Peter Bird 2005