Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Albion Sugar Woolwich

ALBION SUGAR were on the Arsenal site and one of the many sugar works in east London.  I would be grateful for details of the buildings they occupied - since I know they were of particular interest but have forgotten why.
However - we have been sent this really rather beautiful brochure about the works - but, unfortunately, the facilities available on this blog site will not allow me to reproduce the typography as I would like.   (If anyone would like a PDF of the whole thing, let me know).   .
The sudden appearance of a fully equipped sugar factory, springing into adult existence one bright morning from apparently nothing, is as rare a phenomenon in the industrial sphere as is the emergence of a new comet in the world of astronomy. In both cases speculation naturally arises as to the origin of the new body, its composition, size and orbit -its very raison d'etre. The Directors of Albion Sugar Company Ltd feel that the many questions which are sure to be raised about this new concern merit a full and frank reply. To anticipate and answer such questions as a potential customer would be likely to ask is the purpose of this brochure.
Albion Wharf, Woolwich, London, Autumn 1929.

Albion Wharf and Factory from the Thames
The Story of an Idea - and its Realisation.
One of the most striking features of industrial progress in the last quarter of a century has been the waning of that austere spirit of individualism which not infrequently caused useless friction, and a corresponding waxing of friendly relations between businesses with identical interests. In many instances this friendship exists without any kind of amalgamation or even working agreement. A case in point is the amity that has for some years existed between the firms of White, Tomkins & Courage Ltd, R. & W. Paul Ltd, and Gillman & Spencer Ltd-three businesses engaged in the manufacture of brewing materials, yet each conducted entirely independently of the others.

These three firms have now, while retaining the same complete individuality as hitherto, come into closer association in a new enterprise- Albion Sugar Company Limited. It is as well at this juncture to state unequivocally that this amalgamation is confined to this single development.

Scope for Expansion
THE heads of these three firms had for a long held the opinion that, subject to certain requirements being fulfilled, great scope for the expansion of business lay in the manufacture of Invert Sugar. The idea simmered for some years, until it was clear that all the basic conditions could at last be satisfied, and Albion Sugar Company Limited, Woolwich is the outcome.

What were those conditions, and what were the reasons for them?

The view was held that it would be possible to manufacture Invert Sugar of the highest quality, and at a price which would compete favourably with current quotations, provided first, that the initial outlay could be kept within reasonable bounds, so that it would not be necessary to pay interest on
a large capital: and, second, that, within this limit, such premises could be found as would render practicable the economical handling of goods from raw material to finished product. I t was realised that by adopting the most modern designs and devices in plant a considerable saving in working expenses could be effected, and that a second item on which capital expenditure might be saved was that of premises. Would it be possible to find, ready to hand, and at an economical price, a suitable site with premises capable of housing a complete Invert Sugar plant, lending itself to expansion if necessary, and having both rail and water facilities ? Would it be like crying for the moon to hope for such a Utopia?
The Search Succeeds

For some years, indeed, the search seemed hopeless: no section of the navigable Thames was left uninspected, yet nothing that satisfied all these requirements was discovered. At last, however, when hope had been - almost given up, the dream was realised. The Albion Wharf, Woolwich, property of the State, came into the market, and an inspection quickly revealed that it was, in every respect, an ideal site for the new venture. Negotiations took place with the Admiralty, and the freehold purchase of the land and premises was effected at a figure which was to the entire satisfaction of the buyers. Thus the initial obstacle, which had at one time seemed almost Insuperable, was overcome, and Albion Sugar Company Limited was duly formed and registered
Ideal Premises

PREMISES having been acquired, plans which had hitherto existed merely as ideas began to take shape, and it was realised that nothing could have been more remarkable or more fortunate than the ready adaptability of the Albion Wharf property to the new Company's ideas and requirements. The main factory building comprises three storeys, its ground dimensions being 200 feet by 60 feet, with two wings of the same height and ground dimensions of 160 feet by 50 feet each. Like all State property of a permanent character, this factory is a thoroughly substantial structure, and in all such important matters as lighting, ventilation, stairways and doors it lacks nothing that the most exacting modern requirements could demand. This building lent itself to the perfect disposition of the complete plant, just as though it had been specially designed for the purpose. At the same time, sufficient space has been left for future expansion, and the whole of the plant could be duplicated and even triplicated, if necessary, without occasioning any disturbance of the present arrangement.

A Model Wharf.
The second remarkably valuable asset possessed by these premises is its river frontage. A granite wall 400 feet long, such as no private concern trading for profit could afford to construct to-day, protects the buildings and land against the highest spring tide and also affords a 18 feet berth, so that cargoes can be landed direct to the warehouse by means of a powerful electric crane: coal supplies are also discharged by a 35cwt grab and carried straight to the boilers by automatic conveyor. (It may here be stated that the adoption of the latest labour-saving devices has been a guiding principle throughout the whole equipment of the factory, at a saving of many thousands of pounds per annum

A Natural Water Supply
To proceed with some of the numerous advantages afforded by this unique site-advantages which have been either utilised as they stood or adapted to special purposes. In the process of Invert Sugar manufacture a vast quantity of water is required for condensing and cooling purposes, and it was found possible to utilise an existing inlet from the Thames as a means of supplying water in unlimited quantities. This is an immense advantage which could readily be measured in terms of cash

A private railway siding

So much for the substantial benefits gained from so desirable a riverfront, let us now consider what the back of the premises has to offer. First, a group of buildings which, without any appreciable alteration, have been adapted to hold a large battery of boilers, an extensive garage, a coopers' shop and store-rooms: a second substantial building, connected with the factory by a bridge. In which the spacious offices and laboratory are housed. Second, a private railway-siding connecting up directly with the main lines. Trucks can thus be loaded and despatched to their destination with a minimum of handling, and equal facilities are, of course, available for the speedy and economical return of empties. "Direct from producer to consumer" that hackneyed and misused slogan, becomes, in the case of Albion products, a phrase fraught with significance .

A Fleet of Lorries.
ROAD TRANSPORT is another item Company is particularly favoured. A splendid road skirts the whole of the premises and leads into the Albion Road, via which the Albion lorries speed into all parts

Low Costs Achieved

The list of advantages offered by these ideal premises could be lengthened much more, but enough has now been stated to show that, in their total, these remarkable facilities have made possible the avoidance of a heavy incubus of charges-charges which, no matter under what heading they are debited, inevitably have to be taken into account when costs are calculated. As has been stated, it was on the possibility of being able to initiate and carry on the business with a minimum of capital and working expenses, that the original conception was based, and it is gratifying to be able to record that those early ambitions have now been fully realised.

Staff and Plant.

THE Albion Wharf premises having been secured, there remained to be settled two other matters of very great importance. First there was the finding of a first-class works- manager and the appointment of a trained staff: second, the purchase and installation of the plant

THE Works management
FURTHER good fortune was experienced in securing the services as Works Manager, of Mr. Thomas S. Dick, than whom there is probably no better-known figure in the Invert Sugar industry. Mr. Dick's thirty years' practical experience, in Greenock and London, of every branch of sugar refining and of Invert Sugar manufacture had qualified him as being pre-eminently the man for this important key- position, and it was very gratifying to the Company that he consented to take charge of the new works, for it was realised that, although all the Directors were experienced in various branches of the manufacture of brewing materials, and controlled, in their several staffs, highly qualified chemists, it was nevertheless essential to have on the spot a responsible works-manager who could devote all his time and energy to Albion Sugar Company.

Entirely New Plant.
The purchase and installation of the plant was undertaken with the Works Manager's invaluable co-operation, As has already been stated, it was not the Company's policy to economise on initial
outlay, but rather to ensure that the plant should be a hundred per cent efficient and as much per cent automatic as human ingenuity could devise: this definitely stated principle guided the purchase of every item of plant, and evidence of its application is to be seen on every hand. The whole of the plant is new and of the most modern type: in its various functions are to be seen many devices making for a saving of power and labour and thereby contributing their quota to economical manufacture. So successfully has this initial sine-qua-non  of low-cost production been met that the long-visualised possibility of manufacturing highest quality Invert Sugar at the lowest possible cost has now become an accomplished fact. Thus far, with all their preliminary requirements satisfied and economical manufacture guaranteed, the Albion Directors realise that their hopes and aims have been abundantly justified.

Invert Sugar Processes
We reproduce in these pages a number of photographs which will doubtless give the reader a good idea of the magnitude of the Albion Wharf premises and plant. Beyond a brief title to each photograph we will not attempt any description, as to do so would mean embarking on a necessarily long dissertation on the processes of sugar- refining and inversion. Suffice it to say that raw sugar is unloaded at the Albion quay and that Invert Sugars to meet the various requirements of the brewing trade leave the Albion factory by rail, lorry and barge: the flow of processes between the first and final stages is followed in the order of the illustrations. The works are supplemented by modern and fully equipped laboratories, and every batch of Invert Sugar manufactured has to pass the most stringent laboratory tests before being released for despatch.

An Invitation
There are no secrets in Albion Wharf, and an open invitation is hereby cordially extended to all brewers and to members of their executive staffs to pay a visit to the factory. A conducted tour of the works, tracing the flow of processes from start to finish, is a highly interesting experience, and it is hoped that a great many brewers, whether customers or not, will make an early opportunity to pay a visit.



michael.L said...

Having spent many days and nights working at albion suger woolwich,I felt it would be good to add the following.If you where to look at the factory from the river, the building on the right was used as a ship tac supply company to large sailing ships. Also there are tunnels leading from there to woolwich road.this was to hide prisoners as they were being shipped to well were ever. Also they may have made the finest clucose but it was dicoverd when the plant closed that the cooling pipes leaked river water into the product and it was this that gave the product its mineral quality. This the new plant further down the river could not produce Mars was not happy.

Unknown said...

Hi, my name is john aitken I worked has a drivers mate on number 42 tanker my driver was Fred stower and I started in 1963 and worked for the best tanker/fleet in Europe at the time hours was spent getting the vehicles fit for the road and they was spotless with great gleaming tank covers and a lovely forden s21 lorry. I only left to go into the army so I could drive heavy goods vehicles at 17 years of age when in civil street you had to be 21.I would love to known what happen after bi left.

Anonymous said...

My father, Alan Dingwall, worked for the Albion Sugar Company from 1951 until 1978. He was in laboratory, doing QA for much of that time and later went out on the road as a technical representative in the 1970s after the company was taken over by the "Dutch Heinz", Scholten Hoenig. In the early days there was a family feel to the firm as the old directors such as Messrs Alex Buchanan and Odling were men who knew all the men by name. Later under Dr Swain. the firm had an agreement to supply Mars of Slough with a 20 ton tanker of glucose every 3 hours day and night. Mars accounted for about 55% of the 2000 tons of liquid Glucose extracted from American Maize each week. The company ran a fleet of beautiful lime green tankers which looked like upside down "U"s on the move and all the servicing was done in house. The lorries had Rolls Royce engines which were able to do up to 750,000 miles without wearing out, something almost unprecedented in the days before multigrade engine oil. Scholten Hoenig bought a Japanese patent which would allow them to convert maize to isomorose, a sweetner used in the USA which was 10% sweeter than sugar and which didn't decay teeth. They built a large factory at Tibury but the whole project was cancelled after the sugar beet lobby realised it would put them out of business and the EU slapped a 20% tax on the maize. Scholten Hoenig went bankrupt and was acquired by the largest private company in the world, Cargill Inc., for almost nothing. The Americans decided to put Dad in an office without windows in the new Tilbury factory and so he opted for redundancy. Later, he heard from an ex-colleague that production was raised to 8000 tons a week by the Americans but the old Albion Wharf site next to Woolwich Dockyard station was abandoned in the early 1980s.

Unknown said...

My father in law William ( Bill) Harvey was Transport Manager for Albion Sugar Comany in the late 60s and early 70s, l also worked as a lorry driver for the same company in the early 70s, Bill Harvey was made redundant in around 1977, l remember some of the drivers in particular John Hillier whome used to go to the Belgium Beer Fedtival each year always remember him saying " give it some stick Walt, fond memories. Wally Peach

Mark Muller said...

My father was Works Manager in the early 1960s when they had a major fire at the refinery.

Unknown said...

My name is Ted Street an Australian who worked at Albion as a freelance accountant in 1977 just before and during Albion's demise from woolwich.

Peter Lawrence said...

very much enjoyed reading this post. My father [92] worked as a lab boy here straight from school. He would be really interested to see copies of the photos. Could you please send a copy of the PDF file you mentioned, so I could print some out to show him, thanks in anticipation. My email is porcilawrence@btinternet.com

Peter Lawrence said...

hello, no idea if this works as I've tried several times to add a comment but it doesn't seem to show up. My father [92]worked here as a lab boy straight from school, for a couple of years before he was conscripted, He'd be really interested to see the photos. Could you send a copy of the PDF file to porcilawrence@btinternet.com so I could print some out for him. thanks

Unknown said...

Great stories ..I remember the big rings in the floors, they told me those rings were used to lock the prisoners at their chains at their feet...Soo pls tell me if this was..is true?! By the end of the factory life we from H&S Holland had to move the sirops, steepwater to Cargill Tilbury great time..very nice people in Woolwich thanks for the tea and biscuits!! John

Walter Peach (Wally) said...

My father-in law Bill Harvey was Transport Manager at Albion Sugar, l passed my HGV in September 1970 on the Friday and he telephoned me on the Saturday evening and said he was desparate for a driver to take an 8 wheeler to Mars Slough!! I had never driven anything bigger than a little Bedford TK brick lorry, as you can imagin never driven a 4 up and 4 down crash gearbox, although l passed my HGV 1 with a crash box l meet a driver in Woolwich that evening and he wasn't very helpful and just said there it is off you go, well l managed to get it moving just!!! When l tried pulling out of Albion Wharf in a 1956 Wooden cab Foden l got it stuck between gears and got stuck across Woolwich High Road, however by the time l reached Mars at Slough l had mastered that box!! In somebodies comment lt was refered to "give it some stick Walt" this came from John Hillier when l used to take the drivers to the Belgium Beer Festival by coach!! My part-time job in those days, l did end up driving for Albion Sugar Company full-time but left just after Bill was made redundant, l ofteren wonder what happened to all those great driver, Harry Latham, Wooton Brothers and of course John Hillier, happy memories of 1974 to 1977.