Friday 1 November 2019



The Molassine Factory stood on the Greenwich Peninsula until the early 1980s. John Needs has sent us some information about the works.

First he refers to ‘A History of the United Molasses Co Ltd.’ by W.A.Meneight (1977 Seel House Press Ltd).   This describes how Molassine was created in 1900 to exploit a secret formula for animal fed. The formula had been brought to Britain by Arthur Stein ‘a mid European probably hailing from one of the Balkan States’. At first the feed was made up by Henry Tate but in 1908 they began work in Greenwich.  The molasses was bought locally from Silvertown and Plaistow refineries and the company built the first steel tanks for molasses bought from Danks, Steam Boiler Manufacturers, between 1910-1914.  Their main product was a molasses based feed for horses - this consisted of sphagnum moss mixed with both beet and cane molasses and a ‘soupcon of maganesium calcum carbonate’. In the First World War this feed was considered antiseptic and soldiers used it as a plaster for wounds.

In the 1930s 3,000 tons of molasses escaped and ‘made its ponderous but inexorable way into the neighbouring Tunnel Avenue’  to run down through the gully between the tram lines - thus effectively gumming up the trams.  After this incident Molassine replaced all its cast iron valves with cast steel.  
Customers were supplied by road tankers and from 1959 had its own fleet.   At the same time they agreed with Shell to store hydrocarbon fuel oils for south eastern distribution and nine more tanks were built on site to a total water capacity of 21,000 tons.  This resulted in the formation in 1968 of Blackwall Gases Ltd. to store Shell propane and butane liquid gases.   Molassine also acquired Primrose Wharf, a dry storage and transport company - mostly coffee plus a bonded warehouse for safety matches.

John then adds some of his own notes and memories:

Original registration as a company was on 5th February 1907 as The Molassine Company (1907) Ltd.  The name was changed  on 5th June 1908 to The Molassine Company Ltd. and it was changed again on 25th May 1978 to Tate and Lyle Feeds Ltd.

Albert Stein was the inventor of the animal feed known as Molassine Meal - he was last heard of  in Praha, Prague, in 1939. Efforts to trace him after the war in Europe were not successful.

Although techniques and machinery changed over the years the cattle feed remained a simple mixture of molasses and sphagnum moss (peat), the skill was in the mixing of these two very different raw materials. In the last few years of manufacture at Greenwich, before closure in 1981, a number of variations were created to maintain a shrinking market. In particular a horse food called ‘Main Ring’.  Sales of Molassine Meal fell as farms grew larger and the use of molasses as a direct ingredient became more usual and manageable by the farmers,

There was a story of an export of Molassine Meal to Canada in the early company days which fermented when it became wet, heated up and caused considerable damage to the ship. Shipping companies then banned the product from extended voyages which restricted many export opportunities,
1980s photo of where the Molassine works had been

The dog food business of Molassine was based on a hard pink biscuit called VIMS,. It was made from ordinary flour with additions of aniseed and colouring. The advertising slogan was ‘Dogs Love Vims’ and some older pet food shops still display the black and yellow adverts - they were permanently affixed to shop windows in the form of a top and side pelmet. Only removal of the whole glass window could remove the advert. Black and white Norman Wisdom films of the 1960s contain Vims dogs food adverts - sometimes as part of a plot.

Other dog  food products were STIMO, a collection of broken biscuits in a variety of  colours, but predominately pink from the Vims production and also a larger white biscuit called  PET BISCUITS.  These later biscuits were to be produced for few years in the 1970s with limited success despite considerable advertising featuring Petula Clark, Another product in the 1930s to 1960s was a fertiliser for the gardener. - RITO -  based on the rougher pieces of sphagnum moss not suitable for animal feed, a few basic chemicals and yard sweepings.

The whole history of Molassine appears to be involved with Tate and Lyle.What goes around, comes around!

Between 1900 and about 1908 Henry Tate manufactured Molassine Meal on behalf of the Company. Molasses was purchased from both Henry Tate and Abraham Lyle both before and after 1921 - the year in which they joined forces to become Tate and Lyle Ltd. As molasses became a world commodity purchases were made from United Molasses Company and this company was eventually acquired by Tate and Lyle. In 1971 Molassine was acquired on behalf of United Molasses by its parent company, Tate and Lyle Ltd. In 1981 the animal feed business at Greenwich was closed and sold to a company called RUMENCO Ltd. at Burton on Trent. They continued to manufacture Molassine Meal and MainRing under those trade names at their Burton factory, having taken the machinery from Greenwich.

In about 1990 Rumenco Ltd. was  acquired on behalf of United Molasses by its pent company Tate and Lyle Ltd. Manufacturer of Molassine Meal and Main ring continued although that of Molassine Meal is of a very low annual tonnage. The site at Greenwich which had been partly converted to a chemical storage area of UNALO (a United Molassine company) initially continued there but is now part of the Hays Chemical Company and not part of Tate and Lyle Group.

Much of the original area is now occupied by Amylum for storage, both liquids and dry goods. Amylum is now part of Tate and  Lyle Group. Tate and Lyle (in its various guises) has therefore been associated with the manufacture of Molassine Meal for almost all this century - only between 1981 and 1990 did it not have a major influence on production. The site at Greenwich continued to have Tate and Lyle occupancy. Other occupants of the the Amylum Site included Monks Glass Custard Powder and Williams Steel Stockholders.

This article appeared in the GIHS Newsletter for October 1999.
They were on the site known as 'Morden Wharf'  

1 comment:

Markopolo52 said...

I bought 4 dogs love vims enamel signs over 30 years ago they came out of a pet shop that had been owned by the same family for over 60 years. After the last owner died they were found at the back of the shop in the store room. I have tried to find anyone or any other signs to help me find the value of the signs but can't find any only pictures of them. Can you please help in any way thank you