West Watford History Group

History of West Watford

Fowler's Jam Company

Fowler's Jam Company was founded in 1905 by H.W. Fowler and A.E.D. Fowler and had premises at 29/43 Sydney Road, Watford. They produced jam, marmalade and mincemeat. In 1938 the business was expanded and products were distributed over a wide area, including London and the Home Counties, Southern England and parts of the Midlands. Goods were not packed for export. The firm closed in about 1960.

An advert produced at the time (1930's) stated:

"FOWLER BROS. (PRESERVES) LTD."

29/43 SYDNEY ROAD, WATFORD

TELEPHONE 4257  (3 lines)

Jam, Marmalade and Mincemeat

In 2001, Mr Stewart Mold contacted the Hertfordshire Genealogy website with a query regarding his family research. He was particularly interested in what had become of his Great Aunt Clara Mold who had married Henry William Fowler in the summer of 1896. He had discovered in the 1902 Kelly's Directory for Herts that a Henry William Fowler, Grocer, had an address at 152 St Albans Road, Watford. Then in 1929 there was a H.W. Fowler living at 77 Rickmansworth Road, along with several other Fowlers. 

In 2002 there was a further response to this from Mr Stuart Fowler who brought the matter up to date. He stated that his grandfather Hugh Russell Fowler had passed away in December 1999 and his grandmother, Edna Ethel Fowler passed away in June 2002. Together with Hugh's brother John Fowler, they had owned the factory site at Sydney Road. Though then currently occupied by five different firms as a kind of mini industrial estate, it was then owned by his father Malcolm George Fowler, his uncle Richard Fowler and Jon Fowler. 

In March 2004, an article appeared in the Watford Observer called "Spooning Out The Wasps".  It gives a wonderful insight into life in the jam factory.

IN response to a reader's recollection of her mother telling her that you could not see the jam for wasps at Fowler's Jam Factory, John Ausden of Watford, wrote in. 

During the summer of 1945, when term ended in the middle of July at Watford Boys Grammar School, a group of 15-year-olds were asked to work up to three weeks of their summer holiday at Fowler's Jam factory, in Sydney Road, Watford. We would be paid, of course, at approximately one shilling (5p) per hour, not bad in those days. Owing to the shortage of war manpower, we were employed to pick the stalks out of the plums arriving at the factory to be made into jam. The prospect of handling all of these wonderful Victoria plums with their attractive blue hue, and on top of that we were told that we could eat as many as we liked, was too much to resist.

The management must have known something, because during the first hour we had all stuffed our faces with so many plums that we were put off them for the remainder of our employment. The plums had been placed on a very large table and we all either stood or sat around it. The plums, minus the stalks, were put into baskets and went off to be pulped and put into barrels stored outside in the yard.

After the first week, I was delighted to be promoted onto the pot, the jam pot that is. Jam was made in gleaming copper vats that were electrically heated.

As I approached the area I was greeted by Jimmy. J Sewell, who was the man in charge of the jam-making.

"What jam are we making today" I asked? "Strawberry", came the answer.

I thought this strange as the strawberry season had ended.

However, Jimmy said the strawberries were already in the vat, I looked in and saw a disgusting looking white coloured mess. This was my first encounter with pulped fruit but Jimmy convinced me that all would be well and helped me lift these two buckets of sugar into the pulp - it looked even worse then.

I remarked that all the strawberry jam that I had ever eaten was red in colour - he said that soon all would be revealed. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes the chemist arrived in a white coat and went over to a small glass-fronted cabinet on the wall. He removed a small bottle of red powder and accurately measured out a very small amount, which he poured into the bubbling white jam - hey presto, the jam was red and, not only that, it tasted good.

During a quiet period, I was asked to work in the jam-cooling room. On the day in question they had made marmalade and needed to cool it off so as to put it into jars. The hot marmalade came down a raised funnel and on to a water-cooled slide and into a trough at the bottom. The room was sealed because the smell of the marmalade attracted wasps from miles around. The outside door was made of wood with a perforated zinc covering. The wasps all headed for the perforations but were unable to get through. The whole door was black with wasps from top to bottom. They must have been 20 deep all over.

Despite all efforts, some wasps did get through and dived onto the marmalade. They were not fussy whether it was hot or cold - but all were doomed. It was my job to spoon them out so the marmalade was wasp-free and ready for the jars.

For all the boys it was a memorable and profitable holiday experience.

 

References: The Watford Observer 2004http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/470158.spooning_out_the_wasps/

Hertfordshire Genealogy Website - related queries and and answers from 2001 and 2002 - see link on our drop-down menu

 If anyone has any more information about Fowler's Jam Company in Watford or would like to share any memories of the factory, please contact us.