Birmingham Industry

HP Sauce – Aston

HP Sauce factory, Aston

HP Sauce factory, Aston

Another example of a British institution being sold to a company from abroad and later to be closed is the stalwart of the British breakfast table, HP Sauce of Aston.

The recipe for HP brown sauce was bought from its creator, Nottingham grocer Frederick Gibson Garton, by Edward Samson Moore, owner of the Midland Vinegar Company in 1903. The plant originally brewed its own vinegar for production of the sauce and when the A38 Aston Expressway bisected the site, a pipe was mounted over the Expressway to pump vinegar from one side of the works (The Top Yard – which has long-since closed) to the other!

Danone bought HP Foods for £199 million from industrial conglomerate Hanson in 1988 but, for various reasons connected with other areas of the Danone empire, announced in March 2005 that it was seeking a buyer. In stepped Heinz with a £470 succesful bid who then announced, a year later, their plan to shift production to Elste in the Netherlands! For once, a flourishing business with annual after-tax profits of around £31 million faced closure with the loss of around 120 of its existing workforce (which had already been gradually eroded over the previous few years).

Sadly, the production shifted from the site with closure coming in March 2007, closely followed by complete demolition of the factory itself:  yet another industrial staple of Birmingham – and landmark, particularly the tower as seen in the photograph above – gone from the City for good.


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