Deakin’s Jam Manufacturing and Fruit Farming

Deakin’s at the Eclipse Preserve Works, Wigan

Following the dissolution of the partnership with John H. Hodson in 1891, William R. Deakin set up his own jam manufacturing business, W.R. Deakin, with jam and marmalade production taking place in the jam works on the opposite side of Chapel Lane in Wigan, at the Eclipse Preserve Works in Bradford Place. William became a successful, well respected Wigan businessman, a Wigan Borough magistrate (JP) and Town Councillor.

As well as a home in Wigan, William’s family also had a residence in North Meols, Southport, Lancashire, where in September 1893 William hosted his firm’s annual picnic in a field adjacent to the house.

On 23 November 1895, the Wigan Observer and District Advertiser 23 November 1895 printed the following extract from “Industrial Great Britain”:

Among the most prominent and noteworthy industrial establishments of Wigan stand the Eclipse Preserve Works, in which Mr W.R. Deakin carries on his extensive manufacture of jams and marmalade. This very successful concern was founded about seven years ago by Messrs. Deakin and Hodson, and for the last four years has been under Mr Deakin’s sole proprietorship. The works were originally a cotton mill, and are subsequently of large dimensions. Four years ago Mr Deakin acquired these premises and completely equipped them for the purpose of his industry. With the re-arrangements thus effected, and the fine modern plant introduced, they have been converted into one of the best organised and most commodious preserve works we have had the pleasure of visiting. The machinery is worked by steam power, the various apparatus being all of the most improved character; and every process is conducted upon modern principles, and under conditions favourable to the best results in the goods produced. These are the largest works of the kind in Wigan, employing from eighty to one hundred hands in the busy season, and they reflect the great credit upon Mr Deakin’s enterprise and powers of organisation. Jams in great variety, marmalade, pickles and sauces are produced here in large quantities, and in every instance only the best and purest ingredients are used. The jams for which this house has rapidly gained a wide reputation, are of the highest quality, and prepared entirely from the finest English whole fruit, with pure cane sugar, under conditions which ensure absolute cleanliness, and freedom from unwholesome contamination. The list of jams and jellies is a long one, embracing all the favourites, and in the matter of marmalade, Mr Deakin’s product is surpassed by none for purity and excellence of flavour.  All fruits used are received direct from the growers, and great care and judgement are exercised in their selection. The pickles and sauces are manufactured at the Eclipse Works are also of a high order of merit, and rank with the best condiments of the day. All Mr Deakin’s specialities are in a large demand, and are sent to nearly all parts of the United Kingdom, their uniform excellence of quality having obtained them a place in most grocery establishments where high class goods at moderate prices are a feature. The business is ably managed by the principal in person and speaks, by its growth and success for his energy and experience. Telegraphic address: Deakin, Wigan. Tel. No. 76.

Deakin’s grew rapidly, employing around 70 workers by the end of 1896. On 6 February 1897 the following article from “The Railway Supplies Journal” Deakin’s and the Eclipse Preserve Works was published in The Crewe Guardian:

Jams and jellies, sauces and pickles are reckoned among the luxuries of life, but modern enterprise has so much to cheapen and make them accessible to all classes that they have almost come to be counted necessities. Few are so poor that they cannot afford to indulge themselves occasionally, or even regularly with these pleasant, accessories and condiments which do so much to make the daily food appetising. And it would be difficult to exaggerate the obligation under which the community have been placed by those who have brought within the reach of all delicacies which would formerly be enjoyed only by the comparatively well-to-do. Upon another point, moreover we may congratulate ourselves. Commodities of the class to which we refer are decidedly much better in quality than they were some years ago. Strange things we used to hear concerning the adulteration of jams, jellies, and pickles; and although many of those sales were doubtless exaggerated, and many of them the reverse was true, there was a serious amount of fact underlying them. Even yet it cannot be said that all manufacturers are immaculate and that all those productions would stand the test of analysis; but thanks to competition, to the vigilance of the authorities, to the improvement of methods and apparatus, and perhaps to some other method, there is much less cause for complaint than formerly, and if only care be taken to purchase goods which bear the names of firms of repute, we may enjoy these sweet and piquant relishes without any fear of harmful results.

This, however, is not to say that all are equally good. Some stand far above the rest in all that goes to make excellence in this class of goods, and it is well the public should know what productions are most to be relied on for those qualities. With a view to aid in circulating this knowledge, we have much pleasure in calling attention to the excellent reputation which has been acquired by the manufactures of W.R. Deakin, of the Preserve Works, Wigan, Lancashire. For some year pass Mr. Deakin’s productions have been favourably known, and the rapidity with which they have advanced in popularity esteem is proof that they are of more than ordinary merit.

The Eclipse Works are of great interest. The buildings cover an area of more than 5,000 square yards and looking at the number of sheds, it will be evident that the business there carried on must be of somewhat unusual dimensions. We understand that the works were originally a cotton mill. They were acquired some six years ago by Mr. Deakin and by him were thoroughly equipped for the purposes to which they are now devoted. So complete has that equipment been, and so admirable is the arrangement of the concern, that the works are now considered to be almost without rival in the country. The business was, we believe, founded by Messrs. Deakin and Hodson nine years ago , but for the past six years Mr. Deakin has been the sole proprietor. Needless to say, the machinery which is of the most modern and approved description, is driven by steam power, and everything in connection both with apparatus and methods is in accordance with the latest principles and the most advanced knowledge. Jams of every description, marmalades, fruit wine ( non-alcoholic), lemon peel. mincemeat, bottled fruits, pickles, sauces, etc., are produced in great quantities, and are in demand in nearly all parts of the United Kingdom. Only the finest English whole fruit is used in the manufacture of the jams, and the greatest care is taken in the selection. Pure cane sugar also is exclusively empaled, the most absolute cleanliness is observed, and every precaution is adopted to prevent the inedible contamination of the jam during the processor manufacture.

The same care is exercised in the production of all Mr. Deakin’s other specialities, and after what we have been able to learn we are not surprised that these goods have obtained such a high renown. We believe they may challenge comparisons with the most notable brands in the Kingdom. Mr. Granville Sharpe FCS, the analytical consulting chemist reports in the highest terms as to the purity and excellence of all these various articles and from many quarters testimonials are constantly received bearing witness as to the reputation which they enjoy in the trade throughout the country. From one to two hundred hands are employed …. and the entire business is under Mr. Deakin’s personal management. At the present Manchester Exhibition the firm had a very attractive stand, at which their various specialities were fully represented, and which not only drew the attention but attracted the admiration of crowds of visitors.

Letter from Granville H. Sharpe, Analytical Chemist, London (late Principal of the Liverpool College of Chemistry):

In accordance with the instructions received from Mr. W.R. Deakin, I have submitted to very careful and chemical examination a sample of his Mixed Pickles, and find that they have been prepared from materials of the finest quality only, the vegetables, spices, and vinegar being of the best standard. They are particularly crisp and fresh to the taste, perfectly natural in appearance, and there is an entire absence of artificial colouring matter in any form whatsoever. These Pickles are of considerable excellence, and may be thoroughly relied upon.

William rewarded his factory staff well, paying good wages and even reducing the working hours between October and June without reducing pay levels. He was know for fostering good working relationships, encouraging his staff to show great pride and interest in their work. Staff picnics to reward the employees for their hard work were an annual event. At the annual staff picnic in September 18971, William spoke of the rapid increase in the number of Deakin’s employees but announced that “it was not his desire to make money so much but to leave people better than when he found them”. In reducing the working day William hoped it would leave his staff “more time for recreation and intellectual cultivation.” The annual picnics were quoted as being jolly affairs with cricket matches (married men v the single men), dancing and singing and were reported as being much enjoyed by employer and employee alike.

By 1898, Deakin’s claimed that they were producing 20 tons of fruit preserves in a working day of 10 hours, the equivalent of over 20,000 2lb jars of preserves a day and that there was more Deakin’s jam sold in Wigan than of any other single maker.

Purchase of the Hampton Park Estate, Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire

Throughout the 1890s Deakin’s flourished and William diversified into fruit farming. William’s first venture into growing fruit was at Hampton Park Estate, just outside the market town of Evesham, in the Vale of Evesham in what was once known as ‘The Garden of England’. The 240 acre estate at Hampton (the red brick farmhouse was built c1600), bordered by the River Avon, was transformed by William from pasture to acres of fruit. At the time there were some comments by others in the fruit growing business in the Vale that this was not the best place to grow fruit but by 1908, 40 acres of raspberries, 50 acres of strawberries, 35 acres of black and red currants, 20 acres of gooseberries and 40 acres of plums were grown across the estate. Pickers of the fruit were paid in tokens and the fruit sent by train from the nearby station in Evesham to the Eclipse Jam Factory at Wigan.

Hampton Park Allotments

Alongside the fruit orchards at Hampton Park, Deakin’s rented out allotments. Left: letter dated 4 March 1912 from W.R. Deakin to Messrs. Burch, Cox & Sons, solicitors, Evesham, agreeing to the transfer of the allotment held by C.T. Grove to H.H. Bolton at Hampton Park, at a cost of £40 0s 0d per annum.

Suppliers of Jam During the Boer War

During the Boer War (1899-1902), Deakin’s supplied marmalade and jams to the British Government for the troops fighting in South Africa and William received many letters of appreciation from the front.

Purchase of The Hall, Pershore, Worcestershire

Deakin’s continued to expand in the early 1900s and William purchased The Hall at Pershore where he also transformed the gardens and surrounding fields into 180 acres of fruit. The Mount Pleasant orchards surrounding The Hall were home to apples, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries (at the time a new fruitcross between the blackberry and raspberry which William experimented with), red and black currants and a few cherry trees. The family continued to maintain their residence in North Meols, as well as in Wigan.

1903: W.R. Deakin Ltd

On 8 June 1903, WR Deakin became a limited company (no. 77679), W.R. Deakin Limited4 whose registered office was Eclipse Preserve and Marmalade Works, Wigan. The company took over the business run by William Deakin and continued to manufacture jam, preserves, marmalade, jellies, sauces and pickles at The Eclipse Jam and Marmalade Works, Wigan. 60,000 £1 shares (25,000 5% preference and 35,000 ordinary shares) were issued and the first subscribers (each with one preference share) were: William Robert Deakin (Governing Director of Gidlow Lodge, Wigan), Mary Jane Deakin (of Gidlow Lodge, Wigan), George Edward Deakin (Director and Traveller of Ivy Cottage, Gidlow, Wigan), Charles Albert Goldthorp (Cashier and Company Secretary of Springfield Drive, Wigan later Byle Cottage, Barnsley Street, Wigan), William Foster (Manager of Gidlow Lane, Wigan), Joseph Wyatt (Traveller of 43 Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire) and John Taylor (Traveller of 227 Gidlow Lane, Wigan).

1904 – February: Ordinary General Meeting of W.R. Deakin Limited

The ordinary general meeting of W.R. Deakin was held at the registered offices, Eclipse Preserve Works, Wigan on Saturday 20 February 1904 to receive and consider the company’s audited balance sheet and profit and loss account for the year ending 31 December 1903. William R. Deakin, the governing director, reported that the sale and profits for the past year showed considerable improvement over previous years and that this was extremely satfisfactory considering the great scarcity and high prices of fruit during the past year. £2,680 had been spent on advertising and after allowing for depreciation and income tax, the profits were sufficient to enable the directors to declare a 5% dividend on preference shares and 10% on ordinary shares and to transfer £500 to reserves, leaving a balance of £666 18s 1 1/2d to be carried forward.

In 1904 the number of individual shareholders of the company had increased to 805 and included: John Fairhurst (Bookkeeper of 17 Lower Ground, Wigan) and several ‘Travellers’ (commercial travellers or salesmen) and grocers around the country.

A new flavour of jam “Lemfig” was introduced in 1904 and a competition was held to design a label for the new preserve. The winner was awarded £50.

The Move to the Toddington Jam Factory at Naunton Field near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Deakin’s jam business continued to expand as the company bottled fruit and supervised the making of the ‘Little Participator’ jellies. In the summer of 1907, Deakin’s diversified into canning fruit and vegetables at Naunton Field, Toddington, Gloucestershire, following the acquisition, in 1904, of the Toddington Jam Factory from Messrs Beach and Sons Ltd (when Beach’s moved their business back to Evesham). The canning factory at Naunton Fields was initially managed by George Edward Deakin. The Evesham Journal reported on 20th April 1907: 

As is well known the firm has a jam factory at Wigan ……….. and owns fruit farms at Hampton Park, near Evesham, and Mount Pleasant, Pershore. They will commence canning operations during the coming season. The development of such an industry in the Vale is bound to be of benefit of growers, and we wish the firm every success in their new enterprise.

Fruit for the Toddington jam and canning factories were grown in orchards on Lord Sudeley’s Toddington Estate (now under the ownership of the industrialist Hugh Andrews), at one time the largest fruit farm in England covering some 1000 acres by 1911. The nearby Great Western Railway (GWR), which had purchased the railway line through Toddington in 1906, was used to transport the fruit and canned produce. Deakin’s also used the station at Beckford on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway connecting with Evesham. Deakin’s had entered into a private siding agreement with the GWR to operate a siding at Evesham Station which opened on 17 July 1907. (this arrangement terminated on 17 May 1935).

The factory workers worked long hours often from 6.30am and to as late as 10pm during the busy summer months. Girls employed at the factory lodged nearby at a hostel owned by Deakin’s.

1905: Proposals for a Jam Factory at Gatley

In early 1905 land was purchased at Gatley near Cheadle by Deakin’s. The site was considered ideal as it was served by railways on 3 sides and within 7 miles of Manchester where Deakin’s business was expanding rapidly. In February 1907 tenders were invited for excavating, well-sinking and railway sidings. The new factory had been designed by Bolton architects, Bradshaw & Gass. However, the planned jam factory was never built. At the time of purchase, the cost of sugar was rising so it was decided to delay the building of the jam factory and fruit was planted that autumn instead. Other properties and land were also purchased by Deakins in Stockport Etchells. Eric Chandley recalls in The Chandley Chronicles:

On the other side of the railway was a large field full of apple trees and raspberry canes. We used to go and pick raspberries and get 1/2p a pound. This was under the arches of the LMS railway from Manchester to Wilmslow. A jam factory should have been built by Deakins but they couldn’t get permission because of Barnes’ Hospital. Everything was ready, even the bricks, but it didn’t get any further.

1914-1919 The War Years

On 10th March 1914, Joseph Wyatt (of Styal Road, Gatley, Cheadle) and John Bertram Deakin (Works Manager, of The Bungalow, Dalton, Parbold, Wigan) were appointed directors of W.R. Deakin Ltd and George Edward Deakin resigned. William Deakin’s younger sons, William George Deakin, George Deakin, Robert Hartley Deakin and James Stanley Deakin all enlisted and served during the First World War. Willam’s eldest son, Samuel Deakin emigrated to Iowa in September 1914.

During the First World War, Deakin’s supplied canned meat (corned beef or bully beef as it was known), vegetables, jams and marmalade to the army. They received a contract from the War Office for over 300 tons of jam for the British Army to be delivered by the end of 1914. The jam was delivered in 700,000 1lb tins packed in 14,000 special War Office export crate and was made at the canning factories at Wigan and Toddington at a rate of 40,000 tins per day. Many of the men who worked in the Deakin factories enlisted or were conscripted during the war and William Deakin often appeared at the Military Tribunals appealing against their conscription.

The Toddington canning factory (at Naunton Field) is mentioned in A History & Memories of Toddington compiled by the Toddington Women’s Institute which describes the canning factory (which employed over 200 women and men including butchers to cut up the meat) receiving supplies of meat and coal in drays from Toddington and Beckford Stations and producing the tins (up to 40,000 2lb tins in one day2). The beef was imported from Argentina. John Bertram Deakin (William’s son) later oversaw the operations in Buenos Aires (John Bertram Deakin and his family lived in Buenos Aires between 1929 and 1933). His brother William George Deakin, who served in France during the war, managed the Toddington factory on his return to England from 1919 until its closure in the early 1920s[3]. Henry Horne was the Toddington factory foreman. In 1919 a number of employees were brought the court in Winchcombe accused with stealing tins of jam (see 1919: A Spate of Jam Thefts).

Left: Letter from W.R. Deakin Ltd to Mr. S. Kendall, Furness Railway, Grange-over-Sands, dated 27 April 1915 regarding the delivery of fruit pots and hampers to Toddington Station. Photo © Ron Hunt [Wigan World]

1917: Purchase of the Stoulton Estate, Worcestershire

Of note in the expansion of the Deakin business is the purchase on 18 July 1917 by William of the Stoulton Estate, Worcestershire, from Lady Henry Somerset. Formerly part of the Eastnor Castle Estate, the land comprising 2,800 acres included orchards across the parishes of Stoulton, Pershore, Norton Juxta Kempsey and Kempsey, Norton Hall and various cottages. William’s existing fruit orchards in Pershore were a great success and Pershore was renowned for its good fruit crops with many of the town’s inhabitants being employed in market gardening and fruit farming. It is recorded in 1913, that the 1,959 acres making up Stoulton Parish were mainly arable producing crops of wheat, beans, barley, turnips and fruit, with 961 acres of permanent grassland and 16 acres of woodland and that the land around Kempsey and Norton Juxta Kempsey produced crops of wheat, barley and beans. It can probably be concluded that Deakin’s extended the fruit orchards and started vegetable canning alongside its fruit canning and preserving.

The business, however, was not without its setbacks. On Wednesday 19 September 1917, Deakin’s Jam Factory at the Eclipse Works, Bradford Place, Wigan, suffered serious fire damage costing several hundreds of pounds. The fire started around 10pm in one of the boiler flues, spreading to the boiler room and wash house. Fortunately the fire was contained within 40 minutes by fire crews from Borough Fire Station, preventing what could have been one of the most disastrous fires in Wigan.

In 1918 there were complaints about a shortage of jam in the country as certain jam manufacturers were required by the Government to allot their whole jam production for the navy and army. The jam manufacturers had first call on the fruit crops leading to a shortage of fruit and jam in the shops.

After the war, William George Deakin (of Canning Factory, Toddington near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire) and George Deakin (of Stone House, Whittington, Worcester) were appointed directors.

1923: Sale of the Toddington Jam and Canning Factory

Deakin’s gave up the Toddington jam and canning factory in earl 1923 and on 16 March 1923 the contents of the factory were sold by auction by Bentley, Hobbs and Mytton. The sale included fruit, beef, vegetable canning and jam making appliances, the refrigeration plant and various machinery and buildings.

Source: Western Mail, 3 March 1923

Following the sale of the factory, William G. Deakin resigned as a director of W.R. Deakin Ltd on 30 November 1923.

A New Jam Factory at Norton Juxta Kempsey, Worcestershire

Deakin’s also built a canning factory at Norton Juxta Kempsey in Woodbury Lane, opposite the Deakin family home, Norton Hall. The bricks used to build the factory came from the nearby brickworks which had also been purchased by William Deakin. The cans for the jam factory were produced by a firm in nearby Worcester which later became part of the Metal Box Company Ltd. The jam factory, which was sold for the sum of £2000 in 1936 as part of the winding up of W.R. Deakin Ltd (see below), was later requisitioned by the Army during the 1940s as an extension to Norton Barracks and later became the site for Morganite Crucible.

Deakin's Norton Canning Factory
Mary Jane Deakin (née Hartley) during the building of Deakin’s Norton Canning Factory

The Early 1930s

During the 1930s depression, fruit and vegetable businesses across the Vale were struggling to compete with the cheaper imports from overseas and an increasing demand for more exotic fruits. Supply often outstripped demand and following a fall in sales, accumulated losses and a reported canning disaster at the Norton factory, W.R. Deakin Ltd initially filed for members’ voluntary winding up in May 1935. Charles Albert Goldthorp (retired cashier and company secretary of 116 Bevendean Crescent, Brighton) was elected to the board on 12 October 1935 and a further filing for winding up of the company was filed the following year after an Extraordinary General Meeting of the company on 24th June 1936.

It was announced on 18 September 1936 that the Eclipse Works, Bradford Place, Wigan, used by W.R. Deakin Ltd in jam production and fruit bottling for 50 years had been sold by auction for £3,000. Plant, machinery and land (part freehold and part leasehold) were included in the sale.

G. & J.S. Deakin – 1936 to 1955

The Eclipse Works, Wigan, 1938 © Historic England

The Deakin jam business continued to trade from the Eclipse Works (photo from 1938 above) under George Deakin and James Stanley Deakin in the name of G. & J.S. Deakin Limited. George Deakin died in a car accident in 1943 and John Hartley Deakin (son of James Stanley Deakin) was made a director of the company. At an Extraordinary General Meeting on 28 March 1955 it was agreed that the business should be liquidated and the company wound up voluntarily.


  1. In September 1897, the annual staff picnic was held in Ruffkin near Ormskirk, with tea provided by Mr Ashcroft of the Hesketh Arms. Mr Albert Webster, Mr Richard Lewis and Mr Peter Ashcroft all Deakin’s employees attended.
  2. Source: A History & Memories of Toddington A Gloucestershire Village compiled by the Toddington Women’s Institute.
  3. Source: Kelly’s Directory 1914 – Deakin W.R. Ltd., Winchcombe, fruit preservers.
  4. W.R. Deakin Ltd was registered to carry on the business of a manufacturer to jam, preserves, marmalades, pickles, jellies, candied peel, sauces, condiments, fruit wine, mincemeat and provisions, produce, goods and merchandise of any description, brokers, commission and general agents and traders, bakers, confectioners, greengrocers, farmers, fruit growers, market gardeners, cold storage proprietors, curers, packers, ice merchants, ship owners and to carry on the business of general dealers and merchants, shopkeepers, purveyors, wholesale and retail dealers in and importers, exporters, etc.
  5. By 1924 there were nearly 150 individual shareholders of W.R. Deakin Ltd.