Deakin’s Naunton Field Jam and Canning Factory, Toddington, Gloucestershire

In April 1907, the Evesham Journal reported the opening of Deakin’s canning factory at Naunton Field, Toddington, Gloucestershire. The canning factory was built on the site of the jam factory next to the main house – see photos below taken in 1932 showing the site amongst the orchards lining the Tewkesbury Road, Toddington. W.R. Deakin Limited used the factory for canning fruit and vegetables until the 1930s. The jam factory was situated in the centre of fruit farms covering 600 acres, associated with Lord Sudeley’s estate. The factory had previously been used by Messrs. Beach and Co., jam manufacturers of Evesham.

The canning factory was initially managed by George E. Deakin, a director of W.R. Deakin Ltd and brother of William R. Deakin (see below). John B. Deakin (son of William R. Deakin), who also managed the Deakin’s Eclipse Preserving Works, Wigan, managed the canning factory during the First World War after George Deakin retired. After the war the factory was managed by William G. Deakin (John B. Deakin’s brother). Shortly after the jam factory was taken over by Deakin’s, on 13 December 1907, a fire broke out following an explosion in the engine room (see Toddington Jam Factory Fire, 1907).

The 1911 census records the following members of the Deakin family living in the house at Naunton Field:

William Robert Deakin, Head, Married, aged 48, Governing Director, Fruit Preserving Company
Mary Jane Deakin, Wife, Married, aged 53
John Bertram Deakin, Son, Single, aged 23, Factory Manager, Fruit Canning
William George Deakin, Son, single, aged 20, Farm Hand, Fruit Growing
Bessie Deakin, Daughter, aged 19
Robert Hartley Deakin, Son, aged 16
George Deakin, Son, aged 14
James Stanley Deakin, Son, aged 12
Bertha Simon, General Domestic Servant, aged 19

The surrounding orchards (originally owned by Lord Sudeley and then by the industrialist Hugh Andrews) provided the fruit for the canning factory and Beckford (on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway connecting with Evesham where Deakin’s had a private siding) and the Great Western Railway station at Toddington (which had opened in 1906) were used to transport the fruit and canned produce.

The days at the factory were long with employees starting work at 6am. During the summer months work often continued until 10pm. On 4 October 1912, W.R. Deakin was charged under the Factory and Workshops Act for employing seven girls after 10pm. It was Deakin’s first offence and William R. Deakin was bound over in the sum of £10 and was order to pay costs of £4 5s 9d.

During the First World War Deakin’s provided jam for the army and navy and the Toddington factory employed over 200 men and women including butchers as the factory also produced bully beef for the troops with supplies of meat arriving on drays from Toddington and Beckford stations. During the summer months casual labour supplemented the work force and local children were often involved in fruit picking taking time off school to do so. In 1916, 95% of the company’s business was for the war effort and 5,000,000lbs of rations had been supplied to the Army.

During March 1917, 75 German prisoners, including a Sergeant-Major, 3 corporals and an interpreter (formerly a clerk in a London office) arrived at Toddington to work in the surrounding orchards. They were housed in huts behind barbed wire and sentries in the centre of the fruit area which had previously been used as accommodation for the seasonal workers. The prisoners worked 8 hours a day during the week and 4 hours on Saturdays tending to the orchards and picking fruit during the summer months. They were paid in accordance with The Hague Convention and received the extra food allowance granted to manual labourers. During the 1918 influenza epidemic, 4 prisoners lost their lives and they are buried in the churchyard nearby.

Deakin’s continued to use the jam and canning factory until 1923 when the new canning factory at Norton Juxta Kempsey was built. An auction of the factory’s assets was held at the factory at 11am on 16th March 1923. The sale (by Bentley, Hobbs & Mytton Auctioneers) included canning and jam making appliances and materials including a “Cameron” automatic can making machine by Torris Wold &Co., Chicago, electric motors and diesel and gas engines, boilers and a refrigerating plant.

Images of the Naunton Field Jam Factory, Toddington, 1932 ©English Heritage: