Shippam's of Chichester
The Early Years
The story of Shippam's begins in 1786 when Charles Shippam opened a grocery store at West Gate, Chichester selling butter, cheese and meat collected from the West Country. In 1832 his son, George Shippam opened a grocery store in North Street, and in 1851 he moved the business to 48 East Street. George also established relations with the Royal Navy, meaning that during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the firm supplied provisions to the dockyard and ships at Portsmouth and Spithead.
Before long the company steadily increased the manufacturing side of the business producing pastes, sandwich spreads and soups, as well as canned and jarred meats. The company prided themselves on their ability to source their ingredients, which were sometimes quite exotic, from all over the world: "There are sardines from Portugal, anchovies from Spain, salmon from Canada and the United States, lobster from Nova Scotia, shrimps from Holland, prawns from Scandinavia and"- perhaps most shocking - "turtles from Bermuda". In the early days, Shippam's even produced a 'Galantine of Wild Boar's Head with Pistachio Kernels'!
Shippam's first factory, a flint building behind 47 East Street, opened in 1892. (CHCDM:P0124.1); Shippam's shop in South Street.
Shippam's as Innovators
Shippam's were one of the earliest preservers of meat and fish products, transporting their goods in white porcelain containers, sealed with butter.
In 1882 Charles Shippam travelled to Chicago by paddle steamer in order to show the 'New World' how best to preserve meat for shipment.
It was in 1906 that the company first packed its meats into sterilised glass jars with airtight metal caps, establishing the Shippam's name with the iconic paste jars that many of us still remember today.
In 1912-13 a new factory was built along East Walls. The factory contained a laboratory which maintained strict quality control on all ingredients and products which entered and left the factory as well as developing new and innovative techniques.
View of Shippam's factory, 1914. (CHCDM:P0275); Shippam's laboratory, c.1690s. (CHCDM:P4283)
By the mid 1900's, Shippam's was a major establishment in the city centre, especially with regards to tourism and employment. In 1948, the company was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Suppliers of Meat and Fish pastes to His Majesty King George VI, and again in 1955 to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
By the 1950's, a tour of the factory was an important part of any visit to Chichester, with over 15,000 people visiting the factory in 1959. Shippam's was also a major local employer, with over 600 people working at the factory by 1960.
"A feature of the factory which always appeals to visitors is the great pile of wishbones. There must be a quarter of a million of them, and twelve hundred new bones come in every day, so anyone who calls can take away a good luck token."
Quotation from A Family Tradition, promotional film 1954.
Line of Shippam's paste jars inspected by cartoon character (CHCDM:P6328); Shippam's 'Self Service Centre' stand (CHCDM:P6327)
It was in the 1950s that almost everyone came home to 'Shippam's for Tea'. This was one of the company's many advertising slogans which were iconic throughout the country.
In 1955, Shippam's launched their first television advert. They were one of the first companies to advertise in this way and their adverts were played throughout the 1950s in cinemas and on television. The advertisements were well made - Shippam's Guide to Opera (1955), for example, won a First Award at the Monte Carlo Film Advertising Festival.
Posters from the Shippam's Advertising Collection at the Novium Museum
The End of an Era
1974 marked the end of an era for Shippam's, as the former family run business was acquired by the William Underwood Company, an American food company best known for its flagship product Underwood Deviled Ham. The family connection was to remain however until the retirement of Jim Shippam in 1996.
In the early 1990s Shippam's was acquired by a succession of companies including Grand Metropolitan in 1995 and Beta Foods in 1997. Beta Foods were in turn taken over by Princes in 2001 who took the decision to close the East Walls factory and transferred production of Shippam's products to their new factory on Terminus Road, Chichester the following year.
In July 2005 demolition of the East Walls factory began. The factory façade and silver wishbone were retained and can still be seen on East Street to this day, outside what is currently New Look.
Demolition of the Shippam's factory in 2005 leaving the facade remaining; The packing room at Shippam's factory in 2002, taken by museum staff
The Shippam's 'Family'
Shippam's was a family affair, and not just in the sense of the business being family owned and managed. Staff morale and staff relations were extremely important to the company. Apart from profit-sharing, sickness benefit and pension schemes, they also offered regular medical and x-ray checks by two Harley Street doctors. In addition the company was also a front-runner in the provision of out-of-hours facilities such as its playing field and a staff social club which was built in 1927.
Company excursions were common practice at Shippam's and may have started in the 1920s. The families of those who worked at Shippam's were also welcome on the outings.
Many staff joined the company straight out of school, and stayed for the duration of their working lives. Often one generation would follow another, their experience and knowledge being vital to the company's success.
Shippam's football team, 1931-32 (EN2541, item 12); Shippam's workers dressed as pirates for 1935 Jubilee float (CHCDM:P6363)