Chosen by Ellen Butler (nee Reed), former Shippam’s employee
Shippam’s is perhaps West Sussex’s most famous business. Established in 1751 as provision merchants, by the 1850s the company was known internationally for its sausages and cured meats, all produced in-house. Advances in technology saw the company move into the preserved goods market at the end of the nineteenth century, and it developed a range of exotic, luxury goods such as galantine of wild boar’s head, jugged hares, and Indian curries, alongside ranges of soups and tinned pies. However, it was the development of its own potted meat and fish pastes which brought international fame and repute to the Chichester-based company.
The construction of a new, state-of-the-art factory in East Walls in 1912 saw the firm go from strength to strength, enabling it to expand production and develop new product lines throughout the 20th century; the factory’s distinctive aroma hung over the city until it moved to its current premises on Terminus Road in 2002.
Shippam’s employed thousands of people locally, often several generations of the same family. Ellen Butler worked for Shippam’s throughout her life and chose this photograph of the filling room as her favourite document from the Shippam’s collection (she can be seen five rows back, on the right, with her back to the camera). This is what she had to say about her time at Shippam’s.
[I worked as a] filling room cutter girl and on the bench. My filler man was Fred Farley. We started work at 8am till 5pm. We wore a white coat and an apron and a muslin turban. My job was to put the greaseproof paper on top of the jars and then put the caps on the jars. You had to be very quick at this to keep up with the filler man. Another job was on the cutter. This was to remove surplus paste from the top of the jar after the jar was filled. We had to stand all day – no seat to sit on. We were like a big family. There were many girls doing this job. It was hard work, but we enjoyed the work. If the window was open, you could smell the lovely coffee being roasted from Sharp Garland’s. Mr Cecil [Shippam] would come in with his big camera. We all had to stand still so he could get a good photo. I met my husband in the filling room, Rupert Butler. Mr Shippam gave the men their job back after the war. Rupert had been in the Royal Navy in the war. He was in the cooking room downstairs. He had to come up to the filling room. We had a chat – this is how we met. Three years later we got married – 1951. My two children also worked at Shippam’s. We all have fond memories of working at Shippam’s. They were a very good company to work for. I am [now] 87 years old.
Ellen walking to work on Chichester’s East Walls, c1948, and celebrating her 87th birthday, 2016 (Ellen’s own photographs)
Shippam’s has a long and fascinating history and Archivist Nichola Court will be telling ‘The Story of Shippam’s’ at West Sussex Record Office on Tuesday 25th October (2016) at 7pm. Alongside an illustrated talk, the evening will feature a number of Shippam’s famous and innovative adverts from the 1950s and 1960s, including the fondly-remembered ‘Shippam’s Guide to Opera’ (more on this in a future blog post!). Tickets cost £8.00, including refreshments. To book or for further information, please contact West Sussex Record Office (01243 753602 / firstname.lastname@example.org).