So you know they probably made jam here in the days when your bedroom stored strawberries ceiling to floor… but what else? Delve a little deeper into the Jam Factory’s cauldron of history and you discover some surprises about the place we now call home.
A tannery and a linoleum factory stood on the site in 1899, amid the stink of one of London’s poorest areas. Bought by Liverpudlian William Hartley as the southern outpost of his jam-making empire, the two-acre plot gave rise in 1901 to a modern factory with more bells, whistles and miniature railway tracks than you could shake a sugar cane at. The whole thing was run – astonishing for the time – by electricity!
The 1913 drawing of the industrial complex shows how little the basic structure we live in has changed.
Production ran from top to bottom. Fruit was carried by electric lifts to be sorted on the top floor of six (or on the roof in summer) before being carried down to the Boiling Room on the fifth and the Finishing Room on the fourth. If you live on the third floor now, those ghosts you keep seeing were the Jelly Makers. Lower floors were for storage. Over 400 tons of Hartley’s Jam were made each week.
And then consumers discovered Nutella. Or, at least, production stopped in 1962. The factory closed for good in 1975, and the rest is the history we’re making ourselves.
(Read more in Bittersweet by Nicholas Hartley, Amberley Publishing.)