Formed in 1983 to record and promote interest in the history of the Derbyshire village of Sawley
E. CARTER MINERAL WATER MANUFACTURER, SAWLEY
(from article published in The Twitchell in 2000)
Perhaps the biggest and most prosperous company to have been founded in Sawley must
be the pop factory known (despite of various name changes) as Carters. The large
warehouse dominates the village centre and, from humble beginnings, has gained a
large foothold within the UK's soft drinks industry.
It is hard to imagine that there has been a lemonade factory in Sawley for over 100
years. Not so in 1890, most towns and villages had large numbers of aerated water
manufacturers, keen to cash in on the seemingly endless market for soft drinks. It
took little to set up a mineral water company, for as little capital as £50 one could
purchase all the machinery and bottle filling equipment to produce bottled waters.
The main requirement was a well which offered limitless supplies of fresh water.
In 1770, the chemist Joseph Priestly discovered that by adding carbonic acid to water
it caused it to effervesce or fizz violently as the carbonic acid turned into carbon
dioxide gas; the problem was how to control this reaction. Another chemist, Henry
Nooth, devised an apparatus that controlled the reaction. He put it to use on British
warships by constantly aerating the drinking water. This kept the water supply fresh,
especially in hot climates, allowing the ships of the line to travel further and
with more endurance than the fleets of other nations.
In 1790 two medicine vendors working in Geneva discovered that adding carbonic acid
to their medicinal lithia and seltzer waters and including fruity syrups made a very
pleasant alternative to alcoholic beverages. Their sales soared, and by 1804 they
had opened a branch in Covent Garden, London. Their brews took the country by storm;
soon nearly every chemist had to sell their artificial mineral waters due to public
demand. One of the partners, Nicholas Paul, sold his share in 1810; his partner
however became the godfather of pop; his name Jacob Schweppe.
Until 1897 most of Sawley's soft drinks had been supplied by the two large companies
based in Long Eaton: W J Hopps of Orchard St and Dalgleish & Sons of Manchester Street.
Also, most of the public houses has tied deals with W E Burrows and Sturgess and
Co of Derby. In 1897 Francis Barber began producing mineral waters in Sawley. He
called his factory the Jubilee Works after the celebrations of Queen Victoria's diamond
jubilee in 1897. Barber bottled his waters in the most-used bottle of its type for
the day, the 'Codd bottle'. This utilised a captive glass marble in the neck of
the bottle as a stopper. The lip diameter of the bottle was smaller than that of
the marble, a soft rubber ring was then fitted, the bottle was filled upturned causing
the gas pressure to force the marble into the seal; it required no other corking
Right: Codd bottles used by F.N. Barber & E. Carter 1897-1920 (author's collection)
Little is known of Francis N Barber though his wares were popular, especially in
the outlying districts such as Draycott, Castle Donington and Shardlow, as his bottles
still are still regularly found by collectors.
Edward Carter is first documented in Bulmers' Directory of Derbyshire in 1895 as
landlord of the Blue Bell public house in Long Eaton High St. No documentary evidence
is available except that he took over the affairs of F.N.Barber sometime around 1905-08.
It is quite possible that Barber moved to Draycott; I recently uncovered a ginger
beer bottle marked 'W. BARBER, ROSE & CROWN DRAYCOTT' so it is likely that he/or
his wife became publicans.
Carter expanded the product range bottling Orangeade,lemonade, ginger beer, horehound
beer and soda water. Carters soft drinks rapidly became the most popular in the area.
Prior to the beginning of World War 1 in 1914 many of his competitors had ceased
trading. Most were unable to update their machinery, much of which was the same as
that used in the 1870s. Carters had invested in new Barnett & Foster pressurised
filling equipment. The machinery, with its brass dials and carbon dioxide tanks were
polished lovingly until they gleamed. Every day fresh lemons,oranges and ginger
were crushed to form flavours to be mixed with syrups.
Carter began to use the newer-fangled bottle closures. Out went the Codd bottle
(he did use them up until 1920 for lemon and orangeade) and corks, in came the screw
thread and the crown cap, Carters could refill and re-sell at twice the rate of the
Left: the variety of bottle types used by Carters in the period up to the Great War
In 1919 Edward Carter sold his business to Anthony J Marmont. Marmont had been the
manager of the Stroud mineral water company before the war. He had served in East
Africa during the conflict and had returned to take up his old profession.
The company thrived in the inter war years. Their main rival being that of Taylors
soft drinks in Long Eaton which began in 1925. Testimony of E.Carter & Co's success
was a review of the company in the 1936 Long Eaton book:
.....' A busy works staff, with clerical department find continuous employment in
the old world village of Sawley, where Messrs. Carter and Company area tradition
of the place.
This tradition is well comprehended, for as the business has developed – and indeed
from the very inception – one aim has been to place before the public products of
the highest standard and in the achievement of this aim Messrs. Carter and Company
have built up an enviable reputation....'
Carters main accolade came in 1922 when they were winners of the gold medal in the
Mineral Water Trade Review competition, proof indeed that their drinks were one of
the soft drinks nationwide.
Carters Gold Medal Soft Drinks survived to become one of the largest independent
manufacturers of soft drinks in the country. The plant overtook the village centre
of Sawley until the inevitable move to Kegworth and the huge plant there. I wonder
what 'Teddy Carter would have made of it all. He would have probably have marvelled
at today's technology, but been a little disappointed with the drink. Despite of
the name changes it will always be Carters to Sawley folk. There just wasn't any
pop like Carters, the best lemonade bar none, keg shandy, orangeade that had bits
of fruit drifting around in it! Even to the end they released lemontime, a proper
cloudy lemonade, that actually had a real kick of fruit.
Above: a view inside the factory during the inter-war years
Today lemonade in plastic disposable bottles isn't quite up to it - all you get is
a mouthful of gas! - it goes flat in a day and is tasteless, come back Carters!
Neil Aspinshaw, Issue 2 of The Twitchell, Spring 2000