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 or stopper.

 

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 competition.

 

 

 

 

 

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