27 April 2017

Fryco's (R.Fry & Co), Victoria Road, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2017)

  copyright © G. Osborne
Fryco's Portslade Factory in the 1930s,
 
 copyright © The  Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History
An advert from the Brighton Theatre Royal's
programme guide for 1893
In 1874 the firm was established at Brighton to manufacture mineral waters. For a short while Fry & Co. produced their mineral waters at Preston Circus inside the magnificent building complete with dome and clock faces that had once housed the Amber Ale Brewery.

On 13 February 1901 the firm purchased the Gaiety Theatre in Park Crescent Place for £6,000 and constructed a concrete floor inside the old building.

An idea of the sort of product Fryco’s made can be gauged from a full-page advertisement that appeared in a booklet about a local golf club. For example, their High-Class Soda Water was mentioned that was ‘crisp on the Palate, Sparkling in the Glass’. Then there was their Dry Ginger Ale (choice or aromatic) and their Ginger Ale was sweetened with honey. All their products were ‘manufactured under the control of a fully qualified analytical chemist’ under perfect hygienic conditions.

In the 1920s it was decided to close the Brighton premises and move the industry to Victoria Road, Portslade. In November 1928 Portslade Council approved plans for the new factory; in 1933 there were additions to the site; in 1935 a brick chimney was installed and in 1948 a syrup room was added.

A School Visit
 copyright © The  Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History
An advert from the Brighton Hippodrome Theatre's
programme guide for c1910

In 1933 the Science Society of the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School paid a visit to Fryco’s and a special article was written for the school magazine as follows:

‘On arriving we were shown the Museum, in which were many types of old bottles, including a siphon used by George IV … We saw the making of Sodium Bicarbonate solution in distilled water; and then the water filtration cones; next the mixing machines for powders and the fruit juice extractors, after which we ascended to the top floor and saw the syrup being made, and the water distillery. On coming down the bottling of essences claimed our attention and then we inspected the fruit crushing plant. On the ground floor was the bottle-washing machine and many intriguing machines which bottled liquids, corked them and labelled them automatically. There were also aerating machines and siphon fillers. We then saw the carpentry shop, siphon heads being cast, turned and fitted; the power switchboard and the printing presses.’

By 1937 the firm’s advertising slogan was ‘The Best of all Good Drinks is Fryco’ and it was stated that their Fryco Table Waters were the result of over 60 years of experience making aerated waters. Fryco’s fruit squashes were sold under a ‘Big Ben’ label and you could choose from lemon and orange, lemonade, sparkling grapefruit, tonic water and a product called ‘Lemolyme’.

Second World War

Fryco’s was in difficulties because of wartime privations and the impossibility of obtaining a sufficient supply of imported oranges. Clifford Wallis, Fryco’s managing director, wrote to Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, suggesting that consignments of oranges destined for the Brighton and Hove area should go first of all to the Portslade works to be peeled and then the fruit, already peeled, could be delivered to retailers. Fryco’s only required the peel, not the pith nor the fruit. Lord Woolton was obviously unimpressed.

Clifford Wallis was obliged to come up with his own scheme He advertised for local people to bring their precious ration of oranges to Fryco’s to be peeled and they would receive two pence for every ounce of peelings. Mr Wallis allayed any fears of spoiled fruit by asserting that a properly peeled orange would keep for around four days. The public responded to this novel idea. The scheme started in October 1941 and up to 11 February 1946 over seven hundredweight of peel had been collected by the factory.

Re-union

copyright © D.Sharp
Fryco's advert from 1961
In January 1946 Fryco’s directors entertained nearly 120 staff members to a re-union and social evening in which members returning from service with the armed forces were also welcomed back. Portslade staff attended this event and there were contingents from Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne. A happy evening was spent dancing to the music of the Western Bartlett Orchestra. If dancing did not appeal guests could play whist or other games.

In 1946 Clifford Wallis was still chairman and managing director while W.H. Chatterton was secretary and accountant, and C.R.C. Farmer was the Portslade factory manager.

End of an Era

In 1957 ‘Big Ben’ squashes were still being sold in all flavours at 3/- a bottle or 1/9d for a half-bottle. There was also ‘Sunfresh’ whole orange drink made from fresh oranges at Portslade. In 1961 a new name was added to the range; this was ‘Kinnie’ described as a sparkling continental drink with a distinctive tang.

In August 1961 Schweppes Ltd took over Fryco’s. The factory at Victoria Road soon became a depot for Schweppes’s products. In 1962 came the sad day when the factory was closed down with the loss of 90 jobs. Some employees hoped to find work with Hoper Struve who proposed to market some of their products under the Fryco name.

MB Metals Technology, who had been in business operations at Portslade since 1946 took over the former Fryco building for precision engineering manufacturing until the late 1980s when they moved their business to new premises in Brighton. The building was demolished and replaced by car dealership showroom in the early 1990s.

Victoria Road in its time was the location of most of the major Portslade employers:- Fryco, Ronuk, Southdown Motor Services Garage (Bus Repairs and Coach Works), MB Metals Technology, Portslade Station’s Goods Yard and all the jobs associated with the former Portslade Urban District Council’s Town Hall. 
Today, sadly, all these many hundreds of light industry factory jobs have gone and have been replaced with a profusion of car dealership showrooms.

Sources

J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Past and Present. Magazine of Brighton. Hove and Sussex Grammar School

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce his 1930s Fryco building photograph
and also to Mr M Lloyd of The Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History web-site
for kind permission to reproduce two Fryco adverts

copyright © J.Middleton 2017
page layout by D. Sharp