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St. Martin’s Jam Factory, Ely

Published Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 by Karl Bedingfield

Image: Jam Label

If you go back several decades you may be surprised to learn just how industrious Ely was. It had a well renowned brewery, ‘Ely Ales’ and Ely was also had a major Sugar Beet Factory built in 1928 by Joanness Van Rossum (The factory closed in 1981). And for nearly twenty years (from 1939 to late 1958) Ely had it’s own Jam Factory at the end of Bray’s lane. The factory was called St. Martin’s Jam Factory.

Late last year Ely Online received an email from the nephew of St. Martin’s Jam Factory’s managing director (Arthur Strevens). The email read:

“My uncle, Arthur Strevens, was Managing Director of the St Martin’s Jam Factory for many years in the 40s & 50s. My wife was his executrix, and when he died we ended up with various boxes of records and some small artifacts from the factory (Ely & Grimsby). We were reluctant to throw them away in case they might be of interest to local historians, but never got round to doing anything about it!”

It was quite exciting to receive 2 steel boxes full of documents, photographs, jam labels & the jam recipes. Most of the documents related to the Grimsby factory but there was one brown envelope full of black & white photographs and fortunately some of these photographs were of the Ely factory.

Although Ely Online doesn’t have much in the way of a documented history of Ely’s St. Martins Jam Factory we are happy to produce some photographs that have not been generally available for decades.

Image: Van delivers at Westend, Ely

A delivery of ‘Chunky’ marmalade in Westend, Ely.

Image: Arthur Strevens

Arthur Strevens in Ely (1951).

Image: 1951: Staff at St. Martin's Jam Factory

Staff at St. Martin’s Jam factory, Ely (1951).

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Ely

St. Martin’s Jam factory for sale.

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Ely

St. Martin’s Jam factory for sale.

Photograph’s From St. Martin’s Grimsby Jam Factory

Unfortunately we do not have any photographs of how the Ely factory operated but we do have images from their sister factory in Grimsby. I can only imagine that the same production-line would have been in operation at the Ely factory.

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby

The Jam

Image: St. Martin's Famous 'Chunky' Brand

The famous ‘Chunky’ marmalade

Image: St. Martin's Jam

One of the many brands made at Ely.

Image: St. Martin's Jam

One of the many brands made at Ely.

In Memory Of Arthur Strevens

From ‘The Ely Standard’:

The death of Arthur Strevens, ‘Strev’, which occurred on 29 January, may well bring back memories of the St. Martin Preserving Company factory in Brays Lane, where from 1939 to late 1958 he was the General Manager, and later director of the company. St. Martin’s gave employment to many local people, the number of which fluctuated throughout the year. Employment rose during the fresh fruit season and later when mincemeat was needed for Christmas. Then, later still, it peaked when the famous ‘Chunky’ marmalade was made from imported Spanish oranges.

The late fifties saw the beginning of the ‘take-over’ in the manufacturing and distributive food trades and St Martin’s was acquired. It became part of a larger operation, but market pressures led eventually to the closure of its plants in Ely and Maidenhead. Mr. Strevens finally became the General Manager of the T G Tickler factory in Grimsby and retired in the early seventies.

In 1975 Mr. and Mrs. Strevens returned to live in Ely in Cambridge Road, where Mrs. Evelyn Strevens died in 1992.

28 Comments so far (Leave a comment)

  • At 8:15 pm on February 22nd, 2008, valerie jones wrote:

    I have just taken up the hobby of metal detecting. My first dig, yesterday, was very exciting as you can imagine – in my back garden. Guess what I found – a lid of a St. Martin Chunky Marmalade jar. I shall treasure it, although it is a bit worse for wear. It must be 50 years old.

  • At 11:50 am on February 26th, 2008, Sylvia Bell wrote:

    I was so excited to see all this information about Martin’s Jam Factory.

    I used to live across the road from it, from about 1949 to 1957, in what was my Grandma’s cottage.

    I can still remember the smell from the oranges as they were processed and I also remember the wasps which used to swarm around us all. They packed a sting too.

    On hot days, the girls in the canteen, which was at the top of the factory, used to throw down ice creams to my brother and me. The blocks were wrapped in paper and used to hit the ground with a thud. But we always managed to get enough off the paper to eat.

    Grandma’s cottage is still there in Bray’s Lane. Number 3. We drive past it every time we visit the UK. Would there be any chance of me getting copies of the photos?

  • At 7:07 pm on July 22nd, 2008, Brian Lythell wrote:

    My father (Charles W Lythell) worked closely with Arthur Strevens both during the days of St Martins at Ely and then subsequently at TG Tickler in Grimsby. He is seen sitting to the left of Arthur Strevens in the group photograph above. I still have a few artifacts from the Ely days and if anyone wishes to make contact I will do my best to provide any additional information, as accurately as possible.
    Brian Lythell

  • At 4:08 pm on August 27th, 2008, Amanda Pyatt wrote:

    I was pleased to find this article on line as I have a porcelain pot, the lid of which depicts the front court of Trinity College Cambridge. On the base St. Martins Marmalade is embossed in large letters. I wondered where it was from. It is a local item!

  • At 11:11 pm on October 9th, 2008, Mr D J Schofield wrote:

    I came across your web site whilst looking for any information about a St MARTINS MARMALADE ceramic pot that I have just bought in Salisbury.

    If any one can help with dating it or with any other information that would be great.

    Here are some details:

    White ceramic base being about 5.5″diameter x 2.5″ deep.Embossed St MARTINS MARMALADE.
    It has a lid with a wonderful picture of WINDSOR CASTLE with cattle in the for ground.

    Regards,
    David of Portsmouth.

  • At 1:23 pm on January 28th, 2009, Max Ofenböck wrote:

    Hello,

    what exactly means “St. Martin’s Jam factory for sale.”
    Actually or was that in the past?
    Thank you,

    kind regards
    Max Ofenböck

  • At 7:31 pm on January 28th, 2009, Karl Bedingfield wrote:

    In the past.

  • At 3:11 pm on December 29th, 2009, Neil Paffard wrote:

    I believe that St Martin (or was it Oxo?)
    took over Foster Clark Ltd in Maidstone about 1963. I am interested in Foster Clark history and any information about this era would be welcomed.
    Neil Paffard

  • At 12:17 am on January 25th, 2010, Dr Bruce Osborne wrote:

    You may be interested – when collecting archive material for the web site we acquired a 9.5mm family holiday film, probably taken in the 1930s that includes a scene taken against a background of a St Martin Chunky Marmalade advertisement. Out of interest I searched it on google and came across your details. BEO

  • At 7:38 pm on February 3rd, 2010, Peter Dench wrote:

    Delightful images but excuse my ignorance, can the marmalade still be purchased?

  • At 5:21 am on February 22nd, 2010, Karl Bedingfield wrote:

    The marmalade is long gone I’m afraid to say.

  • At 10:07 pm on May 2nd, 2010, Phil from Fairford wrote:

    I recently bought a st martins marmalade pot with newham college on the lid, plus I have trinity college lid only.I would like to know how many were in the series and i presume they were all of cambridge centres of learning, and a rough idea of when they were made.

  • At 1:06 pm on October 22nd, 2010, Mark Pettersson wrote:

    By any chance do you have any employment records for that time?
    I am looking for any references to a “Edith Audrey Clinton” or a “Edith Audrey Tennison” circa 1948 onwards I believe in the Grimsby factory.

    Cheers

    Mark

  • At 7:08 pm on November 28th, 2010, Richard Jeffery wrote:

    I have 9 different St. Martin’s varsity marmalade pots bearing the arms of Oxford colleges. I am always looking for more. In the past I have also come accross some bearing Cambridge college crests

  • At 11:05 pm on April 25th, 2011, Janet Macleod wrote:

    I am currently researching my grandfather George Boyd and have received information that he was managing director of St Martin’s Jams but in the Newcastle area. Can anyone shed any light as to whether there was another factory in the Newcastle / Boston area. He worked with them in the 1940s up until his early death in 1955.
    Any help would be most gratefully received !

  • At 11:47 am on December 31st, 2011, Dr R E Stebbings wrote:

    Earlier this month I was examining a derelict building in mid-lincolnshire and found an old (green moulded glass) 2lb jam jar. It had a label saying simply ‘Ely’ with ‘BLACKBERRY’ beneath. The Blackbury had a properly printed label stuck over it saying ‘STRAWBERRY’. The address at the bottom of the label simply says ‘Ely Cambridgeshire’. It also says in small print above the address ‘ Fruit Garden’s & Wob….’ Cannot read the remaining letters. On the label which is white and blue (silhouette of the cathedral – trade mark) are 8 gold certificates of memberships and awards. These are a little difficult to read but one is dated 1894.
    The glass jar is of poor glass with lots of air bubbles has some letters and numbers, most indistinct but includes: C, B, 2, Ld, and K

  • At 10:23 am on February 23rd, 2012, Heather wrote:

    Some dear friends gave me a lid (just a lid) with a picture of Newnham College on it many years ago, a particularly nice gift as it showed the Pfeiffer archway where I lived for a year in my final year at Newnham. I think they found it at a flea market in Birmingham. I then found a lid of St Catherine’s with its pot at Camden Lock market.

    I’ve now got six lids and two pots, the latest pot of which clearly says “St Martin’s Marmalade” in the same font as on the picture of the chunky marmalade pots, hence finding this website (good old Google). The lids I’ve got are Newnham, Girton, Pembroke, St Catherine’s, Emmanuel, and Peterhouse, so I’m interested to know that Trinity exists. If that exists, I’d be suprised if the Cambridge Colleges didn’t also run to St John’s, and hopefully there are some of Clare, Trinity Hall, Sidney Sussex, Jesus, Christs and Queens’, since they bothered to do Girton and Newnham. These weren’t really “proper colleges” until 1948 when women were were finally admitted to degrees in Cambridge, and both colleges are rather peripheral to the city centre where the older colleges beloved of tourists are situated. I wonder how many there were in the Cambridge Colleges series? And when they were made. I think the lady at Camden Lock seemed to think they were pre-war, but if the factory didn’t open until 1939, that makes no sense. But they look somewhat old fashioned to be post-1954 when rationing finally ended.

    Such a pity that Ely no longer has a jam factory, but now appears to be a commuter suburb for London and Cambridge.

  • At 1:09 pm on April 8th, 2012, Philip Lee wrote:

    I have a pot with lid depicting Sidney Sussex. Unfortunately the lid is broken but I have glued it together so that it is useable. I would very much like to find an unbroken lid!

  • At 7:03 pm on August 1st, 2012, Naomi Mott wrote:

    In reply to the collectors of St Martin’s Marmalade ceramic lidded pots, I recently bought one at our local charity shop that bears a hand coloured blue transfer picture of St John’s College on the lid. I’ve uploaded a photo on my pinterest board if anyone is interested.

  • At 3:52 pm on August 7th, 2012, Laura wrote:

    I have 6 different jars…If anyone is interested in buying them.

  • At 4:36 pm on February 9th, 2013, david wilson wrote:

    hi there, with regards to the St.martins Jams and Marmalade, I have got a thin wooden sign advert with it on, and was looking to sell it, I can Email Photos if needed, considering its a few decades old and a bit mucky as I would worry how to clean it….it does look great….

  • At 7:32 pm on February 17th, 2013, Philip Lee wrote:

    I note Laura’s comments. I am interested in buying a Sidney Sussex lid (and pot) if available.

  • At 9:31 pm on February 19th, 2013, Leslie smith wrote:

    Hey I started work at Ticklers January 1965 age 16 (Leslie Smith) when they recruited for the Marmalade season. First job moving nets of seville oranges from the back of a Scammel truck. My final position in 1968 was manager of finnished goods warehouse. I left in June 1968 and moved to London. Anybody remember these names Mr Collins factory manager, Mrs Baker his assistant, Mr Smith assistant Factory manager, Mr Johnson transport manager,I Knew all the young girls in the photos special mention to Lorrain in despatch how did they get away with having a huge amount of hair out of the front or their headscarfs,. Love to hear from anybody during this period email meggiethefish@aol.com

  • At 12:58 pm on March 24th, 2013, George Peacock wrote:

    I’d be interested in your sign, David. I recently found one for ‘Ely’ Rich Fruit Pudding, with a very similar logo to an ‘Ely’ Toffee tin I have – both on show in our tearoom in Waterside.

  • At 1:31 pm on March 24th, 2013, david wilson wrote:

    hi george peacock.please add me on facebook and I will post photos of the sign. David anthony mcintyre wilson

  • At 3:44 pm on June 5th, 2013, david wilson wrote:

    Hi there, I’m trying to find out if there’s a collector of St.Martins Jams and marmalade memorabilia in your village?…..hi there, I have got a thin wooden sign advert with it on, and was looking to sell it, I can Email Photos if needed, considering its a few decades old and a bit mucky as I would worry how to clean it….it does look great….

  • At 6:03 pm on June 25th, 2013, Carol wrote:

    I have a St Martin’s Marmalade pot with lid which is in excellent condition, I wondered if there was any where you could contact any anyone who would interested I have the Newnham College pot . I’ve had it for 30 years….

  • At 12:38 pm on September 20th, 2013, lynda durber wrote:

    we have a st martins varsity ceramic pot with rotary international on the front, would it be worth anything ?

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