K E Loveland
/ / to / /
Below is the last known piece Mr Loveland wrote about his time at Foster Clarks. This letter / article offers an insight into the growth and demise of the company. If you read only one piece, read this one.
Foster Clark Ltd. My Memories.
Mr. George Foster Clark (G.F.C.) was born at Ramsgate in 1864 and, at the age of 8 moved with his parents to 35, Kingsley Road, Maidstone. When he left school, he became a Grocer's errand boy and worked in the grocery trade in Maidstone and Ryarsh until 1891. During those years he had experimented with making bunflour and lemonade crystals in his mother's kitchen.
In 1891, assisted by his elder brother William (W.B.C.) and his younger
brother Henry (H.C.C.), he started making bunflour, which he sold to local
By 1900, the Company was employing 18 sales representatives.
G.F.C. was by now taking a prominent part in Maidstone and he served
as Mayor in 1916, 1917 and 1918. He also served the government as Hop
Controller during the First World War.
In 1925, the Foster Clark Pension Fund was established. It was a contributory
pension fund with Company and employees contributing equally, except in
the case of long service staff, when the Company paid extra.
In 1926, I joined the company. I had left school the previous July and
gone to work at the K.E.C., Springfie1d. After a month or so there, I
heard of a job at F.C. Ltd., where a junior Clerk was required in the
Secretary's Office. I knew F.C.’s was a good firm to work for, as
I had a brother in the Engineer's Department there. I heard, too, that
the wage offered was 25/- per week, which was 5/- more than I was getting
and, furthermore, that the Company had a cricket team with a lovely ground.
My first problem was to find my way round and learn the Managers' names.
The other sections of the Company were in Barker Road, the printing works
under Mr. W.T. Gardiner and Mr. W.T.D. Sheppard with a staff of 30 or
In 1927, the firm of business consultants, Urwick, Orr & Partners,
were brought in to modernise the office procedure. Out went the high stools,
the bound ledgers, the pens and ink. In their place came smaller offices
with tables and tansad chairs, loose-leaf ledgers, adding machines and
Powers Samas invoicing equipment. The office was transformed and the control
of the general office became much more the responsibility of the Secretary,
with the old-style Office Manager becoming an anachronism.
In 1930, I was appointed Company Registrar in charge of the shareholders' records, but I had to pay a price for this. The appointment was on condition that I gave up playing rugby football. This was a shattering blow, as I loved the game, but. R.M.B. said my cuts and bruises on Monday mornings led him to fear a more serious accident. The time saved from rugby training enabled me to return to my earlier activity in the Scout movement and the company gave me enormous help by providing transport to take my troop to camp. Later, when I became County Secretary and then Deputy County Commissioner, I had the use of my Secretary to do the correspondence.
In 1932, G.F.C. died and the Kent Messenger paid tribute to his services to the town and his great generosity to so many local institutions. The Maidstone Hospital acknowledged this by naming a ward after him. The Maidstone Grammar School had a new school built on the land given by him in Bar ton Road. These were public gifts but they were exceeded by gifts of which only the recipients were aware.
In 1933, Sir Cyril V. Jones, C.B.E. (Chairman of Peek Freen & Co. Ltd.) was appointed Chairman.
In 1935, the Company started canning fruit and vegetables, which in view of the factory's situation in Kent, appeared to be most suitable. The canning industry, however, was full of problems; it was labour intensive, so that a large casual labour force had to be taken on. Costing was also a problem, as the quality, size and availability of the crop depended entirely on the weather. Another problem was the short season of English fruits and vegetables, and the cost of having expensive machinery idle for so much of the year. To fill that gap, baked beans in tomato sauce and processed peas were canned, and tropical fruit, apricots and peaches imported in gallon packs and re-canned into smaller-sized packs.
In 1938, I was appointed Assistant Secretary in place of L.G. Beek, who left the Company, and about this time Mr. J.B. Beaufoy retired. His son, Leonard (L.S.B.), who had gone to Oxford from the Grammar School on a Gunsley Exhibition, took his place, giving up his civil service appointment in the Inland Revenue. He was an extremely nice man but out of his depth in industry. the threat of war was looming large and the Company was asked by the War Office to encourage its men to join a T.A. battery of the Royal Artillery being started in Maidstone. Some six of us joined and in the following August, left the Company for the next 6 years. In this year, H.C.C. was appointed Chairman.
In 1945,I returned from war service to find a letter awaiting me from
the Company. It welcomed me back and informed me that, in accordance with
government orders, I would be re-employed for 6 months, after which period
the position would be re-considered. It also said that it would not recognise
any service rank which I might have gained. I was not amused.
The staff generally gave us a great welcome on our return and we resumed where we had left off in 1939, but with a lot more experience, gained during the past 6 years. We soon found how trade had changed. Tastes had altered; women had deserted their kitchens to earn money by taking employment and did not intend to give up their jobs. Youngsters' tastes had changed, too, and the American colas were new favourites. The shops, themselves, were changing and the multiples were taking over the bulk of the grocery trade. This seriously affected the Company's turnover, as the demand was for products readily prepared. The youngsters' taste for jellies, blancmange and lemonade had seriously declined. The multiples, now responsible for so much of the trade were interested in profit margins, special offers and advertising back-up. There was also the demand for products under 'own name labels' by the large multiples, such products being demanded at special prices but in larger quantities. It was a temptation to commit suicide.
The personnel at F.C.'s had changed. Gone were all the managers whom I had known when I first joined the Company. Research and development were in the hands of Mr. R.I. Muir and Mr. R.L. Lord. Sales Manager was Mr. W.H. Roper and the factory manager was Mr. C.D. Lovell.
In 1950, Miss Joan Foster Clark (J.F.G.) joined the Board, which gave enormous pleasure to the employees, because there had always been a rumour that she had long wanted to work there and the employees wanted someone from G.F.C.'s family.
The slump in profits led to the necessity to economise. One obvious economy was the office manager. Control of the general office had long rested in the Secretary's office, so I had the unhappy job of telling L.S.B. that he was redundant. Later that year I was appointed Company Secretary, H.M.B. having joined the Board.
In 1953, N.E. Goddard (N.E.G.) and I joined the Board. In 1955
In 1960 came the bombshell in the form of a take-over bid from St. Martins
Preserving Co. Ltd., which Company had taken over Ticklers Jams of 1914-18
notoriety. Three St. Martins ordinary shares of 4/- each were offered
for one F.C. ordinary share of 10/-. The Board opposed acceptance but
the shareholders voted to accept. St. Martins took over.
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