FOSTER CLARK'S

1891 to1965

FOSTER CLARK LTD.

The History of Maidstone - the making of a modern country town


The other highly successful venture into food manufacturing was launched by George Foster Clark who started his business producing baking powder, self-raising flour and lemonade powder for sale in his grocery shop. In 1891, encouraged by the success of his products, he began full-time manufacture in a small building in Mote Road. Foster Clark well understood the value of advertising as illustrated by his adoption of the Eiffel Tower - a well known contemporary symbol - as the trademark for his lemonade powder. In 1895 the firm moved to the Chambers jam factory premises in Hart Street, which became the Eiffel Tower works. Expansion made Foster Clark's a nationally known brand name in the years before the First World War, producing a range of convenience foods which included custard powders, jellies, dessicated soups and canned goods, as well as lemonade powder. The company's employees were mainly women, many of who travelled to work from the local villages.
 
The death of the Third Earl of Romney in 1874 led to large sales of town holdings in order to pay off debts…No members of the once powerful family lived at the Mote [Estate] from the 1880s and the area around the Archbishop's Palace had ceased to have its old social cachet. Even some of the towns' business dynasties had come to an end - the Hollingsworths had no successors, nor apparently the Garretts. They were replaced by a new generation of successful businessmen, such as George Foster Clark who was active in town affairs and local politics in the early twentieth century.
 
Possibly because of the importance of the Maidstone market, George Foster Clark was appointed chairman of the committee and acted as Hop Controller until 1925, after which trade was freed until 1931, when a further marketing scheme was introduced.
 
...the rapidly growing population and the development of a ring of low density housing estates at Hastings Road, later known as the Foster Clark Estate.
 
Alderman Foster Clark argued at a council meeting in 1926 that "those towns which provided accommodation for motor cars would get the shopping customers in future."
 
Food manufacture and the long-established brewing industry remained important employment sectors…Foster Clark's food employed large numbers in canning fruit and vegetables and manufacturing custard powder, packet soup and other products.
 
In 1926 the General strike was joined mainly by printers, paper workers and railwaymen…but there were no stoppages in engineering, the breweries or at Sharp's. Foster Clark's was also largely unaffected.
 
The addition of a considerable rural area to the constituency in 1918 undoubtedly strengthened the already substantial Conservative vote, while the Liberal party nationally was in some disarray after 1918 and did not always contest the seat. The Labour party fought the seat long and hard but without any success. The closest contest was in 1922, in a three-way fight involving Bellairs, the sitting member, George Foster Clark, an eleventh hour Independent endorsed by the Liberals, and for Labour Hugh Dalton, the future Chancellor of the Exchequer. Foster Clark lost by only 33 votes and Dalton came in third place only 900 voted behind. Dalton did not contest the seat again and he was replaced by Seymour Cocks in another three-way contest with Foster Clark and the victorious Bellairs the following year. After his second failure Foster Clark abandoned his political ambitions…
 
In addition to the public dances, many others were organised by employers for their workers…at Foster Clark's we hear of elaborate fancy dress carnival dances.
 
Some of the wealthiest families still acted as benefactors to the town in various ways. George Foster Clark, for instance, whose estate was worth just over half a million pounds when he died in 1932, was a leading philanthropist with gifts of land and money to the town.
 
Foster Clark's, badly affected by the arrival of frozen foods, was bought out by Oxo in 1965 after going into receivership.

The History of Maidstone - the making of a modern country town
Peter Clark and Lyn Murfin
Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Stroud, Gloucestershire
ISBN 0-7509-1103-4