Ref NoGB1752.CON/GM
Alt Ref NoOFR:
Acc No2018-156
LevelSub collection
TitleGeorge Mason & Company Limited
DescriptionIn 1880 George and John Mason left the A.1. Sauce Company to make their products in a little factory on the King's Road, Chelsea. The company began by producing mainly beef and chicken essence, but later focus was drawn towards other products. Recipes were improved and evolved and the list included tomato ketchup, curry powder, beef cubes, jellies, potted meats and O.K. Sauce.

1884 - After setting up at King's Road George found himself short of the necessary capital to expand his business, and so invited several businessmen to subscribe to the formation of a Private Limited Company.

On 21 November the company was established under the registered name George Mason & Co, with Mr Fred Walton as Chair and George Mason as Managing Director.

1891 - Mason was asked to resign his directorship and concentrate on the sales field. He did not agree and was paid a lump sum and pension to leave the company, eventually settling in New York until his death in 1927.

1892 - Mr Percy Cooper entered the company as General Manager, and was joined by his brother Sydney who specialised in the sales side of the business.

1895 - Percy Cooper was promoted to the position of Manager and Secretary.

1896 - The lease of the Kings Road factory was to expire this year, and due to the expansion of the business it was decided that a new lease should be taken out at larger premises. A lease of St. George's Hall in Walham Green, Fulham, was taken in February. The new factory (at the suggestion of Mr Cooper) was now known as 'Chelsea Works'.

As soon as the old Kings Road site had closed down, production in the new establishment got underway.

1897 - Percy Cooper gained greater control and influence over the company to help overcome an apparent lull in business, with particular focus on the sales side.

1904 - Dividends on both the ordinary and the preference shares were paid for the very first time this year.

1907 - Percy Cooper was elected to the Board of Directors where he was joined by William Ripley.

1914 to 1918 - During the First World War, despite shortages of raw materials, George Mason & Co continued to grow as import and export trading opportunities increased. Mason's Concentrated Beef Lozengers in particular experienced considerable trade during this period and featured throughout national advertisements.

1920 - A plot of land was purchased in Southfields on the edge of the London Borough of Wandsworth, and a factory/warehouse was built. The new factory worked alongside the existing factory at Walham Green to keep pace with the growing demand for OK sauce.

1925 - William Ripley passed away early this year, as well as Mr R Cawley who had been a Director for thirty years. Both men were great losses to the company.

Rex Cooper, Percy Cooper's eldest son, returned from Colombo after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, to be appointed as General Manager.

During October Rex Cooper was elevated to the Board of Management.

1928 - It had become apparent that the two existing factories were inadequate to deal with the increasing demand on production. It was decided that the site at Walham Green should be closed, and new purpose built premises would be erected at Southfields. Rex Cooper was heavily involved with the designs, working alongside architect Robert Sharp. On 31 December the new Chelsea Works factory was opened.

1930 - William Ripley Junior was asked to join the company this year, and take a more active role within the business.

1931 - On 8 January after forty years of service, Chairman and Managing Director Percy Cooper died following a very short illness. Rex Cooper was appointed as the new managing director and William Ripley Junior joined the board.

Betty Cooper, sister of Rex, joined the company in an executive position. Betty was in charge of all the buying for the company and also acted as a personal assistant to her brother.

1934 - The company started exclusive sale of Cottleslowe Dairy Products horseradish cream.

Characters 'Master Okay' and 'Uncle George' were invented this year for a radio advertising campaign for Radio Luxembourg called 'The Adventures of Master Okay'.

1935 - During the later part of the year the board decided that distribution must be increased throughout the whole country, particularly in the Midlands and North of England. A mobile Sales Promotion Team was introduced, consisting of six male recruits.

1936 - The Cottleslowe Company went into voluntary liquidation this year, and George Mason & Co took a controlling interest in a newly formed company. The Cottleslowe Company became the Watersend Condiments Company, producing horseradish cream, horesradish sauce and mint sauce under the OK label. Bigger premises were bought at Temple Ewll, near Dover.

The Sales Promotion Team expanded during mid 1936 with two teams now covering the UK, with the goal of expanding distribution nationwide. The Northern Team was led by Len Ballard and the Southern Team by Harold Prestage.

1939 - A lease was taken out on part of a disused cotton mill in Nelson, Lancashire, and was used to pack OK sauce.

The war years brought reduction in staff, restrictions of raw materials, bottles and packaging materials, zoning of manufacture and loss of export markets.

Many of the company's products had to be discontinued altogether, and some were never reintroduced. The only products to survive the Second World War period were OK Sauce, Mustard Sauce, Worcester Sauce and Fruit Chutney. Part of the Southfields factory was commandeered - mainly for the storage of important pieces of war equipment made in a nearby Engineering Works.

The Dover Company had to be closed down quite early in view of its vulnerable position to enemy action, with its Managing Director Harry Rodgers joining the Aircraft Inspection Dept of the Ministry of Supply.

1946 to 1949 - Raw materials such as bottles and packaging materials had become restricted due to the Second World War. A major shortage of bottles saw salesmen trying to salvage what they could from bottle dumps across the country. A special bottle cleaning plant was later installed at Southfields.

1952 - Brian Cooper, son of Rex Cooper, joined the company.

A large warehouse in the Wimbledon district was rented this year in order to store raw materials. The freehold on the building was later purchased in 1956.

1954 - Betty Cooper, now Betty Irwin, was invited to join the Board of Management this January.

1956 - A larger Depot to house some of the Companies larger vans and stocks of unfinished goods for Northern deliveries was rented in Manchester in December.

Mrs D. F. Cooper died on 30th June this year, after more than 25 years as a Director of the Company.

1957 - Brian Cooper was appointed to the Board, and Northern Sales Manager, Syndey Palmer, replaced Cyril Williams as Sales Manager.

1958 - David Ripley, son of William Ripley, joined the staff at Watersend Condiments Ltd.

1960 - This year the company achieved its first ever turnover of one million pounds on sauce alone.

A plot in Warrington was acquired this year as well, marking the location for a new warehouse and garage.

1963 - Direct of Sales, Synday Palmer retired this year. In his place two executive positions were created, filled by Len Ballard as Marketing Manager and Harold Prestage as Sales Manager.

1964 - In July of this year George Mason & Co. was acquired by Reckitt & Colman Holdings Ltd.

Mr J. A. S. Cleminson joined the Board to help facilitate liaison between the companies.

1965 - The Dover Factory site was closed, and the production of Mint Sauce, Horseradish and Salad Cream was transferred to Carrow.

1966 - Rex Cooper, Chairman and Managing Director passed away. He was succeeded by his son Brian Cooper who thus became the third generation of the family to lead the company.

1968 - On 1 July George Mason & Co was wholly integrated with Colman Foods.

1968 - The OK Sauce Block was constructed adjoining the Old Carrow Works' Canteen.

1995 - Colman's was bought by Unilever, and became part of the Van den Bergh Food Group, now Unilever Bestfoods.

The Van den Bergh Food Group bought Colman's food business from Reckitt & Colman for £147 million, with an official announcement made on 1 May. Sales Director Peter Midwood was given the responsibility of integrating Colman's into Van den Bergh Foods.
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