For 80 or so years, until they were absorbed into the Schweppes Group, the family firm of S Chivers & Sons played an important part in the villages of Histon and Impington.
Originally fruit farmers, in 1875 they open their own jam factory having commissioned local builder William Fisk to built a small factory that originally opened only during the fruit season. In 1876 sidings were added and from this time onwards the Victoria Jam Works (which was renamed Orchard Factory in 1910) grew steadly and by diversifying into other products they were able to open all year round. These products included marmalade, custard powder, mincemeat, Christmas puddings, lemonade crystals, confectionery and jellies. By 1900 they had a huge range of projects that then also included tinned and bottle fruit and soup powder, though confectionery had been phased out.
The company had by 1903 also invested in its first steam driven motor vehicle. They were to gain their first of many Royal Warrents in 1911 and during the First World War jams, jellies, canned meat, dried vegetables etc were produced in large quantities for the Services and the Red Cross. After the end of the War they bought surplus war vehicles and converted them into delivery van and buses at their Station Road Garages.
The 1930s saw them finally perfect the art of canning vegetables, which was far more hard than that of canning or bottling fruit, and around 1931 they opened a canning factory in Huntingdon followed by one in Ireland in 1933. By this time they had also already got a raspberry canning factory in Montrose, Scotland.
During the Second War World, in conjunction with the Ministry of Food, blackcurrent puree was producted to supplement Vitamn C in chldren's diets and easily transported dehydrated vegetables were developed which to mashed potato powder.
By 1950 their number of employees had reached 4000 and on a wet October day in 1954 they receive a Royal Visit from the Queen and Prince Philip. With the decline of the local corner shops in the 1950s for larger supermarkets who could sell in bulk quanties, Chivers were forced to adapt as more and more people gained a freezer. They also started advertising compaigns using the popular characters of the children's writer, Enid Blyton.
Always keen to look after its employees they had started purchasing and building properties for their employees, who could buy them if they wished, and in 1904 they opened the Histon Men's Institute and the Girl's Institute at the Firs. In the early 1920s the New Road Recreation Ground was opened for their employees and residents alike. After purchasing Impington Hall in 1925, they also started running educational classes for their employees and from Christmas 1934 they had their own Chivers magazine.
By the late 1950s the remaining family directors were not getting any younger and finally in 1959, together with W P Hartley, they merged with the Schweppes Group.
You can learn more about Chivers and Sons by purchasing a copy of the Histon & Impington Village Society's Gentle Giant Heritage bulletin on Chivers & Sons from Histon Library. It is a brilliant little illustrated booklet.