|Chancery Appeal Cases - No 110.—Tower Division Middlesex
At a meeting of the commissioners of Assessed Taxes acting for the Tower Division, Middlesex, held at the Court House in Osbom-street Whitechapel, on the 6th day of July 1825; Mr Henry Nibbs Brown, of Betts-street, Ratcliff-highway, sugar refiner, appealed against a charge made upon him by Mr. Henry Feme, surveyor of taxes, for a clerk, warehouseman, or porter, employed by him between the 5th day of April 1823, and the 5th day of April 1824.
From the evidence of the appellant it appears that he employed no male person whatever to write in any books in his counting house or warehouse, or keep any accounts in writing for him, except that the man called the boiler, who superintends the process of the manufacture of sugar, enters in a book an account of the quantities of raw material used, and the produce in marketable commodity, and that all books of account in the appellant's counting house are kept by himself only.
The mode of carrying on the appellant's trade as far as regards the sale of sugar manufactured, is by sugar-brokers calling at the appellant's counting house, where the samples of sugar ready for sale are set out on a board, and carried by them to show their principals.
The appellant attends the sugar market during the usual hours, for the purpose of completing the sale of sugar contracted for by the brokers; and if any person calls at the counting house of the appellant in his absence, relative to any purchases, he is referred to the appellant himself, there being no person in his absence authorized to transact any business.
It is not the custom of the appellant to exhibit sugar in bulk, either to brokers or principals before sale; but after the sale, upon application from the buyer, it is shown to him by tbe boiler to ascertain whether it agrees with the sample, but this is very seldom done.
The sugars when manufactured into lumps or loaves, are put into papers and packed for delivery as soon as sold, and this is done by the boiler or some other of the men employed in the manufacture.
The commissioners being of opinion tbe appellant was liable to be charged for a warehouseman, confirmed the assessment; but the appellant being dissatisfied with their decision, contending that the boiler cannot be considered us a warehouseman employed in a shop or warehouse, wherein goods are sold or exposed to sale, but is merely a labourer in a manufactory, demanded a case, which we have stated, and signed for the opinion of some or one of the honourable the judges of the courts of King's Bench or Common Pleas, or barons of the Exchequer.
Joseph Merceron, J. Parsey, James Usher, James Green,T. Mears
6th December 1825.— We are of opinion, that the determination of the commissioners is Wrong. J.A. Park, J. Burrough, W. Garrow, S. Gaselee.
Alderman P.M. Martineau JP, Eastern Post 7 September 1901also printed in H.C. Dimsdale Sixty Years' History of an East End Parish (Henry Bailey 1901)
Sugar refining was the leading industry in St George's in the East
fifty years ago. Many of the refineries have been pulled down, others
are now warehouses. The 'waning' began about 25 years ago. Year by year
these refineries were closed; not one is now left; the last was closed
about 1885. But old inhabitants will remember the old names: Hall and
Boyd, J. and C. Bowman, John Davis, Dames, Wackerbarth, Goodhard,
Kück, Schröder, Wainwright and Gadesden, David
Sons. A splendid Board School has just been built in Christian Street
where the largest refinery stood, and which boasted the tallest chimney
Sugar refining was for years the thriving business in S. George's. Very many hundreds of tons of sugar were manufactured weekly by the local refiners. These sugars were made from 'cane', and they were known to the trade as 'Titlers' (i.e. loaf), 'crushed', 'pieces', 'Bastard's Treacle'. Many allied trades flourished side by side with the refineries: coopers, carmen, charcoal burners, engineers, string and paper merchants, 'spice' men ['spice' was the euphemism for bullocks' blood, used in the clarifying process]. S. George's streets were full of life in those days from very early morning till dark and after. Waggons delivering hogsheads and bags of raw sugar; strings of carmen and carriers fetching away the refined; and from 9 to noon buyers from Mincing Lance walked briskly around the parish with samples in purple paper under their arms, calling at the many counting houses to bargain. It was a queer sight after dark to peer through the areas of the refineries and to see the half naked sugar bakers (as the 'hands' were called) scuttling about the basement and pouring the boiling sugar, from pans which they carried, into sugar moulds.
The sugar bakers lived in the refineries; it was thought right to have them on the spot in case of fire. A fire meant havoc indeed! Twice in thirty years Martineau's in Christian Street was burnt down, each time with a loss of more than £50,000. The sugar bakers in those days were all Germans, chiefly Hanoverians. It was said that Germans stood the heat better than English. The temperature in a refinery was high throughout, in the stoves which men had to work in daily it was 140 degrees Fahr. More probably the reason for German labour was that the industry was originally German, managed by a German ('Boiler' was his technical name), who liked to have his own little colony about him.
Beyond question the sugar bakers were good fellows, hard working, cheery, loyal and steady. They came to England as lads and saved their money. In due time they went into the 'Public' line in our Parish, or returned to Hanover to marry an old sweetheart and to farm. The work in a refinery was long and hard and hot. The wages were good, and there was unlimited beer. The beer was a local 'sixpenny', and the average consumption was two gallons a day per head. If one walked about our streets then one often saw at the open door or window half naked well-fed Germans joking and laughing in the pauses of the work. They mostly ate beefsteaks.
These were the 'good old days' of the trade. Presently beet sugar crept in, and the conditions of the manufacture were no longer the same. The East End refiners struggled manfully with the change, but when 'bounty-fed' loaf sugar from France and Belgium flooded the home market, one after another they succumbed. They could not make a living when Paris loaf sugar was being sold in Paris - apart from the question of duty - a good deal dearer than the same Paris sugar was being sold in London.
It is often asked how, in the teeth of this, did Henry Tate [of Tate & Lyle], the London refiner, become a millionaire? Among other reasons three are suggested. (1) His refinery was not in S. George's, but on the riverside; (2) He secured a valuable patent, that of making loaf sugar into cubes; (3) He was an exceptionally able business man, and had previously been very successful in Liverpool.
The German names still to be seen over some of the taverns and shops, and that excellent charity 'The Society of United Friends', still survive. [This refers to an Amicable Society established in Greenwich in 1834, rather than to the Owenite splinter group of the same name.] There is little else left now of S. George's palmy sugar refining days.
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