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The History of Shippam's

by Portia Tremlett

A photograph of Shippam’s employees wearing their distinctive overalls

Written by Portia Tremlett, Public Programme Engagement Officer at The Novium Museum.

The story of Shippam's begins in 1750, when the grocer Sergeant Shipston Shippam opened premises at West Gate selling butter, cheese and meat which he collected from the West Country. In 1783 further premises were opened in East Street, as well as a retail shop in South Street. After his death, his son established relations with the Royal Navy, meaning that during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the firm supplied provisions to the dockyard and ships at Portsmouth and Spithead.

Shippam's started out as a supplier of meat and dairy products, before moving into pastes, sandwich spreads and soups, as well as canned and jarred meats. The company prided themselves on their ability to source their ingredients from all over the world: "There are sardines from Portugal, anchovies from Spain, salmon from Canada and the United States, lobster from Nova Scotia, shrimps from Holland, prawns from Scandinavia and"- perhaps most shocking - "turtles from Bermuda". In the early days, Shippam's even produced a 'Galantine of Wild Boar's Head with Pistachio Kernels'! In 1897, a dozen pints of real turtle soup would cost 24 shillings, while the wild boar's head galantine would be 10 shillings and sixpence per dozen cases.

The business was one of the earliest preservers of meat and fish products, by transporting their goods in white porcelain containers, sealed with butter. It was in 1906 that the company first packed its meats into sterilised glass jars with airtight metal caps, establishing the Shippam's name with the product we know today.

Rapid expansion soon followed, and in 1948, the company was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Suppliers of Meat and Fish pastes to His Majesty King George VI, and again in 1955 to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1955, Shippam's launched their first television advert. They were one of the first companies to advertise in this way and their adverts were played throughout the 1950s in cinemas and on television. The advertisements were well made - Shippam's Guide to Opera (1955), for example, won a First Award at the Monte Carlo Film Advertising Festival.

In 1962, the company produced the book Shippam's of Chichester: A Family Affair, which "attempted to give you some idea of the kind of people we are, and of the care that is taken in preparing the products of sea and land for your table".

Production continued at the East Walls site until 2002, when the company was bought by Princes Foods and production moved to their new factory on Terminus Road. The factory façade and silver wishbone can still be seen on East Street to this day.

"A feature of the factory which always appeals to visitors is the great pile of wishbones. There must be a quarter of a million of them, and twelve hundred new bones come in every day, so anyone who calls can take away a good luck token."

Quotation from A Family Tradition, promotional film 1954.

If you would like to find out more about Shippam's, the museum has a small display of memorabilia and tells the story of Shippam's during the First World War. The Novium also holds the Shippam's advertising archive, an extensive collection of wonderful advertising pieces, labels, display cards and packaging.

In August the Novium will be displaying never before seen items from the excavations at the Shippam's factory in 2005 for the re-launch of our ground floor Roman Gallery.