The Story of Preserves
Fruit as been preserved in one way or another for centuries, and preserves (as their name implies) have their origins in the need to keep seasonal crops for consumption throughout the year. The first 'preserver' of fruit was Neolithic Man, who simply sliced and dried his fruit for storage. The Greeks developed preserves from this point. Quinces were peeled, pipped and wedged tightly in a container with honey. After a year, the quinces had softened and were known as 'wine honey' or Melomeli. It is from this that the Portuguese word for quince, Marmelo, was developed. And from that it was only a small step to marmelada which in Greece and Spain today, applies to the full range of preserves, from orange marmalade to apricot jam.
How It All Began
James Robertson's life was fated to be devoted to the making of the world's finest preserves, as the story of the birth of
Robertson's (as we know it today) testifies. James' working life began in a thread mill, but because of the recession in
the industry, he decided to cut his losses and took up an apprenticeship with a local grocer. The talent that was to make
James his fortune, quickly surfaced and just three years later he made the brave decision to go it alone. Little did James
know, on that day in 1859 as he stood outside his shop at 86 Causide Street in Paisley Scotlnd, what fate had in store for
him. Despite being shrewd in business, James was a kind, charitable man and one day he took pity on a struggling salesman
and agreed to buy a barrel of bitter oranges from him. James had known only too well that the oranges would not sell well,
but what he did not realise was that his act of kindness would change his whole life. They say that behind every great man
is a great woman and this could not have been more true than in the case of James Robertson and his wife Marion. Rather
than see the offending oranges go to waste she hit upon the ideaq of making them into marmalade to be sold on the shop.
Marion's clear tangy 'Golden Shred' marmalade was an instant success. James was not slow to realise the full business
potential that his wife had uncovered and set about perfecting her original recipe. It was then that the secret of the
delicious Robertson's flavour was revealed. Somehow James had found a way to remove the bitterness of the orange whilst
still retaining what he called "the highly tonic value of the fruit". It is the same secret which even today, gives all of
Robertson's preserves their special flavour.
The success of James Robertson as a producer of the finet quality preserves was insured. During the remainder of the
nineteenth century, business grew steadily and sales gradually extended from Scotland to the whole of Great Britain and
beyond. James Robertsons and Sons Ltd opened its famous jam works in 1890 in Droylsden. At first, stone jars were used for
the marmalade, but were eventually replaced by glass jars in the 1930's. The Robertson name was soon in demand for export
by those who had tasted it on trips to Great Britain.
Robertson's Golley character first appeared in 1910, when one of James Robertson's sons brought a Golly doll from the USA
and put its picture on the Robertson's price list. The Golly badge scheme, which offered Golly badges in a variety of
different costumes, was run on each Robertson's label from 1928 to 2001. There was a short break during WW2, when the metal
was required for other purposes! It was the the longest running collector scheme in Britain. It is a testomony to the
business Know-how and entrepreneurial flair of James Robertson that Robertson's is today one of the most successful
producers of preservesw in the world. The Royal Warrant, first presented to Robertsons by George V in 1933 is a testament
to Robertson's continued quality.
Now part of Centura Foods Ltd, The Droylsden works still produce jams, marmalades, mincemeats and curds of the finest
Fruits Used in the Manufacture of Robertsons Products
The Bitter or Seville Orange-the use of "Bitter" or "Seville" orange in marmalades dates from the reign of Henry
VII. The Bitter Orange comes from a small tree withevila. evergreen, leathery leaves characteristic of citrus plants. The
fruit is a deep rich orange in colour, with a rough textured heavy rind. The flavour is indeed bitter and the orange is
seldom eaten raw. Seville Oranges can be cultivated in temperate and sub-tropical regions. The main growing area is in
Spain, in the countryside around Sevilla.
Lemon-has its origens in South East Asia and was probably brought to England by the Crusaders. Today it is
cultivated mainly in Mediterranean countries and is obtainable practically throughout the year. The lemons for Silver Shred
come mainly from Sicily.
Redcurrent-originally grew wild in Europe, North Arica and Siberia and was probably introduced into ngland in the
fifteenth century. Unlike the blackcurrant, only the old redcurrant wood bears fruit and not the new year's growth.
Blackcurrant-is a native of Europe and Siberia, but it is now cultivated more in Great Britain than in any other
country. Propagated by cuttings taken from vigorous shoots, it is more plentiful than the redcurrant and has a high
vitamin C content.
Apricot-believed to be a native of China, was known in Britain in the fifteenth century. It is now intensively
cultivated in Spain, America, South Africa and Australia, all of whichexport large quantities of apricots to all parts
of the world.
Apple-has been cultivated from very early times and was probably introduced into England by the Romans. The Bramely
Seedling is recognised to be the finest coking apple. For this reason, Robertson's Mincemeat has always been made with
Damson-takes its name from Damascus, and has been cultivated in that area since before the Christian era. It is of
the same family as the plum-black or purpulish in colour and oval or round in shape. Its shape makes it ideal for jam
Plum-mainly cultivated in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Kent. The Evesham Valley is especially noted for its
Blackberry-or "bramble" grows in profusion in the hedgerows and copses of Great Britain, Western Europe and North
Raspberry-first grown in Europe and North Asian countries. Today they seen traditionally Scottish and indeed most of
Robertson's raspberries cme from Scotland.
Pineapple-named after the pine cone, bears fruit on a thick stem in the centre of prickly leaves. Pineapples were
first found in the West Indies by Christopher Columbus and later by Sir Walter Raleigh. Cultivation has spread rapidly
over most tropical areas, including Florida, Hawaii, South Africa and Australia.
(Information for these pages are supplied by James Robertson Ltd)
The pictures above starting from the top left are...
1. Sign at the Main Gate. 2. The Main Gate. 3. Sign at the Main Gate. 4. Ashton Hill Lane 1. 5. Ashton Hill Lane 2 (With the famous "Golly" sign). 6. Looking from the canal bridge on Ashton Hill Lane. 7. Looking back along the canal towards the bridge on Ashton Hill Road. 8. The entrance of the old coal wharf now landscaped over. 9. The view of the factory from Manchester Road Audenshaw.
Just click on Golly to go there