It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Sadie McMullon.


Joseph Farrow ‘ketchup’ manufacturer

Joseph Farrow was born in Parson Drove, Leverington, Cambridgeshire, in 1850, to Joseph and Rebekah. Joseph Snr was a ketchup manufacturer. In 1871 Joseph Jnr was boarding in Gedney Hill, Lincolnshire and it was here that he met his future wife Mary, at the village Baptist chapel. By 1881, they were living in Fleet Road, Holbeach and they had two children Algernon and Mary Eve.

Joseph and his wife Mary were devout non-conformists and members of the temperance movement and they worked together in their business ventures. They started their ketchup making in Holbeach, but by 1883 it was apparent that a larger modern factory was required. This was established in Boston, Lincolnshire and in 1891 the family were resident at 11 South Square, Frithville, Boston, with another son William Cragg and 11 live in employees.

Plate 1: Farrows Factory, circa 1905
Plate 1: Farrows Factory, circa 1905

Source: (Accessed 18/12/2017)

The business once again expanded and in 1902 a model factory was built in Old Fletton on land rented from John Cathles Hill (of London Brick fame).  A report complimented its position adjoining the Great Northern Railway which was ideal for importing raw materials and exporting manufactured products, and not far from the ‘famous’ Wisbech mustard fields. The factory was six storeys high with an octagonal shaft. (Plate 1) It was an ‘imposing architectural landmark’ but at the same time attention was paid to the health of the employees. No room was less than 12ft high and there was a total of 335 windows. Electricity produced by the factory’s own steam generators would power the plant. Around the factory there were nine acres of land for future extensions and plans were already in hand for offices and cottages.

Once the factory had been built, the family, Joseph, Mary and William, moved into Westwood House, Peterborough. In the sale catalogue of 1903 Westwood House was described as being 300 yards from Thorpe Road and having ‘lofty palm houses and vineries 135 feet in length’ with the bathroom ‘shut off from the principal landing’.[1] Both sons Algernon and William worked in the factory.

Algernon lived locally at ‘Yorkville’, 35 Fletton Avenue, Old Fletton with his wife Margaret born in Fife, Scotland and their four children.[2] Algernon later became Mayor of Peterborough between 1945 and 1946. William married Florence Mary Elliot, and they had three children: Mary born 26 May 1913, Margaret born 1 July 1915, and Raymond born 17 May 1920. William died at the early age of 47 on 6 February 1932 at the Empire Nursing Home, Vincent Square, London.[3]

[1] R. Hiller, 'Auction catalogues and Notices: their value for the Local Historian', The Local Historian, 13(3). (1978), p. 133.

[2] RG14/8671.  Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Membership Registers: Country Y 2381-2504 to Country Z 2505-2671; Reel Number: 52 (Accessed 9/8/2017)

[3] This information was provided by Vickie White.

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