Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 162,842 pages of information and 245,375 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Alfred Bird and Sons

From Graces Guide
June 1953.


December 1953.
January 1955.
Custard powder.

of Devonshire Works, Deritend, Birmingham

1811 Alfred Bird was born.

1837 He set up a chemist's shop in Birmingham.

It is said that Mrs Bird was very partial to custard which, at that time, was prepared from eggs and milk but it did not suit her digestion. Alfred Bird invented an eggless version of custard, which brought relief to Mrs Bird's delicate digestion and was soon proven to do the same for many others.

1843 Alfred Bird set up the business up to produce, on a large scale, custard powder made from cornflour, and also baking powder as a way of making bread without yeast.

1844 Bird's Custard Powder was sold internationally.

At some point Alfred brought his sons Charles and Alfred Frederick Bird into the business which became Alfred Bird and Sons.

Alfred Frederick Bird went on to develop the company, introducing many new products.

1875 Advertising started around this time and Bird's Custard quickly became renowned as a wholesome and nutritious food.

1878 After Alfred Senior's death, his son Alfred Frederick Bird planned a modern factory, with up-to-date machinery, to replace the outdated premises.

1880 Birds was using pictorial advertisements, the speciality of his London agent, T. B. Browne, who gave Bird's products an equally colourful image to those of his other clients, Cadburys and Pears.

1884 Dissolution of the Partnership between Charles Bird and Alfred Frederick Bird, as Wholesale and Retail and Manufacturing Chemists, carrying on business at Devonshire Works, Moor-street, and at No. 77, Worcester-street, both in the borough of Birmingham, in the countyof Warwick, under the style or firm of Alfred Bird and Sons; Alfred Frederick Bird carried on the business on his own[1].

1886 Demand grew so much that Birds opened an even larger factory on a new site in 1886

1887 The Moor Street factory burnt down; a specially designed works was erected in its place.

Instead of the previous costly system of direct contact with retailers, Bird appointed a network of wholesale agents throughout Britain, who worked with the salesmen he hired. The sales force developed into one of the most effective in the field of groceries.

The business diversified into other convenience foods, such as an egg substitute in 1890, jelly crystals in 1895, and tablet jellies a few years later.

1895 The company was producing Blancmange powder, jelly powder, and egg substitute.

1900 Alfred F. Bird and two of his four sons, Robert and Geoffrey, registered the company Alfred Bird and Sons Ltd on 19 June, to acquire the business of manufacturers of food products of the firm of the same name. [2]

They set up a London office and warehouse for the metropolitan trade.

1905 Alfred F. Bird retired from the chairmanship and as managing director.

1905 Discontinued the remaining toiletries and chemist's products as these were not compatible with foodstuffs.

WW1 Bird's Custard was supplied to the British armed forces.

1918 Cuthbert Hermon Bradley became chairman of the company

1925 Alfred Bird and Sons was reconstructed[3]; the old company was liquidated[4]

1929 Introduction of the Three Birds trademark.

1946 Under the post war restrictions on import of packaged goods, General Foods of USA was finding difficulties in supplying its Grape-nuts and Maxwell House ground coffee, so came to an agreement with Birds to make and sell them.[5]

1947 The arrangement with General Foods had developed so well that Bird's became part of General Foods Co.

1954 Advert for Jell-O.

1954 Started importing Maxwell House instant coffee

1956 Installed production machinery to make Maxwell House instant coffee.

1956 Sir Robert Bird, the last connection with the family, retired from the chairmanship.

1958 Acquired Monkhouse and Glasscock, makers of custard powder; at this time Birds also made Instant Whip, Maxwell House Instant Coffee and Grape Nuts as well as Bird's Custard[6]

1963 Having outgrown the Birmingham sites, work started on a new factory at Banbury, to provide the extra capacity needed.

1966 Production moved to Banbury as well as many of the staff[7]

1985 General Foods Co merged with tobacco firm Phillip Morris.

1988 Bird's became part of the Kraft General Foods company.

2004 Bird's was sold to Premier Foods.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. London Gazette 11 March, 1884
  2. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  3. London Gazette 6 Feb 1925
  4. The London Gazette 18 December 1925
  5. The Times June 1, 1967
  6. The Times Feb. 3, 1958
  7. The Times June 1, 1967
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • [2]RPSGB - Alfred Bird