Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Bovril Co

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Early advertising uncovered on a house in Western Street, Bedford. Image taken in c2011.
Advertising sign.
Advertising sign.
1896. Bovril for cyclists
March 1896.
January 1929.
November 1938.
November 1933.
December 1933.
January 1934.
March 1939.
December 1934.
August 1935.
January 1936.
December 1938.
September 1939.
November 1942.
March 1944.
December 1954.
January 1955.
February 1955.
Advertising sign.
Bovril Jars found at the Williamson Tunnels. (Image: © Chris Iles – Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels.)

of 152-156 Old Street, London.

1870 In the war against the Prussians, Napoleon III found that his armies could not 'march on empty stomachs'. He therefore ordered one million cans of beef to feed his starving troops. The task of providing all this beef went to a Briton named John Lawson Johnston, living in Canada. Britain did not have a large enough quantity of beef to meet the French people's and Napoleon III's demands, so Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef' - later called Bovril.

1884 Johnston moved to London, and set up a factory to produce the drink.

1886 Bovril was launched on the UK market

By 1888, in excess of 3,000 British pubs, grocers and chemists were beginning to sell Bovril.

1889 The Bovril Company was formed, with a capital of £150,000. John Lawson Johnston was the first Chairman. He was succeeded by Lord Playfair.

1896 The company was registered on 19 November as Bovril (British, Foreign and Colonial), to acquire the undertaking of Bovril Ltd at the instigation of E. T. Hooley. [1]

Experimented making Virol which soon joined the product range

1897 The company was sold on, at higher price than had been paid the previous year; the old name was assumed[2].

1900 Johnston died and his son George took over the running of the company.

1908 Half a million acres of land was purchased in Argentina so the company could rear its own cattle.

1930s Acquired Marmite Food Extract Co

1966 Saw the beginnings of Bovril's instant beef stock.

1971 The Beef Stock was followed by the 'King Beef' range of instant flavours for stews, casseroles and gravy.

1971 Cavenham Foods acquired Bovril, including Virol, Marmite and Ambrosia[3]

2004 Company became part of Unilever, who decided to remove the word "beef" from the brand name.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. Hooley, Ernest Terah: fraudster with a magnetic personality [1]
  3. The Times, Aug 18, 1971
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • 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