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J. Lyons & Co.


At one time there were more than 700 subsidiary companies that formed the whole of the J. Lyons & Co. empire. Many of them are listed here. (Further details - and a list of some of the miscellaneous business operated by Lyons - will be added in due course.)

Airport Bowl

The Airport Bowl at Bath Road, Harlington (near Heathrow Airport), was opened in 1962 by the American Brunswick Corporation, a leading manufacturer of ten pin bowling equipment. Its opening came just in time to host an inter-airline tournament shortly followed by the second British Ten Pin Bowling Association's national championships.

When Brunswick Corporation decided to withdraw from the UK in 1970 the Airport Bowl was sold to Strand Hotels Ltd (a subsidiary of J. Lyons & Co Ltd) who ran the complex until the hotel business was sold in January 1977. It was then transferred to JL Catering Ltd (also a subsidiary of J. Lyons & Co Ltd) which became part of Allied Breweries Ltd in September 1978.

Eighty per cent of Lyons' cartons (Lyons Bakery, Lyons Maid, Tetley Tea and Henry Telfer) were made by Alperton Carton Ltd. The company, or rather the former box department from which it emerged, was one of the earliest service departments formed at Cadby Hall circa 1900. In those days the department made rigid boxes for chocolates and it was not until after the First World War that production changed from rigid to folding cartons. It was at this time that the Box Making Department moved to new premises in Earlham Street, Covent Garden, London.

Alperton Carton Company was hit badly by the recession of the 1980s and ceased trading at the end of August 1981.

On 31 December 1973 J. Lyons (US Holdings) Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of J. Lyons & Co, acquired over 2 million shares of the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Company from United Brands Limited. In January 1990, J. Lyons & Co purchased the US Dunkin' Donut business and one year later experimented by opening a joint Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin' Donut store in New Castle, Delaware. 

The Baskin-Robbins business was formally merged with Dunkin' Donuts (the American Donut business which Lyons owned) after Allied Domecq plc had been sold to Pernod Ricard of France. The new businesses became known as Dunkin' Brands Inc and in 2006, Dunkin' Brands Inc was sold to the venture capitalists: Bain Capital LLC, The Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Parteners LP.

Ice-cream, first appeared in the United Kingdom in about 1686. Lyons started to make ice-cream in 1894 using the turbine bowl method. When refrigeration was further developed after the First World War production increased and automation helped to bring the product to a wider market. Unlike America, ice-cream in Britain was a seasonal phenomena with fluctuating sales depending on the weather pattern. As with the other parts of the Lyons group, expansion of market share was all important and many smaller, regional ice-cream businesses were purchased including Bertorelli.

In 1918, to increase market share in the north of England, Lyons bought Black & Green of Manchester. Lyons also bought Horniman & Son and Tetley Tea.

In February 1986 Lyons acquired the ready-meal frozen food business of Chic-O-Roll Company Ltd. Specialising in ethnic foods Chic-O-Roll was started in 1972 by Emanuel Best and Roy Lee Young, who ran a Chinese restaurant in Malta. The acquisition was intended to form the nucleus for a new Lyons chilled/frozen business as the market for chilled foods continued to grow but the business was later sold during the disposal of Lyons' assets during the 1990s.

In 1964 J. Lyons & Co acquired an interest in the Chock Full o' Nuts Corporation in USA from the Beechnut Company. In July 1964 this operation decided to acquire three other coffee blenders: the Old Judge Coffee Company (based in St Louis, Missouri), Nash's (in St Paul, Minnesota, and Boscul (in Camden, New Jersey). With these acquisitions Chock Full o' Nuts now traded in a total of 30 American states. 

By 1970 Lyons had captured 80 per cent of the UK market in private-label instant coffee, which itself comprised 20 per cent of the whole instant coffee market in the UK. In March 1982 Lyons acquired from the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta the issued share capital of Ibenco (Great Britain) Ltd, subsequently named Tenco (UK) Ltd. But by February 1994, after Allied-Lyons had acquired the Pedro Domecq sherry group, the instant coffee business had fallen to 11 per cent of the UK market and it was sold to Kraft Jacobs Suchard, part of the Philip Morris empire.

DCA (Doughnut Corporation of America) was bought by Lyons during the American 'company buying spree' of 1972 (Tetley Tea) and 1973 (Baskin Robbins Ice Cream). On 28 September 1972 they bought 60% of the issued share capital of DCA and therefore had management control. However, this operation was not fully integrated with the Lyons business and operated quite independently until its eventual disposal.

The Hale Trent cake group, once the fifth largest in the UK packaged cake market, were acquired in April 1974 when Lyons bought the entire share capital of Hale-Trent (Holdings) Limited from Fitch Lovell. Hale-Trent consisted of two cake companies, Hale-Trent Cakes Ltd with a head office and factory in Clevedon, Somerset, and the Far Famed Cake Company Ltd based at Poplar, east London. 

In 1985 Hale-Trent's sales, marketing and distribution functions were merged with those of Lyons Bakery Ltd and the whole business integrated with Lyons Bakery the following year. Two years later the Hale-Trent factory at Clevedon was closed and production moved to Carlton and Wakefield.

Lyons formed their frozen food - known as Frood - Division in 1954 under the management of Leonard Gluckstein. By 1962 losses from the Frood operation reached £150,000 as caterers were reluctant to invest in what were still expensive microwave ovens. In 1962 an opportunity came to purchase the frozen food division (Fropax Ltd) of Union International. In 1963 Eskimo Foods Ltd, a subsidiary of Associated Fisheries, joined the consortium and the combined group became Fropax Eskimo Frood. The merger was not successful and in 1968 Union International and Lyons decided to merge their frozen food business with that of Nestle (Findus Ltd). 


By 1974 Lyons decided to pull out of frozen food altogether and in August 1974 sold their 49 per cent interests in Findus (UK) Ltd giving no reason to shareholders for the decision. 

By the end of 1968, Lyons had acquired the baking interests of Fullers, Kunzle Ltd and Scribbans-Kemp Ltd which had all previously been combined to create Scribbans Fuller Kunzle. In so doing they expanded their confectionery and cake empire.

Garden Isle (Fruit and Vegetables ) Ltd became an associated company of the Lyons Group on 1 April 1968. It was formed in 1967 out of the old Potato Sales Department in conjunction with Smith and Holbourne Ltd, fruit and potato processors/merchants who owned farms in Cambridgeshire. For many years Lyons had a business relationship with Smith and Holbourne who supplied Lyons with a variety of products including strawberry puree used in some ice-cream products.

Their business was the supply of prepared fruit and vegetables to the catering trade - including hospitals, schools and commercial organisations - which were referred to as 'convenience foods'. Garden Isle were the largest producer of fresh oil-blanched chips in the UK and they used this dominant position to market its growing fruit and vegetable products. In July 1967, a new production plant, the only one of its kind in the country at that time, came on stream to produce 200 tons of raw and partly cooked chipped potatoes a week.

One of Ireland's largest cake manufacturers, Gateaux Ltd, was bought in July 1970 in a £300,000 deal by Lyons Irish Holdings Ltd, the Lyons group subsidiary in Dublin. Until this time Lyons Irish Holdings had been concerned, through its operating subsidiary, Lyons (Ireland) Ltd, with packing and selling Lyons teas, coffees and breakfast cereals. Gateaux had about 60% of the packaged cake market in Ireland. The manufacturing plant of Gateaux closed in September 1990.

After WW2, Lyons rejected the idea of entering into the ice lolly market, because it did not fit easily with their own preconceptions; it was seen as a poor mans alternative to ice cream. So at this time they rejected the idea of buying into a company called Glacier Foods Ltd because of this misplaced view. However, the lolly market began to gain in importance and when an opportunity presented itself again in 1951 the opportunity was taken.

Glacier Foods Ltd had been started by Guy Lawrence (later Sir Guy) whom Julian Salmon had known when Lawrence was serving in Bomber Command during the war. Salmon raised the question of a possible acquisition and after some preliminary discussions it was agreed that Lyons should buy the business and that Lawrence should continue to run it. They agreed price of £71,000 and this was raised by issuing preference shares in Lyons. 

In 1954 the Orange Maid ice lolly was launched as 'a drink on a stick'; made from frozen fresh orange juice, it was wrapped in foil and sold at the then high price of 6d. Guy , who continued to run Glacier Foods after Lyons had bought it from him, went on to make important contributions to Lyons' ice-cream business in the years following, becoming a main board director in 1966 and deputy chairman. He was knighted in 1976. 

From the day it was formed, J. Lyons had an on-going need to launder linen; tablecloths, napkins and teacloths. Quite how this operation was performed is not known other than it must have been carried out away from the main business. It is known that Lyons had started to use the firm of James Hayes from as early as 1900 to supplement its own laundry operation at Pimlico, London which was known as the Belgrave Laundry. As the Lyons business expanded (restaurants, hotels and teashops) James Hayes undertook a growing amount of work from Lyons so that by the early 1920s it required a large capital injection to invest in more automated plant. Lyons offered that investment by taking a stake in the business and by 1926 had required all the equity.

James Hayes was sold to Johnson Group Cleaners in 1979, when Lyons were bought by Allied Breweries. At its height it was the largest laundry in Europe.

Hogarth Press was a department of J. Lyons & Co Ltd established to print the Company's growing number of business requirements. Originally known as the Printing Department the first printing facility was established on 10 January 1898 at Cadby Hall, in one room near the stables on land which WX block was built. As the printing and other production departments expanded, the Printing Department relocated to Hogarth Lane, Chiswick, in 1907 and adopted the name of Hogarth Press.

In January 1981 Hogarth Press moved their production to Alperton, Middlesex, where Alperton Carton Company had premises. This followed the takeover of J. Lyons & Co by Allied Breweries Ltd in 1978 and was part of a cost-cutting exercise. Hit by the 1980s recession - and a need by the new management regime to reduce costs, Hogarth Press and Alperton Carton Company ceased trading at the end of August 1981.

Impex Foods Limited was founded in 1957 to market surplus products from the group. In 1962 it began to import frozen fish for the catering trade and this led to supplying of frozen vegetables and other goods. In 1965 it decided to switch to supplying the bulkier, but more profitable, market of independent wholesalers and national frozen food companies. Most of the frozen goods were marketed under the Impex brand name.

Based originally in Cannon Street, London, the firm moved to Smithfield in May 1968 where a larger, below-street, coldstore could handle the increasing trade.

Importers Retail Salerooms was a small subsidiary company specialising in the sale of tea and coffee selling from a small number of retail shops mainly in the home counties but spreading out to Cheltenham and Plymouth. The firm was founded by Ernest Pinkerton in 1934. He was an Englishman who had spent many years in the United States where he had established a similar tea and coffee business before returning to England and starting Importers Retail Salerooms. They specialised in supplying exotic blends such as Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee and Peppermint Tea to the individual customer.

Importers Retail Showrooms was bought by Tetley Tea Inc in the 1960s and came into the Group when Lyons acquired the Tetley Tea business in 1972. They operated independently.


Catering Division, one of the operating divisions of the Company headed by Brian Salmon and incorporating Pleasure Food, Wimpy International and Town & County Catering Ltd, adopted the title of J. L. Catering Ltd in December 1970. The Division had been responsible for all the groups restaurants and catering establishments as well as conferences, banquets, theme parks and special events such as the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships and Buckingham Palace Garden Parties. With the conversion to limited status Catering Division thus followed the decentralisation pattern set by Lyons Groceries Ltd and Lyons Bakery Ltd.

CDL44 Ltd was founded in 1981 by Chris Liveras and his two sons, Dion and Paul. Their initials, and the fact that Chris Liveras was 44 when he started the business, is the reason behind the company's unusual name. They produced hand-made, high quality frozen cakes and gateaux.

Lyons acquired CDL in September 1988, six years after it started and in March 1989, as part of its integration into Lyons, the company changed its name to Lyons Patisserie Ltd which coincided with its new Lyons Patisserie range. When Lyons took over the company, CDL were employing 375 staff and were already associated with the Lyons Group; Margetts Ltd were supplying fruit toppings and DCA prepared cake mixes. However, the fortunes of Lyons deteriorated in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Allied Domecq plc, the parent company of J. Lyons & Co, management decided to refocus the business on spirits and wines. A casualty of this re-focusing was Lyons Patisserie Ltd and it was sold to Sweet 'n' Savory Frozen Foods in 1994/95.

This profitable company had a relatively short history, as far as Lyons were concerned. It was bought in 1985 and sold in December 1994. It dominated the market for own-brand frozen prawns with sales of £55 million per year. The main factory was situated in the village of Corsham with a second plant situated in Warminster and a third at Codford. Lyons disposed of the company in December 1994.

In their bid to increase their market share of the grocery sector J. Lyons embarked on a number of small acquisitions of long established firms. One of these was W. Symington Ltd, famous for its dehydrated soups, and on 1 April 1969 they acquired Charmer Holdings Ltd (for an undisclosed sum), owners of Margetts Ltd and Challen Bros., producers of preserves, pie fillings and fruits.

The story of soft ice cream in Britain started in the United States back in 1954 with two Irish brothers, William and James Conway. They had the idea to place a soft ice cream machine/freezer and an electricity generating set into a Chevrolet panel truck, and for the first time, took soft ice cream out of the shopping mall and onto the streets. This new innovation became a huge success and by 1956 it had grown into a fully formed brand – Mister Softee was born. The new ice cream brand was launched to the public in West Philadelphia on St Patrick's Day 1956, and then later that year at The National Ice Cream Convention in Atlantic City.

In 1957 the Managing Director of Smith's Delivery Vehicles (supplier of ice cream vans to Lyons) was on a sales trip to the United States and saw the new Mister Softee mobile ice cream operation. He immediately saw an opportunity to increase vehicle production at his Gateshead factory. Negotiations took place between Smith’s Delivery Vehicles and the Conway brothers with Smith’s eventually securing the rights to the Mister Softee ice cream brand in the United Kingdom. It is here that Lyons enter the story, as Smith’s Delivery Vehicles desperately needed a partner to bring the American brand to the British market.

Mister Softee was, from the outset, a franchise operation with the first vans operating in the South West London/Kent borders in the Spring of 1959. With an initial cost of £3,200, a Mister Softee van cost as much as six or seven conventional Lyons Maid vans. However, the cost was progressively reduced and Lyons also began to run their own in-house operation by putting them into their own depots. The first Lyons depots to receive Mister Softee vans were Massarella Supplies Ltd of Doncaster, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Lyons purchased in 1953).

Mister Softee went from strength to strength and by 1961 had already established 34 locations in England and one in Wales. With Mister Softee taking off in a big way, Lyons knew they had a winner and therefore decided to make Smith’s Delivery Vehicles a substantial offer for their majority shareholding which was accepted (circa mid-sixties). This then brought the whole Mister Softee operation under the umbrella of Glacier Foods Ltd, a wholly owned Lyons subsidiary. Mister Softee by now had become a Lyons flagship brand with depots nationwide and franchised operations abroad. By 1968 Mister Softee vans were operating in 15 countries from Belgium to Australia. Lyons’ static sites, such as Wimpy Bars, sold soft ice cream under the Tastee-Freeze name. The ice cream mix was made at Lyons’ Bridge Park factory at Greenford and some say, it was indistinguishable from Mister Softee ice cream.

Nestlé acquired the brand from Allied-Lyons (via the short lived Clarke Foods Ltd involvement) in December 1992. It is unclear when the Mister Softee brand was officially axed by Nestlé but the name remained on new Nestlé vans along with the Lyons Maid logo until at least the mid 1990s. Nestle sold their ice cream business to Richmond Foods Ltd in September 2001. In 1959 Lyons were in the vanguard of the new soft ice cream revolution and well ahead of Walls who had to purchase the Mr.Whippy organisation to catch up. As a flagship brand within Lyons, Mister Softee became a household name up and down the country. Today the term Mister Softee & its main rival Mr.Whippy have entered the English language as a term for a soft ice cream. Unfortunately, few of the old Lyons ice cream brand names exist but Mister Softee is alive and relatively well, and back where it all started on the eastern seaboard of America. This year (2006) the Mister Softee brand celebrates it's 50th birthday.

Normand Garage Ltd is a misleading name for Lyons' engineering company although one of its main activities was the servicing of Lyons' vast transport fleet. During the early years of its existence Lyons operated horse-drawn vans to take their food to their customers. In the early part of the twentieth century steam became available and Lyons lost no opportunity in adopting this new form of transport. Steam wagons would make frequent trips from Cadby Hall to Manchester a round trip of some five days. The growing use of steam and internal combustion transport required an organisation to maintain them and so a workshop was established in 1905. It moved to the Normand Garage repair shop in Normand Road, Fulham, London. The subsidiary later established would take both these names in their title. 

In 1925, after the Greenford tea factory had opened, the business moved to Park Royal, west London. The engineering works also undertook a large amount of work for the factories designing and building specialised equipment for the efficient working of the plant. They built tea counters for the teashops and ducting for the cooling systems used on the LEO computer. The Park Royal facility also made all the lorry bodies for the Lyons transport and were so successful at this that much work was undertaken for other companies. They started to sell motor cars and had a number of franchises for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Citroën and many more car manufacturers. The operation was sold to a venture capital backed management buyout team in 1990.

The Overseas Trading Corporation Ltd was registered in Jersey on 31 January 1920 with the purpose of blending and packaging teas, in expensive wrapping, for high-class retailers and the export market; in fact to half the countries of the world. At one time Sun Works (the company's factory) made up 250 different kinds of packages which were exported to 40 countries. In its formative years it also took on the manufacturing and packaging of grocery items such as Tomato Sauce and Salad Cream (Jersey Lily and Lyonaize respectively).

During WW2, with the fall of France, Jersey was occupied and the company's valuable tea stocks were confiscated by the German occupiers. By the end of the war the tea stocks had been exhausted, much of it having been given away to visiting senior army personnel as gifts. After the war the business was restarted and in 1968 Lyons bought out the remaining shareholders and thus it became a wholly owned subsidiary.

In the early 1990s the Sun Works in Jersey were closed and the Overseas Trading Corporation relocated to Greenford on the mainland.

In October 1988 Lyons Maid bought the Liverpool based Pendleton Ice Cream Company. Pendleton's specialised in ice lollies and its purchase not only increased Lyons production capacity but an enlargement of the market in the Liverpool area where, in the 53 years of its existence Pendleton had made a name for itself.


Pleasure Foods Limited was incorporated on 3 May 1957 to handle the franchise operations of its Wimpy Bars. Pleasure Foods Ltd was a wholly owned subsidiary of Wimpy International Ltd who in turn were owned by J. Lyons & Co. Pleasure Foods Ltd, who had been associated with Philip and Reginald Kaye since 1958 as franchisors of Wimpy Bars, learned in 1965 that the Kayes intended to expand their Golden Egg restaurants (which they ran alongside their Wimpy Bars) into the provinces. They (Philip and Reginald Kaye) opened restaurants close to the Wimpy Bars they ran and originally called them Bacon & Egg Restaurants but changed their name to Golden Egg Restaurants Ltd when their business became a limited company.


The Golden Eggs, as they were known, were run on similar lines to those of Pleasure Food Wimpy's but their décor and menu were quite different and the two different styles of operation appeared to complement each other. Learning of the Kaye's business expansion, Pleasure Foods Ltd suggested that they run these restaurants on a franchise basis through Pleasure Foods Ltd and in 1965 a new company - Golden Egg Franchises Ltd - was formed with the original Golden Egg Company and Pleasure Foods Ltd each taking 50% of the equity.


With the success of the Golden Egg Franchises, Pleasure Foods started another operation which they called, Bake n' Take Ltd. Little is known of this operation but it was sold in December 1976 to United Biscuits (Holdings) Ltd with the Wimpy and Golden Egg restaurants. 

Strand Hotel Limited was incorporated on 31 October 1907 with some 4,000 shareholders. Created by the Salmon & Gluckstein families it was established to fund the building of the Strand Palace Hotel in London. This hotel company had no legal association with J. Lyons & Co until 1922 when they acquired shares in this enterprise. 

Following the successful opening of the Strand Palace Hotel the company (Strand Hotel Limited) built the Regent Palace Hotel near Piccadilly Circus and although it did not have en suite toilet facilities its occupancy rates were among the highest of all their hotels. They then acquired the Royal Palace Hotel in Kensington High Street and in 1933 built the magnificent Cumberland Hotel near London's Marble Arch. In 1968 Lyons acquired the whole share capital of Strand Hotel Limited and it thus became a wholly owned subsidiary.

By the late 1970s the company's fortunes took a downward turn and as a consequence the hotel division was sold. With the exception of the Tower Hotel, the hotel chain was bought by Trust House Forte for a song in January 1977.

Apart from low volume wafer biscuits, Lyons were not associated with biscuit manufacture until 1938 when they secured nearly 54 per cent of the Bee Bee Biscuit Company, which they bought from Lesme Ltd, a couverture company founded by Leslie Atwell, a grandson of Isidore Gluckstein. Bee Bee became one of the pioneers of pre-packed biscuits, which up until 1933 had largely been sold loose or in tins. In June 1944 Lyons incorporated Symbol Biscuits Ltd and on 1 April 1950 the company changed its name back to Bee Bee Biscuits Ltd.

Symbol manufactured approximately forty different types of sweet, dry and savoury biscuits packed and sold under the Symbol and Lyons brands, its logo being an elephant's head. A wide variety of customers' own labels were packed for sale in stores and supermarkets both in the UK and overseas. Their introduction of Maryland Cookies in 1956 brought a significant increase in revenues. In 1976, when a Viennese Whirl plant was installed, cake was added to Symbol's biscuit lines. The firm that had begun life as the Blackpool Biscuit Company had a final change of name in 1990 when it became Lyons Biscuits Ltd. It continued to trade profitably until 17 December 1994 when the business was sold to a subsidiary of Hillsdown Holdings plc as part of asset disposals for an undisclosed sum, thought to be £20 million. Since then it has been acquired by a US investment house and is currently part of Burton's Foods Ltd, the second largest biscuit company in the UK.

W. Symington & Co, famous for its dehydrated soups, gravy, custard powder and other foods, was acquired by J. Lyons & Co. in 1969. The forerunner of this company traces its origins to 1827 when it first started in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England. By the time Lyons acquired it, Symington's was operating one of the largest factories in Market Harborough. The business was merged with Lyons' Catering Sales Ltd and Symington's sales team of 60 were integrated with the Catering Sales team who were responsible for servicing the catering trade. The biggest selling items to the catering trade by Symington at this time were county soup sold in one-gallon soup mixes, a range of savoury specialities, dehydrated vegetables and desserts.

Henry Telfer Ltd (formally Ticky Snacks Ltd) was always regarded as one of the less appealing activities of Lyons. Their product range, although at times very profitable, always had a down-market image and for many years they were not fully integrated with Lyons in the fear of bringing their whole business into disrepute.

The business had been started by Henry Telfer Thompson and his wife. One of their more famous brands was a pie they called Ticky Snacks and advertised as 'Made as Muvver Makes Em'. They were aimed at the working class trade and indeed were sold on pie stalls outside railway stations and in high street pie shops of the period. Thompson's business came to the attention of the Salmon family in 1931 and in 1932 they took a 49 per cent share in the business with Geoffrey Salmon appointed to the Board. In 1933, because of failing health, Henry Thompson, his wife and business partner Albert Muteham sold their 51 per cent equity to J. Lyons. In 1938 the company changed its name to Henry Telfer Limited and it became a subsidiary. But the whole factory area at Wandsworth was unsuitable for food production and Lyons distanced themselves from the business. 

New and modern equipment was installed similar to that in use a Cadby Hall. By 1940 Telfer's were producing huge volumes of pies and other processed meat products for canteens, factories and hospitals and much of their output at this time was directed to the troops returning from Dunkirk. When the government introduced their Rural Pie Scheme the WVS, to whom rations were allocated, were unable to cope and their food allocations were transferred to baking businesses. As a result Telfer's production soared and Lyons had to set up satellite pie plants in their provincial bakeries.

In order to save money the Fulham factory closed in 1968 and production was centred on Cadby Hall and Stratford - by this time Henry Telfer Ltd had become a wholly owned company and Jack Silverman was the Managing Director. Despite all the company's difficulties Telfer's were Britain's largest manufacturer of meat products to the catering trade but losses continued to be troublesome. The relocation of meat production to Cadby Hall, itself already at maximum capacity, increased the difficulties of Henry Telfer. Expansion was impossible so a new factory was built at Northampton which became fully operational in 1974. Most of the Wimpy hamburgers were made here and frozen before dispatch to Wimpy shops.

Shortly after Henry Telfer occupied their new Northampton factory, the Lyons business was sold to Allied Breweries Ltd who carried out a study of those parts of the business which were unprofitable. It was found (and known) that the new factory was a drain on Henry Telfer's balance sheet and it was sold in February 1980 to the Unigate Group after first having changed its name to J. Lyons Products Ltd. The business went through a number of owners and the factory is now used to make own-label sandwiches, probably the largest sandwich making business in the UK.

In 1969, the Lyons Maid ice-cream business of J. Lyons & Co. bought Tonibell thus increasing their ice cream volumes of the UK market. The purchase price was £1,750,000 and the deal was between Glacier Foods Ltd, the company which controlled Lyons Maid and its associated ice-cream activities, and British American Tobacco Co. Ltd, which had bought Tonibell Manufacturing Co. Ltd in 1964. When Lyons bought the company, Tonibell had eighteen depots and four franchise depots covering the whole country. The business was, essentially a franchise operation and 500 vans were involved in taking ice-cream to housing estates and other high density areas. In addition they had 15 ice-cream parlours, mainly in the London area, and again operated under franchise arrangements.

Walkers Dairies Ltd, Liverpool, was founded in the early 1920s and, in 1947 when it was acquired by Lyons, it was said to be the fifth largest manufacturer of ice cream in the country. Since that time production was quadrupled and additional sales depots were opened in Preston and Salford and a cabinet repair shop had been established. 

During the 1930s Walkers had undertaken contract work for Lyons by distributing Pola Maid ice cream to Woolworth's stores in the north of England. The Laurel Road factory in Liverpool closed in December 1982.

The origins of Zippy Franchises Ltd can be traced to 14 October 1964 when Suleyot Ltd, the former name of Zippy Franchises Ltd, was incorporated. Four directors were appointed at incorporation two of whom were Brian Lawson Salmon and Julian Salmon. There are no records to show that Suleyot Ltd ever traded nor was it a subsidiary of Lyons. It was probably a 'shelf' company acquired for some planned business development.

On the 26 February the company changed its name to Frankie Foods Ltd. The majority of the capital was held by a subsidiary of J. Lyons, Microtherm Ltd, with the balance held by two venture capitalists, Bentworth Securities Ltd (London) and Foseco Holdings AG (Zurich). The new objectives of Frankie Foods Ltd was to develop and hold licences, patents, patent rights, trade marks and other concessions and privileges and to advise and give technical assistance to the production of foodstuffs and operation of hotels. The company was in effect a consultancy.

On 16 November 1965 nearly 12,000 shares were allotted to Wimpy International Inc (Chicago), another Lyons subsidiary, and on 23 November the company changed its name again, this time to Poppin Foods Ltd. On 7 February 1972, Poppin Foods Ltd became Zippy Franchises Ltd but in August 1977 the company changed its name again to Wimpy Overseas Ltd. The Wimpy business was sold in December 1976 to United Biscuits, following which (1 July 1977) Wimpy Overseas Ltd (formally Zippy) acquired from Pleasure Foods International Ltd (part of the Wimpy operation) that part of Pleasure Foods and its subsidiaries which was concerned with the franchising and supply of foods and services to catering businesses worldwide. It was a very small operation employing no more than about 7 people. Finally Wimpy Overseas Ltd became Montrap Ltd on 16 August 1990.

Why Zippy? It is not known why the name Zippy Franchises Ltd was chosen. However, it is known that Zippy was a form of brick ice cream which had been sliced and prepared for wafer portions. It had been developed at Cadby Hall and patented, by its inventor, Harold Boon. 

In the 1980s/90s a number of companies were incorporated as shell companies as vehicles to dispose of property in order to mitigate the imposition of Development Land Tax although they were never used for this purpose. Nevertheless they were officially registered subsidiary companies. Some were used as a way of disposing of parts of larger subsidiary companies which were broken up. Some were never used and all are included here only for completeness.

Zoo Girl Ltd was first registered in January 1938 as Meddocream Ltd, an ice cream business operating in the Birmingham area which Lyons acquired in about 1957. In 1962 it became part of the Lyons Maid Eldorado Neilson Ltd, after the purchase of the Eldorado and Neilson ice cream businesses and in 1963 became part of Lyons Maid Ltd. After the disposal of the ice cream business Lyons Maid Ltd changed its name to Zoo Girl Ltd on 17 February 1992 and became a dormant company, still owned by Lyons. 

Alperton Carton Company

Baskin-Robbins / Dunkin Donuts

Bertorelli Ice Cream

Black & Green Ltd

Chic-O-Roll Ltd

Chock Full O' Nuts

DCA Food Industries Inc

Hale-Trent Ltd

Frood Division (Fropax / Eskimo Foods / Findus Ltd)

Fullers Cakes Ltd

Garden Isle (Fruit & Vegetable) Ltd

Gateaux Limited

Glacier Foods Ltd

Hayes Laundry

Hogarth Press

Impex Foods Ltd

Importers Retail Showrooms Ltd

J.L. Catering Ltd

Lyons Patisserie Ltd (CDL44 Ltd)

Lyons Seafoods Ltd

Margetts Preserves Ltd

Mister Softee Ltd

Normand Garage Ltd

Overseas Trading Corporation (Jersey)

Pendleton Ice Cream Ltd

Pleasure Foods Limited (Golden Egg Franchise Limited)

Strand Hotel Ltd

Symbol Biscuits Ltd (Lyons Biscuits Ltd)

W. Symington & Co. Ltd

Henry Telfer Limited

Tonibell Manufacturing Co. Ltd

Walkers Dairies Office (Walkers Dairies Ltd)

Zippy Franchises Ltd (Suleyot / Frankie Foods /
Poppin Foods / Wimpy Overseas Ltd)

The Zoo Girl Companies


Eddie Bayliss and Ruth Hall, packaging designers at Alperton Carton Company, Dec 1970.



Baskin-Robbins' Bob Okoski in the flavour room at the company's ice cream factory at Southbury, Connecticut.


DCA supplied doughnut mixes.


Hayes Laundry folding room, 1910.


General view of the machine room at Hythe Road, Willesden in May 1967. 4 Heidelberg cylinder presses are in the foreground.

Mister Softee Cone Head.jpg
Mister Softee Champion Driver.jpg

Wilson Burdis and his daughter Christine, voted champion driver of the year by Yorkshire Evening Post, 1973.


Walkers Sales Group

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