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Brentford Families - Robertson

Andrew Robertson wrote in February 2018:
'My gt gt grandfather, William Robertson (1802-1875) was a confectioner and he moved to Chelsea in the late 1830s to set up his business in what is today Royal Hospital Road. He and his father, also a William (a baker by trade)(1769-1838), were previously from Brompton, and before that, Westminster. On the postcard it says the firm was established in 1820 so I am not sure which William established it.'

'William junior had ten sons, nine of them surviving into adulthood. They all remained in confectionery or other food/retail based businesses apart from one, my gt grandfather Frederick (1851-1930) who started his own building/decorating business.'

'The confectionery business was eventually taken over by one of William's sons, Walter (born 1847). He seemed to take the business to another level, and, for example, they were the first to manufacture table jellies. Walter eventually incorporarated his son William Arthur into the business. Sometime about 1910 they relocated to Brentford Bridge probably because they needed more space and the rates would have been very high in Chelsea.'

The postcard shows the factory by Brentford Bridge with the start of Brentford High Street across the bridge to the right. There is an interesting road sign on the bridge approach, with '10' and a red ring above (thanks to my husband who says it is a 10 ton weight limit). The initials 'WHA' provide another dating clue: Howard Webb has contributed many postcard scans and has established WHA was 'W. H. Applebee, a postcard publisher based in Ashford, Middlesex. He was active between 1912 and about 1928'. He added the photo 'was definitely taken in either late 1913 or more likely early 1914. Applebee died in early 1915 but his widow kept the business going until 1928. Up until the mid 4000 numbered postcards, the numbering system is pretty consistent.'

The 1935 Ordnance Survey map labels the building 'Toffee Factory'. The 1912 OS map also shows a factory on the same site but with a larger courtyard - it seems some building work was done between 1912 and 1935. An earlier map published in 1894 shows a cluster of buildings in the same area.

The three signs under 'Chelsea Caramel Toffee' are product adverts.

Brentford Bridge and Robertson factory, 1913 or 1914

Andrew also sent photos of a Robertson toffee tin: 'this is one of the 2 Walter Robertson tins I have. It is most interesting because of the lady and gent depicted on the tin. They do not seem to be anyone famous so I can only assume they are William Arthur Robertson and his new wife Dora. They were married in 1915 when they were both about 37 and this looks about right. Why not celebrate your marriage with your portraits on a toffee tin?'

Portrait of gentleman on tin Portrait of lady on tin
Robertson toffee tin The final photo from Andrew gives an idea of the size of the tin. Coincidentally my husband and I collect toffee tins and we have a couple of Robertson tins with the Brentford address and a Chelsea Pensioner design.

Page published March 2018