Image: Jam Label

If you go back several decades you may be surprised to learn just how industrious Ely was. It had a well renowned brewery, ‘Ely Ales’ and Ely was also had a major Sugar Beet Factory built in 1928 by Joanness Van Rossum (The factory closed in 1981). And for nearly twenty years (from 1939 to late 1958) Ely had it’s own Jam Factory at the end of Bray’s lane. The factory was called St. Martin’s Jam Factory.

Late last year Ely Online received an email from the nephew of St. Martin’s Jam Factory’s managing director (Arthur Strevens). The email read:

“My uncle, Arthur Strevens, was Managing Director of the St Martin’s Jam Factory for many years in the 40s & 50s. My wife was his executrix, and when he died we ended up with various boxes of records and some small artifacts from the factory (Ely & Grimsby). We were reluctant to throw them away in case they might be of interest to local historians, but never got round to doing anything about it!”

It was quite exciting to receive 2 steel boxes full of documents, photographs, jam labels & the jam recipes. Most of the documents related to the Grimsby factory but there was one brown envelope full of black & white photographs and fortunately some of these photographs were of the Ely factory.

Although Ely Online doesn’t have much in the way of a documented history of Ely’s St. Martins Jam Factory we are happy to produce some photographs that have not been generally available for decades.

Image: Van delivers at Westend, Ely

A delivery of ‘Chunky’ marmalade in Westend, Ely.

Image: Arthur Strevens

Arthur Strevens in Ely (1951).

Image: 1951: Staff at St. Martin's Jam Factory

Staff at St. Martin’s Jam factory, Ely (1951).

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Ely

St. Martin’s Jam factory for sale.

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Ely

St. Martin’s Jam factory for sale.

Photograph’s From St. Martin’s Grimsby Jam Factory

Unfortunately we do not have any photographs of how the Ely factory operated but we do have images from their sister factory in Grimsby. I can only imagine that the same production-line would have been in operation at the Ely factory.

Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby
Image: St. Martin's Jam Factory, Grimsby

The Jam

Image: St. Martin's Famous 'Chunky' Brand

The famous ‘Chunky’ marmalade

Image: St. Martin's Jam

One of the many brands made at Ely.

Image: St. Martin's Jam

One of the many brands made at Ely.

In Memory Of Arthur Strevens

From ‘The Ely Standard’:

The death of Arthur Strevens, ‘Strev’, which occurred on 29 January, may well bring back memories of the St. Martin Preserving Company factory in Brays Lane, where from 1939 to late 1958 he was the General Manager, and later director of the company. St. Martin’s gave employment to many local people, the number of which fluctuated throughout the year. Employment rose during the fresh fruit season and later when mincemeat was needed for Christmas. Then, later still, it peaked when the famous ‘Chunky’ marmalade was made from imported Spanish oranges.

The late fifties saw the beginning of the ‘take-over’ in the manufacturing and distributive food trades and St Martin’s was acquired. It became part of a larger operation, but market pressures led eventually to the closure of its plants in Ely and Maidenhead. Mr. Strevens finally became the General Manager of the T G Tickler factory in Grimsby and retired in the early seventies.

In 1975 Mr. and Mrs. Strevens returned to live in Ely in Cambridge Road, where Mrs. Evelyn Strevens died in 1992.

3 replies
  1. Teknik Telekomunikasi
    Teknik Telekomunikasi says:

    It’s fascinating to learn about the history of Ely’s St. Martin’s Jam Factory and the significant role it played in the local economy during the 1940s and 1950s. The photographs and documents received from the nephew of the managing director provide a glimpse into the daily operations of the factory, and it’s great to see them being shared with the public after decades. It’s also interesting to see the different brands of jam produced at the factory, including the famous ‘Chunky’ marmalade. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of people like Arthur Strevens that these factories were able to thrive in their heyday, providing employment opportunities for many local people. It’s a shame that market pressures eventually led to the closure of the plants, but the legacy of these factories lives on in the memories of those who worked there and the historical records that have been preserved.

  2. Stephen dearman
    Stephen dearman says:

    I have for a while now thought that the logo St Martins chunky was a pipe tobacco brand
    After I noticed a lorry with the livery of St Martins chunky in a 1946 film of London traffic travelling up fleet street towards the strand so I decided to find out more
    Now to my surprise I find it was a jam and marmalade manufacturing company based in Ely…
    The lorry in the film is American and would have been a rare sight back then.
    I knew about chivers jams just outside Cambridge but didn’t know about the company featured on the side of the vehicle..
    My background is in Haulage especially
    Market produce haulage
    Although retired from the industry
    I recall many trips to the Isle of Ely
    And the outlining areas to collect
    Many tons of fruit and vegetables
    For the London fruit and vegetable
    Wholesale markets.

  3. Martin Sookias
    Martin Sookias says:

    St Martin’s Chunky Marmalade! My very favourite commercial marmalade ever, way better than other obvious up-market brands. I was certainly still buying it in c.1970, and its style led me to make my own marmalade, with help from Katie Stewart’s recipe, especially in its irregular chunkiness and its molasses darkness. Just one thing I add – grated fresh ginger, added to taste. A marmalade almost as good as the memory!


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