Scope and Content


Historic background

The Frank Cooper marmalade manufacturing business sold the famous 'Oxford' marmalade from 1874, at first to Oxford students and dons, but the business expanded gradually all over England and abroad. In the 1870s Frank Cooper (1844-1927) and his brother Arthur took over their father's grocery business at 84-85 High Street, Oxford, which by 1881 was run by Frank on his own as 'the Italian warehouse'. For up to three decades marmalade and (from the early 1880s) jams were manufactured indoors, under the supervision of Frank Cooper's wife Sarah Jane (1848-1932), who is credited with the original marmalade recipe. Rxpansion began in 1903 when the business moved to Victoria Buildings, a purpose built factory in Park End Street. It remained very much a family business: ownership of the business was transferredin 1914 to a small company consisting of Frank Cooper, his sons and son-in-laws, whereas onlu one or two non-family members were admitted to the board over the years. Frank Cooper remained governing director until he died in 1927; most shares were kept in the hands of the directors or their immediate relatives.

Frank Cooper Ltd (from now on called 'Cooper') started manufacturing horseradish cream and mint jelly in the 1920s, and developed sugarless marmalade and the mature 'Vintage' marmalade in the 1930s. Business had very much expanded by then: the American market was opening and decorative jars were developed for the overseas market. The main family connection ended when in 1952 Frank Coopers's sons Maurice and William Frank died, leaving only their nephew Maurice Lucas. In 1951 Victoria Buildings had already been abandoned for Victoria Works at Botley Road, the former Ice Rink and Majestic Cinema. In the early 1960s a merger took place with Brown and Polson, part of the CPC group of companies. They moved the business away from Oxford to a factory at Wantage in 1967, and from 1969 the 'Oxford' marmalade was manufactured at factory premises near the orange orchards of Seville. The High Street shop had already closed down in 1919. The Oxford link was reestablished in 1985, when the Frank Cooper shop, including a small exhibition, was reopened on the same premises. This was part of a publicity campaign, in which the Cooper history and Oxford traditions were emphasized. The shop, however, was closed in 1992; the Cooper artefacts were transferred to the Museum of Oxford and the records to Oxfordshire Archives.

The records

The Cooper collection was transferred to Oxfordshire Archives as accession 3499 on 13th July 1992. The collection is not at all complete: hardly any of the original documents, such as financial and personnel records have survived and the largest part consists of advertising and public relations material. Many of these records deal with the search for documents related to the business history, as part of a publicity campaign in the late 1970s. Libraries and archives were searched for documents, photographs and advertisements which would be useful for display, which was called the 'memorabilia collection'.

Due to the lack of documents, it was not possible to find out the way the business was administered, to serve as a basis for the catalogue. The records have been arranged, therefore, according to functions rather than departments, as set out int he contents list. Part of the above 'memorabilia' collection has been listed as B3/AD/N5 and the photographic collection B3/AD/P1-P9; some other records have been added to these.

Catalogued by Heleen van Rossum, March 1993


Cooper's Oxford. A History of Frank Cooper Limited, by Bridget Allen (Oxford, 1989)

Abbreviations used:

c. circa

n.d. not dated

vol(s) volume(s)

Contents List

B3/COR Corporate records

B3/MAN General management

B3/MAN/A -administration

B3/MAN/F -financial

B3/MAN/C -correspondence

B3/MAN/D -deeds and sale catalogues

B3/MAN/M -plans

B3/LEG Legal matters

B3/PRO Production

B3/AD Advertising and Public Relations

B3/AD/A -administrative

B3/AD/C -correspondence and related papers

B3/AD/N -publicity material

B3/AD/P -photographic and pictorial

B3/FAM Family papers

Access Information