The business records of Shippam's Ltd

Scope and Content

The business records of Shippam's Ltd, comprising of:

Minutes of Directors' and other meetings; Articles of Partnership and agreements; correspondence with customers, including testimonials; records relating to site and plant, including plans and photographs; accounting records, including daily order books (journals) and stock ledgers; product price lists; recipes and production books; merchandising records; staff records, including wage books; promotional material; photographs; and some records relating to members of the Shippam family, including a collection of glass plate negatives.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Shippam's business first started in 1786, when Charles Shippam established a grocery store in Westgate, Chichester. Various members of his family also started businesses in the same line, and continued to do so after Charles' death in 1817. In 1832, George Shippam (one of Charles' sons) opened a grocery store in North Street: in 1851, he moved the business to 48, East Street, and was joined there by his son Charles, already an established pork butcher. The emphasis of the business gradually moved from grocery provision to pork butchery, and together they created a popular line of sausages. In fact, such was the popularity and eventual fame of Shippam's sausages that they became known as the "Celebrated 'Chichester' Sausage"; as a result, Shippam's gained customers from all over the country.

Keen to expand the business, in 1886 Charles turned to food manufacturing and began packing products - whole pheasants, ox tongues, soup and galantines, to name only a few - into cans. These products were followed in 1894 by a wide range of potted meat and fish pastes, for which Shippam's was to become internationally famous. Following Charles' death in 1897, five of his sons - all of whom were already provision merchants - formed a partnership in 1899 and, in 1913, they converted this to a private limited company, Shippam's Ltd. The popularity and range of their products continued to grow, with Shippam's supplying goods to the Royal Family, HM Forces and Captain Scott's ill-fated polar expedition in 1910, as well as various overseas merchants.

As its popularity and product range expanded, so too did the Company's factory and premises. Major expansions were made to the site at East Walls in 1912, 1922 - 1924 and the 1950s, and members of the public were invited to come and see the factory for themselves, as Queen Mary had done in 1924: whilst most visitors took a wishbone as a souvenir of their visit, Queen Mary left with miniature jars of paste, to be placed in the Royal dolls' house.The second half of the twentieth century saw further growth and change at Shippam's. In 1960, in order to make inroads into the emerging Prepared Foods market, the Company began making Chicken Supreme ready meals: these were followed by a range of canned goods and meals. Declining sales and a decision to focus on these new, growth markets meant that Shippam's ceased producing its famous sausages in 1970, although it continued to make meat and fish pastes. This move ensured Shippam's continued success and, in 1984, it launched the "Old El Paso" range of Mexican-style foods and sauces.

In order to keep up with demand, Shippam's not only expanded its premises in Chichester, building a distribution depot on the Terminus Road industrial estate in 1966, but also formed partnerships and acquired manufacturing and processing plants around the country. In 1969, Shippam's bought the Crediton Poultry Processing Plant in Devon, followed by Cornish Canners Ltd, Newlyn, in 1971. The Crediton plant was further extended in 1979 and, in 1980, a freezing plant was built at Long Rock, Penzance. In addition to expanding its processing and packing plants, Shippam's acquired Senior's, a rival producer of potted meat and fish pastes based in Middlesex, in 1968.

Shippam's success was noted by a number of international firms and, in 1968, a 26% share of the business was purchased by the William Underwood Company of Boston, USA. In 1974, the rest of the business was sold to Underwood's, but Charles (Jim) Shippam retained his post as Chairman. Underwood's itself was bought out in 1984, and Shippam's consequently became part of the International Group of PET Inc., another US conglomerate. This arrangement ceased in 1995, when Grand Metropolitan, a major UK food and drinks corporation, purchased Shippam's, although PET Inc. retained ownership of the Old El Paso range. In 1996, Charles Shippam retired, a move which effectively ended the family's connection with the business.

In 2001, the Company was acquired by Prince's Limited, although the Shippam's brand survives, and pots of Shippam's fish and meat pastes are still sold today. Prince's has retained the factory and distribution sites at Terminus Road in Chichester, but the East Walls factory site was sold off: in 2006, the site was redeveloped to provide a number of retail units and apartments, but the factory's façade, and the Shippam's sign and distinctive, much-loved clock, remain for all to see.


The collection is arranged into the following sections:

Corporate records (including family records); Site and plant records; Financial and accounting records; Production records; Staff records; Promotional and advertising records; Miscellaneous records.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is catalogued and open for research,with the exception of some staff records deposited by Prince's Ltd in February 2013.

For information on visiting the archive please see Location and Opening Hours on our Website, which also gives information about reader tickets and using the search room.

Acquisition Information

The collection is composed of records deposited by or on behalf of the Company and records presented by individuals, from November 1995 - August 2012.


In February 2013, Prince's Ltd deposited a significant number of records (reference Acc 16974). This accession includes: a series of annual accounts (including accounts for other businesses which Shippam’s acquired), promotional material, sales analysis, recipe books, deeds of various properties and some associated building plans and rating information, material about the Shippam’s bicentenary, records of Shippam’s Cricket Club and the Horticultural Society, ledgers, miscellaneous minutes and correspondence and staff files. It provides a further 57 boxes of records and some loose items.

The material was sorted and arranged by Nichola Court and Katherine Slay in February 2013. A rough box list was produced and catalogue numbers have been allocated (although these may be subject to change). An updated catalogue structure was also drawn up, reflecting the new material which was received (this can be found in the accession file).

With the exception of the staff files, the material is accessible and a copy of the box list can be found at the rear of the Shippam’s catalogue (hard copy only). Please note that the box list is rough and not particularly detailed, and includes a number of abbreviations (for example, co = correspondence, a/cs = accounts, ag=agreement). Researchers wishing to access any of the material should list the allocated number and brief details of the item on a production slip, and also note the box number.

Researchers should also note that the staff files are only accessible to the individual member of staff to whom the file pertains, or with the written permission of the individual member of staff. Where the individual is deceased, access may be permitted, depending on the content of the file and the nature of the access request. A list of the files has been made and is kept in the accession file; if you wish to find out whether or not a staff file exists, or to access a staff file, please contact West Sussex Record Office for assistance.

Other Finding Aids

The full collection catalogue can be viewed using West Sussex Record Office's Search Online facility. A hard copy catalogue is available in West Sussex Record Office's searchroom.

Archivist's Note

The bulk of the collection was organised and catalogued by Nichola Court in December 2007.

Appraisal Information

All records deposited with or donated to West Sussex Record Office have been retained.


Further accessions possible.

Related Material

As well as those in the collection, various other records relating to Shippam's and the Shippam family have been deposited at or donated to West Sussex Record Office; for the most part, these have been catalogued in either the Additional Manuscripts or Miscellaneous Papers collections. Items can be found using the card index systems available in the searchroom, or by searching the Record Office's catalogue online, via its website. The most notable items include: interviews with six former employees, recorded by students from University College, Chichester, in 2001 (OH 295-300); five volumes of letters written by employees to Mr A. E. C. Shippam during World War One (Add Ms 1606); "A History of Shippam's of Chichester", by Douglas Callan (MP 4065); and a glass plate negative of the Shippam's football team, 1935 (Garland N10640). A collection of Shippam's films has been deposited with Screen Archive South East; this includes advertisements (both animated and live action) made in the 1950s for television and cinema, and two longer, promotional films, "Ancient and Modern" (1930s) and "A Family Tradition" (1954). Viewing copies are available from Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton, Sussex and West Sussex Record Office: requests for access should be directed to the Archive's offices, either at the University of Brighton, or at West Sussex Record Office. Chichester District Museum also holds a substantial collection of material, which includes artefacts, machinery, photographs and documents. A list of the items in the Museum's collection, dated 1986, can be found at West Sussex Record Office (MP 2741).

Personal Names

Corporate Names

Geographical Names