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.