The Shippam's business first started in in 1750, when the Shippam family began trading as wholesale provision merchants, procuring goods from markets in Somerset and Devon for sale locally, in Chichester. In 1786, Charles Shippam established a grocery store in Westgate, Chichester and various members of his family 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 - George, Charles, Alfred, Walter and Frank, 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. A new factory was built (by Wilfrid Shippam, the youngest of Charles' sons) at East Walls in 1912, with major expansions made to the site in 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 and CNG (Jim) Shippam became Chairman. Underwood's was bought out in 1984 and Shippam's became part of the International Group of Pet Incorporated, which itself was part of a US conglomerate called IC Industries. In 1995 Pillsbury, which was a US subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan, a major UK food and drinks company, bought Pet, which lead in 1996 to the retirement of CNG (Jim) Shippam, thus ending the family's connection with the business.
In 1997 Grand Metropolitan sold Shippam's to Beta Foods Ltd, a venture capital company, but retained the Old El Paso range. Beta Foods was bought by Prince's Foods in 2001 and in 2002, all of the activities at the East Walls site were moved to a new factory on Terminus Road in Chichester. In 2006 the East Walls site was redeveloped to provide a number of retail units and apartments but the factory's façade and distinctive, much-loved clock remain for all to see.