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Wilson & Co Building
North End, East London, Eastern Cape

John Wilford Hilbert FARROW: Architect

Type:Factory and Offices
Street:St. Paul's Road, cor Kensington Rd


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33°00'33.07" S 27°53'59.90" E Alt: 69m

(Farrow's FRIBA nomination papers)

The building now forms part of the Nestle factory precinct.

The firm of Wilson and Company was founded circa 1890 by James A Wilson who began making boiled sweets in a house on the site that the present premises now occupy. He was eventually joined by his brother Robert from Scotland. The company amalgamated with Rowntree and Company of York in England in 1926, so increasing its range, but kept he original name until 1957 when it became Wilson-Rowntree (Pty) Ltd.

The Rowntree family is significant in the history of sociology and town planning through the study of poverty in York by Seebohm Rowntree. His findings published in 1901 did much to improve labour conditions and an estate was developed by the company at New Earswick, York, along "Green Village" lines.

The façade of the original "Head Office" building in St Pauls Road makes use of a simple pediment and festooning in an almost classical way. As neighbouring properties have become available over the years, their acquisition has enabled the factory facilities to expand in tandem with marketplace requirements and consequently the "Wilsons" factory buildings now spread over some 14 acres of the North End area.

With the current merger of the Rowntree Group into the Nestle empire, even further changes over the years are inevitable, but it will be a long time (if ever) before the factory is referred to by East Londoners as anything but "Wilsons".

Ref: Watson, J. The Urban Trail - A walk through the Urban Heritage of East London's Central Business District and older suburbs. 1989: p 102.

Submitted by William MARTINSON.


From South African Who's Who 1926 (see right)

WILSON & COMPANY, LIMITED, Manufacturers of Confectionery and Chocolates, EAST LONDON. P.O. Box 140. 'Phones 125 and 550. Tel. Add. : " Mixtures.'' Codes : A.B.C. 5th Ed., Berkley's, Lieber's.

BRANCH : DURBAN. P.O. Box 134. 'Phone 812. Tel. Add. : " Mixtures."

This business was established some 35 years ago, and since its inception has had a record of unbroken progress. In its early days industries in South Africa were in their infancy, and the business was then on a very different scale to that of the large concern of the present day.

From time to time new departments have been added, new buildings erected, and more modern machinery and appliances acquired, until from small beginnings the business has developed into the large and well-known industrial undertaking of to-day.

The Company manufactures an immense variety of Sweets of every description, and the name of WILSON is known throughout the length and breadth of South Africa as representing the highest standard of excellence in Confectionery.

The latest development has been the entry of the Company into the Chocolate trade. A large new building, equipped with the most up-to-date machinery and appliances for the production of Chocolates of the highest class, has been erected to meet the requirements of this branch of the business, and the Company's Chocolates are already well-known and highly esteemed throughout the country.

The Company's claim is that they produce, both in Chocolates and general Confectionery, articles which, alike in quality and attractiveness of package, will bear comparison with the best lines of imported goods.

The Company has a large number of employees, and is represented by travellers and agents in every part of the sub-continent. Its products find their way not only into every part of the Union, but into the adjoining territories of Rhodesia, South-West Africa, and Portuguese East Africa, as well as to the East African territories of Kenya and Tanganyika, while an export trade to Madagascar and Mauritius has also been developed.

In Great Britain the Company's buying interests are in the hands of Messrs. David Air & Co., Dundee.

Ref: Donaldson, K. (Ed.) South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1925-1926. Ken Donaldson, Cape Town 1926: pg 631

(Submitted by William MARTINSON)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.