A lasting legacy from the ‘Honey Monster’ factory: the Quaker Oats Limited archives and artefact collection

 

Background

In 2016 the historic 1930s ‘Honey Monster’ factory site in Southall, Ealing, London closed and was sold with contents to developers in April 2017.

Developers were set to demolish the factory and create just under 2,000 homes in 2020.

A heritage consultant, hired by site developers to assess the factory prior to demolition, contacted the Crisis Management Team (CMT) about records in the factory in Autumn 2019. The building was derelict and unsecure, placing material at risk from poor environmental conditions and theft.

A discussion was had between regional, local and specialist archives to decide where the archive could be deposited, and an onsite survey was carried out across multiple floors, rooms and cabinets by the CMT and archivist with the assistance of the Heritage Consultant to decide which records and artefacts to retain as part of the collection.

A decision was reached in February 2020 to transfer collection to Gunnersbury Park Museum which collects archives and artefacts relating to Ealing and Hounslow.

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Lessons Learnt

  • A successful case where heritage material of well-known and much-loved food brands, including sugar puffs, with high research value was rescued from destruction. The collection includes examples of cereal packaging from the 1950s through to the 1990s, ledgers from the wartime period, international patents of Quaker Oats products and even the Honey Monster’s foot!
  • Heritage consultants and archive professionals played a key role in recognising the artefacts’ and records’ historic value where original owners could not:
    • Significant as there is no legal requirement to keep business records long-term as archives
    • The original owner and creator of the records and artefacts, Quaker Oats, did not require the records; the developer was focused on the demolition and building work deadlines
  • Timely notification of the existence of the records ensured that the CMT and repositories including Gunnersbury Park Museum’s Archives had enough time to survey the items at the factory and arrange for them to be transferred to an archive
  • Example of local authority and specialist archives collaborating to reach best possible local solution which suited a mixed archive/artefact collection
  • Positive outcome for Gunnersbury Park Museum’s Archive to receive such a fascinating and sizeable collection just 18 months after reopening following a four- year closure for Heritage Lottery Funded renovations
  • Case highlights the value users of archives such as heritage consultants play in notifying repositories about risks to historic material; and the necessity of individuals with confidence in sound archival practice in a crisis in promoting preservation of the memory of a much-loved household food brand

 

Special thanks to case study author Stephanie Chiang, BAC volunteer, and to Gunnersbury Park Museum.