Sandow’s Cocoa Factory
Details of Sandow’s ill-fated cocoa factory are well documented in David Chapman’s superb book ‘Sandow the Magnificent’
Sandow originally opened a cocoa factory in the New Kent Road in South East London in 1911. The available photographs of the cocoa tins show ‘Elephant & Castle’ as the address and indeed the New Kent Road terminates at the Elephant. As I live near to this area I will be making further enquiries with Southwark’s archives and historical department to attempt to find its exact location.
In 1913 Sandow opened a new factory in Hayes in Middlesex (not Hayes, Kent as the book says). The company was seen as a threat by the other big chocolate manufacturers – Cadburys, Rowntrees etc. – who lowered their prices and forced Sandow out of the market.
The Sandow Cocoa Company went into liquidation and the building & assets passed to the Hayes Cocoa Company on 29th August 1916.
Hayes Cocoa was owned by Peter, Cailler, Kohler, a very large Swiss chocolate company (Daniel Peter was the man who invented Milk Chocolate in 1875 having discovered how to mix sweetened condensed milk with cocoa powder). Both Peter & Henri Nestlé came from Vevey in Switzerland and in fact Peter, Cailler, Kohler bought their milk from Nestlés for over 30 years.
In 1929 Nestlé bought out Peter, Cailler, Kohler and the factory came under their control. Sandow Avenue, the road that led to the factory, was eventually renamed Nestlé Avenue and all that now remains to remind anyone of the origins is a small cul-de-sac off Nestlé Avenue called Sandow Crescent. No doubt there are not many of the residents who have any idea why it is so named!
I had the privilege of visiting the Nestlé factory in December 2001. The site has been developed out of all recognition since the Sandow factory was erected. As the years progressed new buildings were added to the original.
The photograph shown here, unfortunately rather blurred, was taken in the late 40s / early 50s and was taken from across the Grand Union Canal which bounds one side of the site. The smaller building and the chimney formed the boiler house and the 4-storey block was the factory itself. Sometime in the 50s the boiler house, chimney and most of the building were demolished. All that remains now is a large section of vaulted brick ceiling on one of the upper floors.
Nestlés have maintained a very interesting museum on their site. Naturally it contains much more about themselves and the companies that they have acquired over the years than material relating to Sandow. In fact there is very little about Sandow there and Nestlé and the museum archivist still remain rather curious about him.
In the corridor leading to the museum are a series of murals painted fairly recently by one of their employees. One of these is an excellent likeness of Sandow holding a weight. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take a photograph of it.
Apart from a small amount of transcribed documentation about the takeover in 1916 all they have in the Museum is a boxed set of Sandow dumbbells (my first ever chance to give one a squeeze and a lift) and a relatively modern (60s possibly) life-size cut-out of Sandow with a large dumbbell in one hand and his other hand lifted up high with a cut out slot. I asked if this was for one of the ‘real’ dumbbells but was told that he was designed to hold a large Milky Bar chocolate block. I thought this pretty ignominious at first but really there is not much difference between that and a tin of cocoa!
This cut-out was first discovered in a cupboard with his left foot standing on a block of what looked like a piece of old gravestone. The museum curator did not have this at hand but told me he thought it was possibly part of Sandow’s Grave. Unfortunately the dates do not make sense here. Sandow lost the factory in 1916 and died in 1925. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in South West London. Hayes is North West London a mile or so from London’s Heathrow Airport and I cannot see any possible reason why the stone should be from his grave. Anyway, as we all know, his grave was unmarked (or was it!)
Grateful thanks go to Catherine
Hunter for organising the visit to the Nestlé Museum and site of the
Sandow Cocoa Factory and for her continued enthusiasm in helping make the Sandow Plus Website
what it is today.
This site and all its contents Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 Roger Fillary & Gil Waldron