OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 18, 2019
Webpage updated: September 18, 2019

        

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H MATTHEWS AND SONS LIMITED

Henry Matthews was born at Chudleigh, Devon, on October 21st 1821.  He was the youngest of six children and his father was a baker.

The young Henry followed the same trade as his father but he was more adventurous and ambitious so in 1841 he left Chudleigh and walked to London to seek his fortune.  How he fared we do not know but he returned to Chudleigh to assist his father and then went back to London again.

Mr Henry Matthews married Miss Eliza Cosway Rugg in Chelsea, Middlesex, in 1845.

The couple came to Devon and took over the confectionary business of Mr Daniel Copp, in High Street, Plymouth, when he died in 1847.  This he continued to run, baking bread as well, with the assistance of one young boy.

At the time of the census in 1851 he and Eliza were living at number 43 High Street, which is presumably the property into which they moved in 1847.  They had two children, Miss Phoebe Eliza Matthews and Master John Rugg Matthews, both of whom had been born in Plymouth in 1848 and 1849 respectively.  Business had evidently increased by then as also living with them were a 20-years-old journeyman baker by the name of Mr Joseph Stribling and two apprentices, Walter Robins, 18, and William Whidbourne, 16.  The household was completed by a house servant, 22-years-old Miss Jane Morgan.

During the 1860s High Street was renumbered and number 43 became number 67.

At around the same time Mr Matthews purchased number 67 High Street and set about building a new bakehouse on the site, fitted with all the latest equipment.

By 1878 he was occupying number 11 Bedford Street, which, along with number 12 acquired later, he rebuilt.  These premises housed his restaurant and a retail shop.  And by 1890 he had another retail shop at number 27 Glanville Street.

In 1895 he was advertising Table d'Hote lunches from 1 to 4pm for 2s 6d, including Sundays, and soups, fish, cold meats, entrees and chops and steaks from the grill.  By then he was employing some 100 people at his bakery, confectionery and preserve works in Palace Street plus many more at the restaurant in Bedford Street.

During 1897 he acquired the Old Sugar Refinery in Mill Street.

Christmas 1897 saw him advertising 'All those who wish to send their friends abroad one of Matthews's celebrated plum puddings should give their orders at once ... '.  A 2lb pudding sent to Gibraltar cost 3s 3d pr one could be sent to China for 3s 10d.  The same sent to Australia or New Zealand would cost 4 shillings.  Larger sizes were available up to 7lbs, which cost 11s 8d to Australia and New Zealand or 13 5d to Cape Town and Natal.

The following glowing description of Mr Matthews' business, published in "Industries of the South Coast and West of England" in 1891, is worthy of being quoted in full:

‘Prominent among the representative business men of Plymouth stands Mr H Matthews of High Street and Bedford Street, who has achieved renown both as a restaurateur and as a manufacturer of jams and confectionery.  The bakehouse adjoining the confectionery works is famous in Plymouth and district for its high-class output in bread and (cakes) of all descriptions.  This bakehouse is equipped with the most (efficient) appliances known in the trade.  Mr Matthews’ fame as a public (figure) needs no indication in these pages, for his restaurant at 11 and 12 Bedford Street, close to the new Guildhall, is one of the leading gastronomic institutions of Plymouth.  The notable feature of this well-appointed, commodious, and conveniently situated establishment is the daily table d’hôte, served at separate tables at the moderate price of two shillings and sixpence, and affording a varied and excellent menu, the high-class character of which is admirably maintained.  Luncheons, dinners, etc., are also served in faultless style à la carte, and the restaurant is noted equally for the choice quality of its viands.  The kitchens are s splendidly equipped and most capably supervised, and the whole establishment is one of which its enterprising and experienced proprietor may well be proud.  Mr Matthews has fully earned the success he has achieved in every department of this thriving business, and he deservedly enjoys the support and confidence of a large and influential connection.  It is nearly half a century since Mr Matthews started his important fruit-preserving and confectionery making works in High Street, and during that period he has developed an establishment which is one of the best-organised factories of the kind we have ever seen and which has, moreover, gained a distinguished reputation for the perfect purity and fine quality of its productions.  Mr Matthews spares no effort to maintain such a creditable celebrity, and in this notable department of his business he controls an exceedingly large trade, with wide-spread and influential connections.  He makes every description of jams, marmalades, etc., using the finest fruits and the best refined sugar, and carrying on all the processes of manufacture under conditions which cannot fail to ensure continuously satisfactory results.  The confectionery department is also a very important feature, and embraces the production of a large variety of boiled sugar goods, pastilles, jujubes, lozenges, creams, etc., of the best quality.  The firm’s chocolate dessert squares have been a highly successful speciality.'

Mrs Eliza Cosway Matthews died in 1903, at the age of 81 years.

Mr Henry Matthews passed away at his home, Warwick Park, Honicknowle, on Wednesday February 24th 1909.  He was 87 years of age.

On Friday February 26th 1909 he was buried at Saint Budeaux Parish Church, at which he was a regular attendant, in the same grave as his late wife.  Among those present at the ceremony was Councillor Solomon Stephens, who represented the National Association of Bakers and Confectioners of Great Britain and Ireland.

In appears that the Matthews brothers retired during the early 1930s and as they were both unmarried there were no heirs to the business.  Their bakery premises in Mill Street was taken over by rival Messrs C A and W Goodbody Limited, trading as a separate business, Messrs Goodbody-Matthews Limited.

Mr Charles Thomas Matthews died on May 12th 1941 at the age of 87 years.

Mr Alfred Francis Matthews, the last surviving son of the founder of the business, died on January 6th 1947.  He was 90 years of age.  The funeral was held at Tamerton Foliot Parish Church on January 9th 1947.