Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 20, 2019
Webpage updated: September 20, 2019




Although the Plymouth business house of Messrs R C Serpell and Company, corn millers and biscuit manufacturers, was founded in in 1868, its history goes back much further.

Robert Coad Serpell was born in the Liskeard area on March 14th 1816.  When he finished his schooling he was apprenticed to Mr Melhuish, a grocer in Drake Street, Plymouth.  Two other apprentices with him were to also achieve local success, Mr Eldred Roberts Brown (1809-1885) and Mr Joseph Wills (1804-1872), who went on to found Messrs Brown, Wills and Nicholson Limited.  When young Robert had completed his apprenticeship he joined the British AND Irish Sugar Company in Mill Street.  He was later appointed as their traveller in Cornwall.

At some time early in or prior to 1851 Mr George Frean and his son, Mr George Hender Frean, of Drake's Mill and Mr George Daw of Marsh Mills formed a partnership.  The Freans had bought the former Admiralty Victualling Office's bakery down on the Barbican in the 1830s when the Royal William Victualling Yard was opened and they were manufacturing ship's biscuits there.

Mr George Frean senior left the partnership on December 31st 1851 and soon after that Mr Robert Serpell joined that business, which thus became Messrs Frean, Daw and Serpell.

On June 30th 1857 that partnership was dissolved when Mr George Hender Frean moved to Bermondsey, London, where he and Mr James Peek began their own biscuit manufacturing business.  Now the business was Messrs Daw and Serpell.

Following the deaths of 75-years-old Mr George Frean at 12 Endsleigh Place, Plymouth, on Friday September 4th 1868 and Mr George Daw at 6 St James's Terrace, Plymouth, on Friday November 13th 1868 at the age of 63 years, the business name was changed to Messrs R C Serpell and Company, although Mr Daw's son, Mr Richard Harvey Daw.

Their premises were destroyed by fire in 1869 but were rebuilt on an improved design.

In 1871 he was joined by Mr William Babb, an accountant born at Devonport.  There is no evidence that Mr Babb became a partner and by 1891 he was in soap manufacturing rather than biscuit baking.

He retired from the milling side of the business on December 30th 1882, which was continued by Mr Richard Harvey Daw.

Mr Robert Coad Serpell died just after speaking at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on the afternoon of Monday October 25th 1886.  He expired with the words: 'It's all over; if it be through Thee, Lord Jesus, praise be Thy name. Amen.'

Robert's son, Mr Henry Oberlin Serpell changed the name of the business to Messrs H O Serpell and Company before removing the biscuit manufacturing to Reading, in Berkshire, in 1899, taking his staff with him.  Both are buried in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth.