A Sweet History

The colourful industrial history of the area is evident all around, and the backdrop to our neighbourhood holds many secrets and stories.

A hub of industrial activity in the early 19th century with paint manufacturers, rubber manufacturers, spectacle makers, tobacco pipe makers, to name a few, all contributed in making this location a very important area during the industrial revolution and in establishing Britain as a well-respected producer of goods and machinery. These local craftsman made the area their home with land and buildings known to be more affordable and their goods and wares traded in the ports of London via barges chugging East onto the banks of the River Lea.

As well as the manufacture of shoes, glasses and cabinets the area was home to the famous Clarnico Sweet Factory. Clarnico was the largest sugar confectioner in the UK up until the factory closed in 1973.

Originally a Shoreditch confectioner, they moved to Hackney Wick in 1879. At the beginning of this enterprise they made candied peel, progressing to marmalade, jams and sweets. The trading name was formed from the surnames of Clarke, Nicholls and Coombes and they were a forward thinking, progressive employer towards their staff.

At the height of their success in 1899 they employed 2,000 people at their production and manufacturing sweet and box making enterprise.

The growth of the sugar beet industry and the subsequent reduction in sugar costs, allowed Clarnico to experience rapid growth.

As their business grew, they even devised a profit share scheme for all of the hard working employees. Before Corporate Social Responsibility was even recognised, they acquired a Convalescence home for their staff in Clacton. They formed social clubs, a choral society and a brass band that toured abroad and by the 1900’s they even had their own ambulances and fire brigade!

Given the incentive to work harder and be rewarded for their commitment and dedication to the company, the Clarnico workforce were an extended family. The lines between work life and social life were merged – yes – it was still a hard life, but it was a fair one if you worked for Clarnico and in return, employees respected their employers.

The confectionary market had become stagnant by the 70s and larger rivals had emerged. Clarnico was sold to Trebor in 1969.

Although the physical presence of Clarnico is gone, East Wick + Sweetwater is proudly carrying the legacy of such a rich heritage in our name, ‘Sweetwater’, and through our cafe and events space, Clarnico Club, an homage to the inclusive and many social clubs provided by Clarke, Nicholls and Coombes.