THE INFLUENCE OF GERMAN REFINERS !! (Pt. I)
Extract from
"Essay on Sugar, ..." - Robert Niccol - 1864.
Written by Ian Rathjen.


Ian Rathjen writes .....
The Watt Library(1) in Greenock houses in its intriguing Victorian Gothic building a
veritable goldmine of local archive material. The section on the sugar industry contains no
volume more fascinating than Robert Niccol's Essay on Sugar published in 1864(2).
Writing at a time when "modern" methods and machinery were fast ousting the old
traditional and often secret methods of refining Mr. Niccol sets out to instruct on every
aspect of the industry. His technical descriptions and diagrams fill most of the book but, in
a commendably thorough way, he prefaces all the technical explanations with a full and
extensively researched description of the state of the industry on Clydeside. After a
history of the refineries, he then launches into an astonishing attack on the influence of
the German refiners. The following continuous extract is taken from pages 23 to 25 of the
book.


"Some 50 refineries, as already remarked, existed in England in 1688. At the present time
(1863) there are probably not fewer than 70 of such establishments at work in England,
and 20 in Scotland, making a total of 90 sugarhouses in Britain at the present day. Now,
these 90 refineries, exclusively of their working stock of sugar, and reckoning each at
£20,000 of an invested capital, represent the enormous sum of £1,800,000. It may be
supposed that these 90 refining works combined, will (according to the present mode of
working), use in the course of a year of 48 working weeks(3) somewhere about 560,000
to 565,000 tons of raw sugar, which, having undergone the refining process, will be found
to produce from 475,000 to 480,000 tons refined and crushed sugars, exclusively of
golden syrup and treacle, making every allowance for waste, &c., in working. The refining
of sugar, then, it is evident, constitutes rather a distinguished and important branch of
British manufacture. The art of the refiner seems to have been long practised in this
country. According to Stowe, as previously shown, we had sugar refining among us about
the year 1544. Other writers, however, assert that the art of refining sugar was not
introduced into England until 1659, while others again make it appear to have been
introduced into this country but a few years earlier than the date last mentioned, viz., in
1653, 1655, and 1656, which are the respective dates given for its introduction into
England. England having, as we learn, obtained raw sugar from her own colonies about
the middle of the 17th century, expressed an anxious desire to engage in the refining
trade, but could not, at that period, find any in her dominions competent to carry out her
scheme. The refining business being, however, at that time, extensively prosecuted in the
Hanseatic towns and in Holland, by the Germans and the Dutch respectively, the former
resolved to come to this country to carry out the designs and intentions of the English.
They are said to have commenced operations in London in 1659, the entire management
of English refineries being entrusted into the hands of these foreigners, under whom, in
every sense of the term, the British refiner was an absolute slave.(4)

The Germans were only to be treated with on certain conditions which, as is reasonable to
suppose, were only favourable to themselves, but rather the reverse on the part of their
employers, who, having no alternative, were thus obliged to submit to their terms of
engagement. The terms entered into between the boiler or practical manager and his
employer were, in those days and indeed until a comparatively recent date, in most cases
as follows: - Exclusively of a stated salary of some £200 to £300 a-year (more or less,
according to the size of the work and other circumstances), and a per-centage of the
profits of the refiner's business, a free house (the tax burdens on which were paid by the
refiner), with other perquisites : a period of engagement from one to three years (more or
less as the case might be), as also the exclusive right of employing and dismissing
workmen at pleasure. In the event of a change in the management of the refiner's
business, a three month's notice of warning was demanded and obtained by the manager
from the refiner : or, in the case of an immediate dismissal, the latter party had the
alternative of paying the former a sum corresponding to three months' salary, three
months' house rent, &c., &c. In some cases also the refiner was obliged to take stock of
his business and pay over to the manager his per-centage of the profits. Such an
engagement was evidently a favourable one on the part of the manager, who was
cautious, or rather was cunning and crafty enough to have his own ends served at his
employer's expense. The manager had, of course, nothing to lose by the bargain, all
being, on his part, clear and positive gain : but the engagement was certainly not so very
favourable on the part of the refiner, verifying the old Scotch proverbs, "It is hard to take
the breeches off a Highlandman, who only wears kilts", and, "He required to pay the piper,
while others were allowed to dance for their own amusement." But such engagements are
indeed, very seldom, if ever, entered into now-a-days, the refiner of the present day being
too much alive to the impositions practised by the Germans in former times, who are now,
however, employed in only a few of our refineries.

The writer would just remark, in passing, that the Germans who have come to this country
from time to time in the capacity of sugar bakers, as they style themselves, have never
been known to be accompanied from the Hanseatic towns by their wives and families; but
invariably married those of the fair sex belonging to this country, many of whom, in the
event of their husbands being obliged to return to their own country, were, with their
families, left in a state of abject poverty and wretchedness to become a burden upon our
parochial and charitable institutions. This is, in some degree, confirmed by Mr Edwards
(author of a history of the West Indies, published in 1793), who observes :- "There are
few operations more simple, or which require a less expensive apparatus, than that of
refining sugar." He speaks also of "a class of foreigners" (evidently Germans) "employed
in English refineries, who live in the most frugal and sparing manner in England, and then
return with their savings to their own country." It has likewise been frequently remarked by
our countrymen that those foreigners come here in the state of half-clad and half-starved
peasants, and after remaining but a short time in this country and working in the refineries
here, they soon become more like princes.(5) Some of them have, through their
fascinations, even been received into partnership with their employers and not a few of
them are now proprietors or part owners of English refineries.

To the Germans, no doubt, Britain is indebted for the art of refining sugar : but chiefly to
her own citizens is she indebted for any improvements that have been introduced in
connection with the refining process. The Germans, to speak of them generally, possess
many good and amiable qualities : they are for the most part ingenious, industrious and
intelligent. But this opinion must be somewhat modified in speaking of that class of them
connected with the process of sugar refining in this country, who, with but few exceptions,
have proved themselves to be rather illiterate, selfish, and indeed treacherous towards
our countrymen, as we shall probably have occasion to show. They, too, in many cases, it
must be admitted, assumed a position in our refineries which, in fact, they were quite
unjustified in occupying. They pretended (from prejudice no doubt) that it was an absolute
impossibility for those of this country to become practical sugar refiners, or even to attain
to anything like a comprehensive or practical view of the refining process. They likewise
held, on the other hand, that their countrymen or those in any way connected by blood-
relationship to Germans (who, it may be, had never previously seen a sugarhouse) were
quite competent to conduct the whole sugar refining process in the various departments.
Their success in imposing upon the refiners of this country may be inferred from the
exorbitant salaries and perquisites they received under the guise of such pretensions,
and, perhaps, more so, from the honour and respect, or rather the homage and
reverence, claimed by and paid to those foreigners alike on the part of master and
workmen.

We may here remark for the reader's information that, from the period of the first
introduction of sugar refining into Britain, up till within the last 25 years or so, it was of
necessity the custom for the sugar refiner of this country to entrust the sole and entire
management of his refinery to Germans, to the utter exclusion of all others; and that too
for this very obvious and simple reason, viz., that those of this country at that time knew
little or nothing of the refining process. The Germans of this class and of those days, for
the protection of their profession - for sugar refining can scarcely be called a trade - were
members of a GERMAN SUGAR BAKER'S SOCIETY, whose head-quarters were in
London, but which is now almost, if not altogether, broken up : and those unconnected
with this society were, of course, refused work in a sugarhouse. The Germans were thus
enabled to keep the business in their own hands, and under their own control, more
especially the leading branches of the process : and if at any time those of this country
were fortunate enough to gain access to work as common labourers in a sugarhouse, it
was only on condition that they would comply with the rules of, and pay the fees imposed
by the above society, being also solemnly sworn by oath that they would reveal the
secrets of the trade to none; otherwise they were rejected. Germans, of course, always
filled the first situations in the refineries in those days, and were very jealous of their
honour, requiring that they should be called, "Master": but they were but blind guides all
the while, straining at gnats and swallowing camels. They also imposed burdens upon the
shoulders of our countrymen (who in a few instances were fortunate enough to get
working with them as common labourers) which they themselves were, indeed, unable to
bear. The Germans, so to speak, kept the proofstick a sealed book; and to all others than
Germans or their descendants it remained so. They, in short, locked up the door to the
knowledge of the sugar refining trade in this country, taking with them the key : they
entered not in themselves (in so far as improvements in the refining process were
concerned), and those of our countrymen that were entering in, they hindered. To give an
illustration of this; were a common workman belonging to this country to show the least
indication of being an intelligent man and of an uptaking disposition in regard to matters
connected with the sugarhouse, he was at once dismissed from the work by the manager,
and in his stead was employed one who, to all appearance, was of the most unlearned
and illiterate character, who also, in due course, were he to manifest signs like those of
his predecessor, shared of course the same fate. Now, in those days, the proprietor of the
refinery was himself hardly permitted to enter his own work, and if he were he was on no
account allowed access to the boiling and filtering apartments, which were all enclosed or
boxed in, and kept constantly shut under lock and key : so that the proprietor of the
establishment may indeed be said to have been the willing slave of those foreigners, as
he knew nothing of his property from the time it entered the sugarhouse till its exit
therefrom. Failures in the refining trade were in those days, as may reasonably be
imagined, of very frequent occurrence. These were chiefly owing to mismanagement,
arising partly from inattention to duty, but, in not a few instances, were brought about by
pure intention on the part of the Germans, whose interest it then was to keep all others in
total ignorance with regard to the working department of the business : consequently no
proper check could be kept over them as regards their misconduct or mismanagement. It
follows therefore as a consequence, that even the proprietor of the refinery in which his
capital was invested, was himself kept in gross darkness as to his business, being entirely
controlled by, and at the mercy of these foreigners as to its success, and who could at
any time prove his ruin.

The author thinks it but justice to expose the impositions practised by the Germans in
former times, which have at length, however, been discovered, and which many of our
countrymen have contributed in no small degree to bring to light. Recent circumstances
and events have also established the fact that German impositions will not do now-a-days
in this country. Such proceedings were, it is evident, practised from jealousy, and were,
indeed, worthy of the highest censure, the Germans supposing, no doubt, that our
countrymen were prying rather inquisitively into the secrets of their profession, with the
view probably of securing to themselves at a future period, the entire monopoly of the
refining trade in this country : and in forming this notion they were, it is true, tolerably
correct. To the general reader such impositions and pretensions will, doubtless, appear
absurd in the highest degree; but such has actually been the case - the Germans
pretending at least, if not believing, it impossible that the art of refining sugar could be
prosecuted by others than Germans or their descendants. They concluded, as we have
said, that we in this country were a class of unlearned and illiterate characters, unable
even in the least degree to comprehend the principles of the art of refining sugar : but in
arriving at such a conclusion the Germans were obviously grossly mistaken, as we
purpose shortly to show. Their designs, which, no doubt, flourished for a time, have,
however, at length been detected, and the German profession of SUGAR BAKERS in this
country outwitted, through the energetic exertions of our countrymen and those of other
continental nations, who, having received, as it were, an inkling of the old process of
refining, speedily set about the adoption of improvements, in which they have, in most
instances, been crowned with every possible success : and which, ever since have
gradually extended to the no small astonishment, as certainly it proved the complete and
final overthrow, of the Germans engaged in this line of business in this country.

Under the above circumstances it will at once appear obvious to the reader that very little,
if indeed any, improvement could have been made in the process of sugar refining, or in
the manner of conducting it, either as regards the machinery and utensils employed in the
process, or as regards their mode of application in working. Improvements in this respect
must, therefore, be considered to have been at that period next to an impossibility, in
consequence of the prejudice which then existed (and to some extent still exists) amongst
the Germans of this class, who were then, as we have remarked, entrusted with the sole
and entire management of sugar refineries in this country, and who from selfish interest
condemned as being altogether unworthy of notice, all inventions of whatever class
relating to the process of sugar refining, whether such inventions were in themselves
meritorious or otherwise, unless they were (according to their ignorant and selfish notion)
introduced by their own countrymen and class, and had been previously adopted in
German refineries; all inventions, if introduced by those of this country being, with their
inventors, most contemptuously ignored by the German sugar bakers of those days. It is
now 50 years since Mr Howard took out his first patent in connection with the process of
sugar refining : but, like many other improvements in this line of business, it made its way
but slowly into favour among refiners. We can scarcely be surprised at this : for in the
present instance, the "German Sugar Bakers," who, as we have said, had the sole
management of English refineries at that time, were the principal objectors to the
introduction of improvements or novelties by our countrymen, as may very reasonably be
inferred from what we have already stated. They accordingly (from self interest) advised
their employers to have nothing whatever to do with inventions connected with sugar
refining, unless these were introduced by Germans, as if the refiner had lost his reason,
or had no common judgment to guide him in matters connected with his own business.
The refiner, at the period of which we speak, was entirely guided, and, alas! in too many
instances, often misled with regard to his business, by his taking incautiously the ruinous
advice of those ignorant foreigners - for in most cases the term "ignorant" truly represents
their character - who could, as we have said, at any time, if an opportunity presented
itself, prove his ruin, which, in not a few instances, they did from pure intention when
matters went against them, as experience can doubtless testify - verifying the old Scotch
proverb, "Cocks and hens make free with horses' corn." Alas! that British refiners should
have been so long deceived by such nonsense. But the fact is, a great many have
already been deceived by it to their cost. These tricks were practised with such art and
imposing earnestness, as also with such unblushing impudence, that many refiners have
been deceived, and in fact, ruined by those foreigners. Their very plausible
representations seldom if ever failed of success to secure their object, their treacherous
designs having, alas! been too successfully practised on the British refiner. And what
shall the writer say more on this point! For time would fail him to speak of one half of their
impositions by which, on all hands, the British refiner was in by-gone-days assailed with
every possible success. The Germans, acting by such sophistry, no doubt secured their
object at the refiner's expense, and evidently displayed great tact of jealousy and
selfishness : they, as it were, placed their candle, not certainly on a candlestick to allow
the light to shine forth that their deeds might be made manifest, but under a bushel, so to
speak with the view of keeping those of our country who were with them in the (sugar)
house in total darkness.

To this day indeed, many German sugar bakers (as they style themselves) work in the
refineries of London and other English towns where sugar refining is prosecuted : they
are, however, very much on the decline in England, and in the refining towns of Scotland
are now scarcely tolerated, except in a few refineries where the boiler or manager
happens to be one of their countrymen : but such cases are rare now-a-days, their places
having become occupied by our countrymen who are now, it would seem, considered the
first (practical) refiners of the day. How different, indeed, compared with the above state
of things, is sugar refining now-a-days, when every refiner is, or may become, master of
his business, in the highest acceptation of the term, and the German government (as we
shall here term it) entirely overthrown. Alas! for the poor Germans, who have thus been
robbed of their kingly power; their impositions which, alas! had been too long and
successfully practised by them to the refiner's loss in by-gone days, and kept by them
undiscovered and buried in secrecy, being now fully brought to light.

In the days of German rule - but, thanks to our countrymen and others, those days are
now at an end - granting full permission had been given to a party to learn the working
department of the refining business in all its branches, and granting full instruction and
insight had been given him by the Germans, it would, it is said, have taken him several
years to finish his apprenticeship, so to speak, or before he could have acquired anything
like a knowledge of the business even in a very limited degree, the party being, at the
same time, put to considerable inconvenience and expense, besides becoming, for the
greater part of the time, the slavish drudge of those selfish foreigners, heavy fees also
being imposed on such persons by the GERMAN SUGAR BAKERS' SOCIETY. But how
different is the case at present, when anyone wishing to learn the business may readily do
so on receiving the refiner's sanction and paying the boiler or manager of the sugarhouse
a comparatively small fee. We say, then, that the Germans in this line of business in this
country have, within the last 30 years or so, been subjected to very trying circumstances
and considerable change of government : and improvements of very great importance in
the various branches of the refining process have been the consequent result, and are
still, it may be said, of daily occurrence; for which, however, we are no doubt mainly
(though not solely) indebted to our own countrymen. Sugar refining, considered according
to its presently existing principles and modes of operation, has, in consequence, become
a mere bagatelle compared with what it was some 30 years ago; and the sugar refiner of
the present day may now (on payment of a comparatively trifling fee to his manager and
workmen) be instructed in all the branches of the refiner's art, and become, in every
sense of the term, master of his business; and that too in about the same number of
months (or perhaps weeks) as it would, in former times, have taken him years, but very
imperfectly, and to a very limited extent, to accomplish. Now-a-days, those of but a few
month's practical experience in the different branches of the refinery seem quite
competent to conduct the refiner's business, which, in olden times (if we may be allowed
the expression), necessarily required the lengthened experience of so many years. Such
is the simplicity of the refining process, which, in by-gone days, and under the German
rule, was held so great a mystery.

Sugar refining became general in England, as we have said, in 1659 : but what a contrast
presents itself between the old set of rude German apparatus and its appliances and the
convenient machinery and utensils, now in use in our refineries of modern construction!
What an interval presents itself from the old German system of refining sugar with
bullocks' blood, indigo, white-of-eggs, &c., &c., as also of boiling the syrups at a
temperature of some 300 degrees F., in a shallow open vessel placed over a naked fire,
and which might be termed a sugar frying pan, to the present mode of refining by filtration
of the liquors through bone-black or animal charcoal, and their subsequent evaporation at
a temperature of about 140 degrees F. in the convenient and elegantly constructed
vacuum pan of Howard,(6) which, from recent improvements in the mode of its
construction, is now (according to the size of the apparatus, and other circumstances)
capable of boiling, in the short space of some 3 ½ to 4 hours, from 12 to 18 tons of sugar
at each charge!(7) This interval, no doubt, corresponds to the difference in time between
the middle of the 17th and the latter half of the 19th centuries - a difference indeed mainly
due to the skill and genius of our countrymen. Since the introduction of bone-black or
animal charcoal as the refining material or decolouring agent, as also the application of
steam heat to the purposes of sugar refining, the field of its operation has been widely
extended, and the process conducted on a much larger scale, and on more economic and
scientific principles than formerly."

........Robert Niccol.


1 - Watt Library, 9 Union Street, Greenock, Scotland. PA16 8JH. Tel: 01475 715628.
2 - "Essay on Sugar, and general treatise on sugar refining, as practised in the Clyde
Refineries : Embracing the Latest Improvements" by Robert Niccol : Practical Sugar
Refiner Greenock. Printed by A. Mackenzie & Co 1864.
3 - The remaining four weeks of the year are supposed to be holidays, and to be taken up
in making good any repairs about the works.
4 - The principal seat of sugar refineries in London is in Goodman's Fields : but whether
the refineries of London have, since their introduction into England, been located in this
district is perhaps not exactly known. Many of the original sugarhouses are still to be seen
in the City of London and elsewhere turned into factories, general warehouses, and
workshops : they are pretty, lofty buildings with small windows, in most cases consisting of
five or six low floors.
5 - A goodly number of the so-called "sugar bakers" arrived in this country from Germany
as street musicians : one played the German flute, another played the organ, while a third
exhibited, in a small drum cage, some half-dozen white mice, these animals driving round
the cage at a speed little short of that performed by the fly-wheel of a steam engine.
These foreigners having, however, got employment in our refineries - which in general
they accomplished with little difficulty through the influence of their countrymen - they
soon assumed quite another appearance.
6 - The sugar was in former times, boiled either in iron or copper pans, over a naked fire.
This system of boiling presents a wide contrast to the present convenient mode of boiling
conducted in Howard's Vacuum Pan.
7 - The vacuum pan of Howard is unquestionably far superior to any other invention in the
boiling of sugar raw or refined. It is much more convenient, it is easier to operate, quicker
and more effective in its operation, and, at the same time, simpler to learn : it is also less
liable to derangement in the hands of a skilful operator than those we have just
mentioned. The range of work performed by it is much greater, having the twofold
advantage of evaporating and concentrating the liquor or syrup at a comparatively low
temperature and of effecting its granulation at the same time.



We are grateful to Ian Rathjen for producing this article for the website.




********

THE INFLUENCE OF (GERMAN) REFINERS !! (Pt. II)
- from a variety of sources.
- Bryan Mawer.


It is unfortunate that Robert Niccol (1), in Pt. I, offered no support for his very one-sided
opinions of the German sugar refiners in the UK; whether his thoughts were his own,
based upon personal experience, or the pickings from his visits to refineries and meetings
with refinery workers, we may never know. He did write well on the technical aspects of the
industry in the mid-1800s, so maybe his attack was borne from at least some first-hand
experience. Hutcheson (2) simply commented, "Many of these foreigners were excellent
men, but for something like 50 years prior to 1850 most of them were autocrats of
unquestionable sternness."

The early migrant sugar refiners brought the 'secrets & mysteries' of the trade from
Europe to London and the other cities and towns, where a few apprentices were trained.
These experts ran the refineries, but probably did not own them, particularly outside
London. In London, it would appear that the owners of the refineries, for the most part,
had only 'sugar' interests, whereas in Bristol, Liverpool, and Greenock, the refining
companies were financed by partnerships of merchants with the likes of shipping, building,
and trading interests. These refineries certainly required expert 'boilers', many German,
but Niccol's comments regarding the workforce in these refineries does not withstand
scrutiny for the industry as a whole - the labour was that which was available, and if there
was not enough, it was obtained from the nearest source. Although the work was disliked
by many of the British, it would be wrong to even imply that all sugar house labourers
were German. London did use a great proportion of German labour, mostly ag-labs from
the north of the Country, but with a shortage of strong, fit labour willing to work in the
appalling conditions, there was a certain logic to this for all concerned. A number of these
Germans were trying to earn enough for their passage to N. America, just like some of
those in Liverpool. Both Greenock and Liverpool had far less labour from Germany, using
migrant labour from Ireland where necessary; Bristol less than 10% with the censuses
showing that mostly local men were employed.

In London, the owners of the larger refineries would provide accommodation for their
single migrant workers, and, if Hall & Boyd in Breezers Hill in 1836 was anything to go by,
this was no mean provision, with a series of rooms on three floors with kitchen and beer
cellar (3), although the London City Mission in 1848 implies something less generous,
"The unmarried men generally live in enclosed premises attached to the boiling-house, in
parties varying from 15 to 25, under the control of the boiler" (4). John Wagener,
originally from Trendelburg[?], Germany, with a refinery in Mansel St, built a row of
houses (for his workers?) off Gowers Walk, close to St Paul's German Reformed Church
in Hooper Square. Wagener was one of those refiners who became wealthy enough to
move out of the East End to Essex, purchasing Gt Langtons, a large mansion in
Hornchurch, where even after his death his family continued their charitable works in the
local area (5).

There are examples to be found which confirm Hutcheson's comments that "these
foreigners were excellent men". He mentioned Lear Wrede thus, "Mr Wrede had so long a
connection with the Greenock trade, and became so entirely a Greenockian, that it may
be excused if I add that he was a native of Hanover (from which province British refiners
preferred, when possible, to draw their boilers), born in 1808" (6). Wrede's naturalisation
memorials of 1851 confirm, "… [Lear Wrede] was married to Janet Service a natural born
British subject and has had issue of the said marriage nine children seven of whom are
still alive … member of the Established Church of Scotland … family permanently settled
in this country …" and "… personally known to us to be a person of credit and
respectability and of undoubted loyalty …" and "… Mr Wrede is most exemplary in all the
relations of life … and he is much and deservedly respected in the town, by all who have
the pleasure of knowing him" (7). Wrede became a member of the Church of Scotland;
however, in London there were a number of German Churches (though not enough
according to some (8)) catering for the religious and social needs of the German
population. These churches received money from subscribers to provide care and
education within their communities. Two lists (9) reveal the extent to which refiners
contributed … I have marked known refiners * …   St George's German Lutheran
Church     
Church School
£ £
1771 Caspary, H 10   
1771 Knoptfell, F 77   
1772 Spitta, Johanna 100   
1773 Deichmann, G * 100   
1782 Baurenhaus, J 15   
1785 Mar, And. 100   
1786 Schein, J 70   
1786 Ladenberger, R 10   
1787 Frowin, Theodor 76½   
1789 Wittick, G 100   
1792 Samler, H * 200   
1792 Kirkman, Jac. 100   
1801 Bott, Anna 10   
1803 Briebach, M * 2   
1804 Troll, Phil. 4   
1805 Möller, Joh. jun. 10   
1806 Bott, Joh. 100   
1806 Möller, Joh. sen. 100   
1809 Detmar, Jos. * 200   
1809 Knies, Andr. * 100   
1810 Schweitzer, Joh. 200   
1810 Wethly, Joh. 100   
1814 Biehl, Jac. 50   
1815 Bott, Frau 200 100
1815 Lecke, G 100   
1817 Meyer, H * 100   
1817 Krug, P * 50   
1817 Engel, J 180   
1822 Dettmar, J * 180   
1824 Harbusch, JH * 100   
1826 Caul, Joh 200   
1826 Woide, Luise 10   
1828 Muhm, H * 500   
1829 Wicke, G * 300 100
1834 Möller, Anna 100 1778
1834 Harbusch, Werner 500 500
1840 Bermes, Pet. 100 50
1842 Mogge, H * 10   
1842 Se. Maj. Der König von Preußen 50   
1845 Paliske, N 200   
1847 Siffken, H 20   
St Paul's German Reformed Church     
Church School
£ £
1802 Lüder, Georg 100   
1805 Holz, Joh. 50 50
1808 Schweitzer, Joh. 50   
1809 Herring, HC 20   
1811 Schweitzer, Joh. 50   
1812 Dirs, CH * 50   
1812 Frechtman, J 20   
1814 Blancken, J Lütje 100   
1814 Speck, JG 50 50
1815 Dorman, Joh. 25   
1816 Dorman, Anna C 20   
1818 Weisbart, Sam. 100   
1821 Groß, Joh. G 50   
1823 Lilckendey, G * 20   
1826 Witte, Ludw. * 100   
1828 Schweickhert, JA 50   
1829 Krösch, Died. 50   
1829 Wicke, Georg * 100   
1832 Flathman, HH 100   
1833 Diersen, Friedr. 10   
1833 Ringen, C 77   
1833 Schulz, AC 11   
1834 Harbusch, Werner   100
1836 Lilckendey, Frau *   100
1837 Böhm, JG 400 200
1840 Bischoff, Mich. 48   
1842 Se. Maj. Der König von Preußen 50   
1842 Garms, L 25   
1843 Bischoff, Joh. 48   
1847 Von dem aufgelösten deutschen Verein 50   
1850 Bedwell, Theo. 20   
1850 Irion, Joh. G 50 50  



St George's German Lutheran Church in Lt Alie Street (10) had its own school adjoining
it. As mentioned, as these refiners became wealthier, they moved out of the confines of St
George's in the East, and Whitechapel, to leafier 'villages' in N. Middlesex and in Essex,
travelling in to oversee their businesses. This travelling posed a problem for their worship,
and the churches soon began to organise services during the weekday afternoons rather
than risk losing their wealthy benefactors.

Charity did not just stay within the German community, for other groups befitted from the
generosity of the refiners. In 1820, the Committee of the East London Irish Free School in
Goodman's Yard reported (11) the following subscribers, among others, known to be in
the sugar industry … Burnell, J Whitechapel Rd
Carlill, J Leman St
Coope, J Osborn St
Friend, E & Co Charlotte St
Harbusch, W Commercial Rd
Holthouse & Detmar Back Lane
Hodgeson & Son Goodmans Stile
Lucas & Son Osborne St
Lucas & Martin Back Lane
Martineau, P & Son Goulston Sq
Martineau, J & Son Leman St
Mum, H Whitechapel Rd
Schroder, J & Son Princes Pl
Schlinker, G Dock St
Wagentrieber, JC Whitechapel Rd
Witte & Buck Well St
Walton, Fairbank & Co Lambeth St
Vulliamy, L Edmonton  


Court Henry Dirs of Wellclose Square, in his will of 1812 left £300 to "the Middlesex
Society for educating Poor Children in Protestant religion" in Cannon St Road, and £50 to
the Gizman Charity in Lt Alie Street (12); and maybe the earliest of the few German sugar
boilers in Bristol, Godfrey von Itterne, in his 1686 will, left a total of £43 to the poor of the
parish (13). In London, it was the sugar refiners who formed the Phoenix Fire Assurance
Co. in 1782 (14), with names such as Dettmar, Dirs, Bruniges, Arney, Wackerbarth,
Kemble, Knies, Pritzner, Samler, Bell, Bracebridge, Jarman, Walker, Coope, Shum,
Stonetreet, Turner, Eggars, Hahn, Whiting, and Rohde, involved; and in 1801 an
Agreement of Subsidies for Maintenance of Roads (15) included G Wackerbarth, Thomas
Hodgson, Walton & Witte, Henry Eggars, and Matthew Craven; both schemes were clearly
for their own benefit, but also to the benefit of the local communities. Similarly, I V Hall (16)
tells us that the Unitarian Meeting House on Lewins Mead, in Bristol, had an 18C
congregation of many wealthy sugar bakers, including William Barnes father and son,
James Hilhouse, and Edward Reed, who founded institutions, administered funds, and
fostered the education and charity of the community. As businessmen, a number of the
refiners held voluntary public office in their neighbourhoods, eg. David Martineau was a
JP and alderman in South London (17), and John Vining of Bristol was also an alderman
(18). As general concern grew in London in the 1840s over the social conditions, the
German Hospital was founded at Dalston; the Deutche Wohltätigkeitsgesellschaft, a
mutual-aid association, extended its activities to the East End; and the Deutsche
Evangelische Stadtmission in London was formed by German Protestant congregations to
work among the East End poor (19).

In later years, in the Plaistow district of Essex to where the London's sugar industry had
migrated, the Glaswegian, James Duncan would pay for a day at the seaside for his
(3000) employees and families. He participated in the efforts to improve the poor living
conditions in the area, paying a doctor £300 a year to attend his men. He built two
churches, one Congregational and one Presbyterian with its own school rooms, and made
considerable donations to projects of other faiths. Henry Tate, a Unitarian, of course
famous for the Tate Gallery on Millbank, was responsible for much more both in London
and in other parts of the country, with Liverpool's university and homeopathic hospital,
and colleges in Oxford and London, benefiting from major donations (20). The Plaistow
area again benefited much from the Lyle family, in particular Queen Mary's Hospital at
Stratford (21).

Just like the benefactors of, and subscribers to, these charitable works, the beneficiaries
were also from assorted faiths and background, though the following examples are taken
from the Accounts of the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, London, 1838 &
1853 (22) ...


1838 ...
*Blumenstock, Ludwig, 121 Shovel Alley, Prince's Square, aged 70, a native of Baden in
Germany. This man, who has been in England since 1791, was for many years in
respectable circumstances as a boiler in a sugar house; but his employers having failed
when he was already too old to find another situation, he has been gradually reduced to
great distress. He has two of his children still to provide for, and besides the scanty and
precarious earning of his wife, who sells a little milk, he has but trifling allowances from
other quarters to depend on.
*Bort, George, 16 West Street, Mile End, aged 73, a native of Wurtemburg, 53 years in
England. After having worked in various sugar-houses he set up for himself and carried
on business very successfully, as he states, but failed at last in consequence of
misplaced confidence. Since then he endeavoured, by hard work, as long as he was able,
to gain his livelihood but is now (as well as his wife who is older than himself) totally unfit
for labour. Their only son who behaved in a most exemplary manner to his parents died,
about a year ago, and they have now nothing to depend on but the scanty pittance which
two unnmarried daughters earn by their needle-work, and a trifling allowance from
another quarter.
*Hollings, Carsten, Highbury Road, Islington, aged 73, a native of Hanover. Came over
when young with his father; worked in sugar-houses and afterwards went to sea. Having
married, he became a stone-sawyer, but being himself no longer able to work, his wife
seldom finding any employment and his two children having families of their own and
being likewise very poor, he is reduced to abject misery.
1853 ...
*Schroeder, Eleonore, 40 George Street, King's Cross, aged 67, a native of Brückhausen
[Bruchhausen-Vilsen?](23), near Bremen. She came over to this country in 1810, and
obtained employmment as a laundry-maid till 1816, when she married a respectable
sugar-baker in London, who however died in 1832, and left her in destitute
circumstances. Since her widowhood she has supported herself by washing, but being
afflicted with gout and asthma, she has been unable to earn anything for the last twelve
months. Of four sons, only one is living; he is employed as a waiter on board one of the
Royal West India Mail Packets, and renders his mother occasional trifling assistance; but
having a large family at Southampton to support, and having lately been laid up with
yellow fever, he is unable to do much for her. She has no other assistance than 2s. a
week from this Society.
*Stock, Daniel Frederick, 1 Eastfield Street, Stepney, aged 81, a native on Glenhausen
[Gelnhausen?](23), near Frankfurt, fifty-two years in this country. By trade he was a
sugar-baker, having been in the employ of one master for eight years and of another for
twenty; is severely ruptured and afflicted with rheumatism, which quite disables him for
work. He latterly obtained a scanty livelihood by vending sweetmeats, but his bodily
infirmities are such as to prevent him any longer earning a subsistence by this means. He
has been kept from absolute starvation through the kindness of relatives whose means
are very limited. His only other resource is an allowance of 2s. per week from this Society.
*Von Zalzen, Johann, 21 Cudworth Street, North Street, Mile End, aged 76, a native of
Hanover, fifty-one years in this country. He maintained himself and family creditably for
upwards of thirty years as a sugar-baker, and when his strength failed him, he did what he
could to get a living wherever he could find employment; but he is quite past labour, being
in ill health and very infirm. His wife, an Englishwoman, seventy years of age, earns a trifle
by washing and shoe-binding, but she is likewise in declining health, and this industrious
and aged couple are now reduced to a miserable state of distress. The parish refuse to
assist them unless they go into the workhouse, and an allowance of 2s. per week from this
Society is consequently their only present source of relief.
*Wilhelm, Johann, 6 Denmark Street, Cannon Street Road, aged 74, a native of Bremen,
sixty-four years in this country. He has worked all his life as a sugar-baker, but is now too
old and feeble to earn anything; besides which he is afflicted with rheumatism, and in very
great distress. His wife, an Englishwoman, is ill, and troubled with asthma. They have one
son, who has gone to sea, but receive no assistance from him. He receives a weekly trifle
from the church he attends, and his only other resource is from this Society, from which
he receives an allowance of 2s. per week.



The expert 'strangers' came to the UK, some 450yrs ago, to introduce the process of
refining sugar to a new audience. They could earn good money, and could be
instrumental in developing a need for this new product, thus increasing production and
earnings. Nothing much has changed over that time, then, for innovators and
businessmen still have the same aims, and just liked today, employers aimed for the best
production from the best workers they could afford to employ. So, whilst Niccol complained
about the situation, surely it was only a case of the migrant labour being essentially better
than the native labour available. Niccol appears not to have seen it like this, or recognised
the benefit this growth industry was having on its local communities.


1 - "Essay on Sugar, and general treatise on sugar refining, as practised in the Clyde
Refineries : Embracing the Latest Improvements" by Robert Niccol : Practical Sugar
Refiner Greenock. Printed by A. Mackenzie & Co 1864. ... Read an extract.
2 - Notes on the Sugar Industry of the United Kingdom by John M Hutcheson, James
McKelvie & Son, Greenock, 1901. p.69.
3 - DEEDS TH4174 at Tower Hamlets Local History Library. ... Read an extract.
4 - The London City Mission Magazine, vol.XIII, 1848, p.165.
5 - Essex and Sugar by Frank Lewis, Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1976. ISBN 0 85033 107 2. p.27.
6 - Notes on the Sugar Industry of the United Kingdom by John M Hutcheson, James
McKelvie & Son, Greenock, 1901. p.69.
7 - PRO HO1/36/1261 XC/A/11301. [With thanks to Ian Rathjen]
8 - The London City Mission Magazine, vol.XIII, 1848, p.165.
9 - Carl Schoell, Geschichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirchen in England,
Lonon/Stuttgart 1852 (Signatur Historische Bibliothek des Diakonischen Werkes der EKD:
B II)
10 - St. George's Lutheran Church Library / German Parish Life in London.
11 - LP4011 at Tower Hamlets Local History Library.
12 - 1812 (Oxford 216) Will ... Read.
13 - 1686 (Lloyd) Sept. f.120 Will ... Read.
14 - Phoenix Assurance & the Development of British Insurance (2vols) by Clive
Trebilcock, Cambridge Univ Press. 1999.
15 - Document at Tower Hamlets Local History Library.
16 - BRO 36772 Box 12 at Bristol Record Office.
17 - Essex and Sugar by Frank Lewis, Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1976. ISBN 0 85033 107 2. p.
86.
18 - 1851 Census Bristol HO107/1952.
19 - The German Factor in London History by Patricia Hawes, AGFHS Mitteilungsblatt
Extra Editon 1988, p.16.
20 - Essex and Sugar by Frank Lewis, Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1976. ISBN 0 85033 107 2. pp.
77-84.
21 - Essex and Sugar by Frank Lewis, Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1976. ISBN 0 85033 107 2. p.
94.
22 - Accounts of the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, (Established 1806), for
Years 1838 & 1853, London: Schulze & Co.
23 - Examples of the difficulties encountered by the people of the time when listening,
spelling, writing, and reading, in 2 different languages.
European sugar history
document from 1973