Who made all the pies?
Tim Booth, in his article on Emscote Mill (Wind and Water Mills Journal No. 22), closes his analysis with some regret that the housing – Fleur-de-Lys Court – replacing the Emscote Mill should refer to the 35 years of pie production rather than the 155 years of milling on the site. He certainly has a point, but for most of us the buildings on the Emscote Road next to the Warwick and Napton/Grand Union Canal are remembered as the home of the Fleur de Lys pie factory, also fondly associated with those familiar aromas of pie production!
Food processing falls very much within the territory explored by the industrial archaeologist, and I realised that I had never really come to terms with the precise history of pie-making in Warwick. I remain uncertain of my facts and I have put this together not as any sort of definitive document but just a tentative framework for others to fill or contradict.
My own memories of Fleur de Lys pies originate with teenage cycle trips out to Lowsonford to the purchase the best pies in Warwickshire from a hatch at the Fleur de Lys pub. The only decision really was whether to have steak and kidney or chicken and mushroom! The licensee of The Fleur from 1950 to 1958 was Mr. Brookes, and he decided to increase the scale of his venture by moving production to Emscote Mill in Warwick, and so this became the home of Fleur de Lys pie production.
Subsequently, the pies were also made at the RF Brookes factory in Wigston, Leicestershire. In 1964, the RF Brookes business was sold to Avana Meat Products in South Wales, who were subsequently absorbed by Premier Foods. The factory at Emscote was purchased by ‘PUKKA’ pies of Syston, Leicestershire, and eventually demolished in 1993.
Across the road from the factory, the former All Saints Mission House was leased to R.F. Brookes as their Social Club. This certainly carried the name ‘R.F.Brookes’, and the lease is confirmed 1970-1980. What I did notice was that the photographs of the demolition carry ‘R.J.Brooks’ – different initials; different spelling. Can anyone explain this?
My memory is very hazy but I seem to remember a former employee at the factory -?a Mr Stewart – having lost his position at the pie factory taking the brave decision to set up Shire pies in premises on the Emscote Road not far from the mill. Shire then moved to Montague Road (to premises now occupied by craft brewers ‘The Old Pie Factory’) and then to their current site on Tachbrook Road, Leamington Spa.
So that is my attempt to put the story together, but it really is an initial attempt and hopefully others will be able to correct me – or supplement with further information.
The photographs are of Emscote mill in its final days in 1993. The only real evidence of the former mill is the sequence of nine arches in the canal bank wall which were accessed by the mill to power the waterwheel.
Copyright © Martin Green 2020