A large and finely painted watercolour of The Meaby Bakery in Reading, beautifully detailing the comings and goings around the bakery and flour mill.
It was painted by William Frederick Austin, 1833-1899, of Norwich who specialised in extensive topographical watercolours with figures, both landscape and urban scenes.
He worked in Norwich, Derby and Reading, and examples of his work are in a number of public collections.
I have done a little research into The Meaby Bakery, and their court battle with Huntley and Palmer, which I detail below.
In period maple frame, and with new mount, backing board and glass.
Frame: 29.5" x 19" 75 x 48cm
Sight ex mount: 24" x 13" 61 x 33 cm
Huntley and Palmers, arguably Britain's best known biscuit manufacturer was founded in 1822, in Reading, Berkshire, as a modest bakery. In 1846 they opened their first factory with 30 employees and by 1901 this had grown to 6.000, making 400 different types of biscuit.
Meaby's Bakery appears to have been a little thorn in the very successful Huntley and Palmer's side.
In the 1880s, Albert Meaby who had been a baker for several years teamed up with a miller called Farnworth, and a flour mill was built next to the bakery, on Queen’s Road. This mill can be seen on the right of the painting.
Around 1890 there is correspondence in the Hunter & Palmer archive relating to an offer made by Meaby, to Huntley & Palmer, with regard to them purchasing the Meaby business. This was subsequently refused by Huntley & Palmer.
In 1891 Meaby formed a company under the name of Meaby's Triticumina Company, based on Queen’s Road and South Street,
The name 'Triticumina', which does not exactly trip off the tongue, comes from the Latin word 'triticum', meaning wheat. Its rival, 'Hovis' came from the Latin 'hominis vis' from the Latin 'the strength of man.'
Meaby's flour was like that of Hovis, a type of improved flour, which was made from malted grain which was considered to be more easily digestible, and particularly suitable for children and invalids.
In 1898, the year of this painting, the Triticumina Company changed this trading name to 'The Reading Biscuit Company'.
and built a large new factory in South Street to produce biscuits. It is not known whether biscuits were ever produced in this factory, but in May 1893 Meaby found himself In the High Court of Justice in the trademark case: Huntley and Palmer v. The Reading Biscuit Company Limited.
Huntley and Palmer won a legal injunction to prevent Meaby’s from calling their biscuits “Reading Biscuits.”
Meaby was forced to sell the South Street factory and retrench, no doubt having lost a lot of money on the enterprise.
I have not be able at this time to find out much of interest about the Meaby Bakery after this time, other that there was one of that name still trading in Reading until well into the 20th century. Their lardy cake was legendry apparently!
A H G Brown, trading as Harry Meaby, a bakery shop proprietor of Reading was declared bankrupt in July 1976. (The London Gazette, 12th August 1976)