One of the UK’s oldest soft drinks companies looks back on 15 decades of history as it celebrates its birthday at the Great Yorkshire show in Harrogate.
Ben Shaws, the soft drinks manufacturer who brought the distinctive taste of Dandelion and Burdock – amongst others – to the people of the UK, is 140 years old this year.
The company was founded in 1871 by Ben Shaw, in the same year that Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall and Stanley uttered the immortal words, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” when he found him on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
By the time Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper debuted (1886 and 1885, respectively), Ben Shaws was already a teenager, and when Pepsi (1898) was introduced, Ben Shaws four flavours – Dandelion and Burdock, Cloudy Lemonade, Cream Soda and Bitter Shandy – were already well established favourites with the British public.
It was Ben Shaw himself who used the family shire horses Bonny, Blossom, Cherry and Dick to deliver his soft drinks via horse and cart. In later years the firm used what became known as the Ben Shaws “pop van” and the drinks came in glass bottles that when returned were a popular way for children to earn pocket money. And for a shilling an hour, Ben Shaw’s grandchildren would watch the bottles coming off the production line, checking for specks of dirt, making sure very bottle was perfect.
Sundeep Gill of Cott Beverages said: “140 years is a long time to be in business and it’s great to see that the original four flavours are as popular as ever. It’s a brand that has stood the test of time and is as popular now as it was all those years ago.”
Lots of other landmarks events took place in 1871, including the formation of the British Rugby Union, the birth of the F.A. Cup and the first ever Bank Holiday, Whit Monday; the year when a young Ben Shaw left his job in the textile industry in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and set up his own business bottling and selling natural mineral water from the nearby Pennine Hills. The move proved successful and he soon expanded his business introducing traditional soft drinks made with only the finest ingredients, in his purpose built factory.
Today Ben Shaws’ drinks are more popular than ever; in fact, many celebrities have mentioned their particular fondness for the taste of the good old fashioned flavours, including Sheridan Smith, star of the West End hit “Legally Blonde” who recently tweeted: “Could murder a dandelion & burdock now! As a kid, I even wrote a story called Dandy the lion and bird Doc.”
Part of the brand’s birthday celebrations includes a tour around the country, visiting shows and fairs and encouraging visitors to share their Ben Shaws’ memories.
Some of the county shows that Ben Shaws will be attending include:
Great Yorkshire Show 12-14 July
Eccleston County Fair 16-17July
Southport Air Show 23-24 July