We have already seen how a nondescript terraced house in Longhorsley played a small but notable role in British history (see here) – and it is scarcely believable that the very same building should have played host to another significant event in our cultural/social history. For what was until recently the Post Office building in this Northumberland village was the base from which one very enterprising local man took the first steps towards the invention of Be-Ro, the most famous of our self-raising flours.
Thomas was clearly an enquiring sort, and began experimenting with flour, baking powder and various ‘raising agents’ in an attempt to improve the family’s lot. The exact sequence of events is unclear, but he is thought to have hit upon the ‘magic formula’ around 1875, and in the 1880s left the village to set up a grocery and tea business in
Newcastle. Here he sold his new self-raising
creation under the name of Bell’s
Royal. It may not have been the very first ‘self-raising flour’ (a chap in Bristol claimed to have
beaten Bell to
it), but it certainly proved to be the most successful. Forced to drop the
‘Royal’ part of the name, Bell
rebranded his creation as ‘Be-Ro’ (short for Bell’s Royal – his wife’s suggestion) in
around 1895, and never looked back.
Originally sited in the Groat Market,
Newcastle, the business grew and moved –
firstly to Low Friar Street,
then Bath Lane. Thomas died in 1925, presumably a fairly wealthy man, but Be-Ro
continued to grow in popularity, spreading across England and into Scotland –
greatly assisted by the publication of the famous Be-Ro recipe books from 1923. In time, the firm was
swallowed by Rank-Hovis, then, most recently, by Premier Foods.
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