William Moorhouse was the fifth son of Thomas Moorhouse (1809-1845) and Martha and was born on 8th April 1843 when the family was renting Hesliker farm from The Tempest Estate.  [See Biographies/William Moorhouse 1843 for details].

After the death of his father Thomas in 1845 the family moved to The Bull Inn at Broughton, which they rented from The Tempest Estate.  On the 1851 census William was living at The Bull with his Mother and is described as a scholar. [See also Businesses/Bull Inn].

By the 1861 census William has moved to Skipton and is living with William Stockdale and his family.  Mr Stockdale had taken over his father-in-law's grocery shop on Sheep Street and was employing William and another young man as apprentices.

William moved to Leeds sometime during the 1860's and went to work for a grocer called Ellison (probably a relative of his Mother Martha) who had a grocery and provision business on the Lowerhead Row in Leeds. William is recorded as living on the Lowerhead Row on the 1871 census working as a grocer.

It was while working, as an apprentice for Mr Ellison that William would visit farms on the outskirts of Leeds to solicit weekly orders for groceries.  He was visiting a farm in Swillington and was invited to take tea with the family and was introduced to a delicacy that was called Lemon Cheese, that he had never heard of or tasted before.  The farmer's wife explained that it was made from new laid eggs, fresh butter, sugar and lemons. William was so impressed with the Lemon cheese that the farmer's wife provided him with the recipe.  This incident happened sometime between 1870 and 1875.


On 24th June 1873 William married Angiolina Porri at St Stephen's Church in Skipton.

They has seven sons over the next 15 years; James Ellison (born 21st January 1874 and died 24th October 1875), Charles Innocent (born 8th September 1875), Baldisaro (born 22nd February 1877), Joseph (born 11th May 1881), Thomas Leo, (born 11th June 1884), William Edward (born 21 July 1887), and Francis born 19th August 1889).  [See their individual Biographies for more details].

The couple moved house to 4 Newton Terrace and William continued to work for Ellison Grocers on the Lowerhead Row while learning how to produce Lemon Cheese at his house.

In about 1881 the family moved house to 129 Park Lane and William started his own grocery business there at which address he also made Lemon Cheese to sell over the counter.  It was a very popular product and he started to makes supplies for other grocers.

The production of Lemon Cheese had grown so much that William decided to close his grocery business in about 1887 and he moved to 30 Alexandra Road in Burley where he started the Moorhouse business by making Lemon Cheese and the allied products of Orange Marmalade and Mincemeat.   The demand for the products from the Moorhouse company grew and in 1889 they moved to 6, Lofthouse Place, Carlton Hill which was a larger house with a stable and warehouse at the back.

Moorhouses were the first company to produce mincemeat on a commercial basis and on the day of the first delivery, 11th April 1891, the electric tram ran for the first time in Leeds and it frightened the horse drawing the delivery cart so that it bolted and the first delivery was lost.

By 1893 the business was supporting William, Angiolina and three of the older sons.  Mr Laxton, a business associate of Williams recalled visiting the house in about 1895 and seeing Angiolina cutting out by hand, from greaseproof paper, the discs, which in those days were placed on the surface of the jars of Lemon Cheese to prevent evaporation and crystallization after packing.  There were also two of three hired hands to help production.

At the First Grocers' Exhibition held in Leeds, William had a stand displaying his products and he won a Diploma of Merit for the high quality of his Lemon Cheese. Additional premises were taken in Camp Road in 1897 because of the demand for Moorhouse's products but after only two years there, the company needed even bigger premises and so they took a larger premises at Proctors Place off Meanwood Road. The company products, particularly Lemon cheese, had obtained a household reputation in many towns of the West Riding for its quality.

Look at the costings on the left, of course the "Dec 97" means 1897.

William together with his sons Joseph, Thomas Leo and Baldisaro, continued to expand the range of company products with various flavours of jam and jellies.  They also made plum puddings and bottled fruits.  The products were known as "England's finest" because of the high quality of the ingredients used.

Some products never reached the commercial stage but were enjoyed by the family during the testing stages including orange, damson and ginger wines, lemon squash, lemon barley and various candies including barley sugar, jelly squares and fondant.

On the cash account for 1890 William and Angiolina are both drawing cheques from the company and by the time Angiolina died 1905 the company had assets of about one thousand four hundred pounds.

In 1913 William signed a partnership agreement with his sons Thomas Leo and Joseph, which created the company William Moorhouse & Sons (Baldisaro was not part of the partnership but did work at the Company as a bookkeeper).

The bell that William had used in his grocery shop was mounted and used to control company meetings.

In 1914 Williams son Joseph was called up for military service and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps for most of the First World War.  Leo was left with his father William and brother Disaro to run the company.

William Moorhouse & Sons became a Limited Company in 1919 and their Minute Book was meticulously kept.

In a speech at the 60th anniversary of William Moorhouse & Sons in 1947 Joseph pays tribute to his brothers Disaro and Leo:-

" both of whom played a very large part in the developing of the business
in its early stages and who, in the war years of 1914 to 1918,
were left to carry on the responsibilities alone,
my father having died in 1917 and
I being away throughout the war"

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself again, but I thought this was a great tribute to his brothers.

William Moorhouse died on the 17th April 1917 leaving a business that his two sons, Joseph and Thomas Leo would continue to run with the help of Baldisaro.  Edward was in the Royal Medical corps in 1917 and would start his own business of Moorhouse Opticians in 1919, Francis was in The Kings Own Light Infantry and would start a tailoring business after the war and William's eldest son Charles (who was a jeweller) had predeceased him earlier the year.

The business continued to expand but in 1921 Thomas Leo died leaving Joe as the Managing Director to run William Moorhouse & Sons with his brother Disaro and in 1925 they purchase a twelve acre site in Old Lane Beeston, on which had been an electrical firm and included a football field at a total cost of £13,000.

On the day Joe saw the site it was sunny so he decided that 'Sunglow Factory' would be a suitable name.  A doll dressed as a baker in a local shop caught Joe's attention as he thought it would be a good symbol of cleanliness for the company so he purchased the doll and it became "Sonny Sunglow" the mascot of the company.

Many experiments were done to match and improve on competitors products as well as new recipes for existing products.

William Moorhouse and Sons always made sure that the ingredients used were the best possible and it is reassuring that the dyes they were supplied with were arsenic and lead free.

They would test recipes many times to get the correct mixture to minimize evaporation during the processing.   Sometimes they would experiment with recipes to try and get a product similar to their competitors and in 1925 they tried at least 11 times to obtain the same result as a Hartley's marmalade.

Sometimes the company would get requests for products as when the registrar of a London Hospital wrote explaining that many of his patients were unable to eat anything that might irritate, but they did miss their marmalade and could you (Moorhouses) make a marmalade that is without a suspicion of a shred of peel in it.  Some days later a jar of transparent golden jelly was delivered to the hospital and soon Moorhouses were asked to supply large quantities of the new marmalade because the doctors ad nursing staff liked it so much. Moorhouses also started to produce lemon shredless marmalade.

In 1930 Baldisaro died leaving Joe as the only son of William in the company but he was soon joined by his brother Francis on the sales side.

The left shows the Sunglow Factory.

In the 1930's the company was producing its products on an industrial scales and supplying them not only to the general public but also to bakers and other factories. The type of product that was made was governed by the seasons, and it was possible to tell what was being made at the factory by the smell pervading the local street.


In January oranges and lemons would arrives from Spain and several different sorts of marmalade were produced including Georgian and shredless.  In springtime the Lemon Curd and Lemon Cheese would be produced because the butter and eggs were richer because the grass was lusher.  The strawberry season was next with the strawberries coming from farms in Cambridgeshire.

Because there was usually so much seasonal fruit the work force was augmented by women's organisations and school children.  The picture on the left shows the children from the local Catholic School, St. Michaels, supplying extra labour, with the foreground figure being Anthony Moorhouse, elder son of F. G. Moorhouse.


After the strawberries came the black currants from Norfolk, raspberries from farms owned by the company at Blairgowrie Perthshire [picture on the left] and damsons from Cheshire all to be made into jams along with blackberries from Ireland.  Many of the fruits were also bottled.  In the autumn mincemeat and Christmas puddings were made with the ingredients coming from Greece, Israel and the Far East.  "Peter puddings" (a type of small sponge flavoured with ginger, raisins etc) were also produced at this time

Francis Gerard Moorhouse (only son of Charles) joined the company during the 1920's along with Gerald, eldest son of Edward in the 1930s.

With the arrival of the Second World War the business faced some difficulties with rationing and shortage of manpower. The company had to ration the products to their customers based on their orders before the war and this task fell to Maureen Moorhouse (daughter of Francis) who worked as Joe's secretary during this time.

Another branch of Moorhouses was opened during the war in Nuneaton.  Because of petrol shortages the government introduced zoning schemes, and Moorhouses did not want to lose their Midland customers.  The rationing continued after the war for a number of years.  The company found it difficult to source the butter and eggs for its Lemon Cheese and made a product called Lemon Conserve during the war which did not use as many eggs or butter.

Mr Callagher was the "Fire Watcher" and would check up on the factory after the "all clear" was sounded, to make sure there were no fires and if there was any damaged.

Gerald was called up for Military service and was injured in a "friendly fire" incident and had to have a leg amputated.  He rejoined the company after a prolonged convalescence in South Africa. 

Two more sons of Edward's joined the company during the 1940's, Leo [my Father] on the sales side and Bernard in the accounting department. Gerald moved to Nuneaton to run the other factory there.  Bill (only son of Francis) also joined the company at this time on the production side.   I'll possibly be covering this generation at a later time on the website.

According to Antoinette Gallagher (whose father worked for the Moorhouses for many years on the production side and was the "Fire Watcher" mentioned above) in an article entitled "Moorhouse's Day" for a Beeston booklet:
"Mr Joe had time for his workers and was on first name terms with many of them.   Whole families worked for him, grandparents, parents, sons and daughters. When I was seriously ill as a child he would call at the house with jars of 'Virol' to build up my strength.  When I passed my 11+ he wrote to me personally to congratulate me and invite me to his home, Garforth House for tea and I remember visiting his previous home in Adel several times."

The article on the left is another one that Antoinette Gallagher wrote about Moorhouses.

On the feast of St Joseph's day the staff and managers were encouraged to attend the 7a.m. mass at St Anthony's and have breakfast together in the canteen before commencing work. There was a tennis court [shown left] and a garden for the staff to enjoy during their breaks.

Parties were held at the factory on Bonfire night and Christmas, when the managers acted as waiters.


Probably the biggest party was in 1947 when the company celebrated 60 years of William Moorhouse & Sons with a grand meal in the canteen.

By this time the company was employing over a thousand people and many of the managers had been with the company for many years including Mr Baldwin, (Director and Works Manager), Mr Gallagher (Lemon cheese Production), Mr Hutchinson (Transport Manager), Mr Stanley Everson (Works Manager) and Mr Wrigglesworth (Sales Office Manager).

Moorhouses owned several houses across the road from the factory where members of staff such as Mr Callagher lived with his family.

Joe was taken ill after visiting the factory and died of a stroke on 26th March 1950 at the General Infirmary in Leeds.  A large funeral was held at St Anne's Cathedral in Leeds and as the hearse passed the factory employees came out and paid their respects to a man who had always treated his work force well. 

[See Biographies/Joseph Moorhouse 1881 for more details].


Frances Gerard (F.G.) became Managing Director and William Edward took over the position of Chairman from his brother.

The business continued to expand with the building of a factory at Aylesbury (the Nuneaton factory having been closed the previous year) run by Gerald with the assistance of Bill.

The factory at Leeds was also extended by a third to provide light and airy storage conditions.  The factory had been enlarged on no fewer than 8 occasions over the years.


The company was now selling to 19 different countries and within the UK was making products for Cross and Blackwell, Harrods and Fortnums under their own labels as well as supplying leading supermarkets under their labels.

The company were now using state of the art modern technology and the fruit could be rushed to the factory and jam produced in a matter of hours.  Laboratory tests were made on every batch and if it did not conform to the high standard required; production would be stopped until the problem had been fixed.

The process of production was very mechanical with sugar being untouched by hand from leaving the refineries to inside the jam jar. Electronic sensors would also assist in quality control on the finished products.

Moorhouses had a close relationship with the Bakery trade (which it supplied directly with jam and bottled fruit) and it sponsored annual competitions for the Master Bakers' Association.

Most of the salesman attended courses on food technology and baking so that they would be informed about the processes involved.

The next generation of the Moorhouse family was joining the company.  Peter [younger son of F.G.] started in production* and Anthony [elder son of F.G.] was due to join the sales side full time having completed a two year food technology course, but Anthony was called up for military service and was killed at Port Said in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. 

*See Memoirs of a Jam Boiler by Peter Moorhouse

The Minute Book shown on the left contains the meticulous minutes from meetings of William Moorhouse and Sons Ltd from 1919 (shortly after it was formed into a limited company) until 1957, two years before it was sold to Schweppes.


In 1959 William Moorhouse & Sons was bought by Schweppes along with Chivers and Hartleys (who were also jam and marmalade manufacturer's).
In 1969 Schweppes merged with Cadburys and by 1972 they had decided they no longer required a factory at Beeston. The closure resulted in the loss of 590 jobs. Many of the people losing their jobs had worked for Moorhouses for many years. 
The factory continued to be used by Cadbury Schweppes as a warehouse until July 1976 when a spectacular fire destroyed most of the building.

In 1987 the descendants of William Moorhouse gathered together in Wetherby to celebrate the founding of the business of William Moorhouse & Sons 100 years previously.

There was a Centenary Dinner and Dance followed by a Mass of Thanksgiving the following day at the house of David Moorhouse (grandson of William Moorhouse).


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