Features

28 August 1837: Lea & Perrins begins making Worcestershire sauce

On this day in 1837, Lea & Perrins started to manufacture its famous Worcestershire sauce for sale the following year.

Worcestershire sauce is without doubt one of Britain's greatest gifts to world gastronomy (second only, perhaps, to Henderson's relish). For a sauce that is as much a symbol of Britishness as it is a condiment, it's fitting that its origins are somewhat shrouded in legend. And indeed, the creation story behind Worcestershire sauce is a colourful one.

Sometime around the mid-1830s, so the story goes, Lord Sandys returned to Worcestershire from Bengal, where he had served as governor. Finding the local palate a little bland for his exotic tastes, he dug out an old recipe he'd brought back from India.

It says a lot about 19th century British attitudes to cooking that Lord Sandys took his recipe not to a cook, but to a pair of chemists. Showing Mr John Wheeley Lea and Mr William Henry Perrins the recipe, he asked them to whip up a batch. Lea and Perrins replied that they'd give it a whirl.

When Lord Sandys returned to try the concoction, he found the results disgusting. Lea and Perrins shrugged it off and left the jars of Worcestershire sauce to sit in the cellar, gathering dust.

A couple of years later, the bottles were rediscovered during a spring clean. The jars were on the point of being tipped out when Lea and Perrins gave in to their curiosity and gave the foul liquid another taste. The sauce, they found, had mellowed in flavour and was delicious.

Another version of the story has Lady Sandys in need of some curry powder. A visiting novelist with India connections gave her a recipe, which she handed to Lea and Perrins to make up. Someone along the way had the brainwave of adding water to the powder and making it into a sauce.

Either way, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce became a huge success. On 28 August 1837, manufacturing of the sauce began, and the first bottles went on sale the following year. And it wasn't just a hit in Britain. Boatloads of the stuff were shipped off to America and across the Empire reminding many a far-flung Briton of home.

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Quiz of the week 21-27 November
Economy

Quiz of the week 21-27 November

Test your recollection of the events of the last seven days with MoneyWeek's quiz of the week.
27 Nov 2020
Are central banks about to start targeting house prices?
House prices

Are central banks about to start targeting house prices?

New Zealand’s finance minister has suggested expanding the remit of its central bank to include an oversight of house prices. John Stepek explains why…
27 Nov 2020
Quiz of the week 14-20 November
Economy

Quiz of the week 14-20 November

Boris Johnson announced a range of green measures this week, including phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. But by when? And what else …
20 Nov 2020

Most Popular

The next 20 years: five new technologies on the horizon
Global Economy

The next 20 years: five new technologies on the horizon

What will everyday life be like in two decades’ time? Matthew Partridge peers into his crystal ball.
12 Nov 2020
This week’s rally in value stocks is just the beginning
Value investing

This week’s rally in value stocks is just the beginning

The arrival of a vaccine this week saw huge gains in the markets and investors switching out of big-tech growth stocks and into “value” stocks in more…
13 Nov 2020
Share tips of the week
Share tips

Share tips of the week

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
13 Nov 2020