Town Mouse

A spoon­ful of sugar

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THIS week, I was in­tro­duced to a re­mark­able project to con­struct a 1:1500 scale model of Lon­don in 1840. Its tiny wooden build­ings are be­ing laid onto a base­board com­put­eretched with the city’s street plan and the wind­ing out­line of the River Thames. As An­drew Byrne, the im­pre­sario of the project, ex­plained, the model —which is still in the early stages of con­struc­tion— will of­fer fresh in­sights into the char­ac­ter of Lon­don in the early Vic­to­rian Age.

What drove the point home was an ac­count of Lon­don’s sugar in­dus­try as re­vealed in part by re­search for the model. Refin­ing was dom­i­nated by Ger­man fam­i­lies and con­cen­trated in the East End, where the raw ma­te­ri­als could be di­rectly un­loaded from the docks. In the 18th cen­tury, the pur­pose-built re­finer­ies might stand six storeys high, ri­valling the steeples of neigh­bour­ing churches, and, a cen­tury later, they had grown taller still.

None of these 80 colos­sal build­ings sur­vives, but one com­pany does. Tate & Lyle fought off the com­pe­ti­tion that de­stroyed its ri­vals by di­ver­si­fy­ing into syrup and the pro­duc­tion of sugar lumps. For no good rea­son, knowl­edge of this odd fact will lend rel­ish to my sweet­ened break­fast por­ridge for the rest of the win­ter. JG

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