Spratt’s: The Old London Dog Biscuit Factory
Overlooking the Limehouse Cut is one of my favourite warehouse buildings; Spratt’s, Poplar’s old dog biscuit factory.
This canal on which it stands is London’s oldest, first used in 1769. It must’ve been handy when Spratt’s factory was built here in the late 1800s, providing easy access for barges delivering fish heads to be processed into pet food.
Becoming Top Dog
By the early 1900s, the ‘Spratt’s Works’ as it was known, was the largest dog food factory in the world.
It was begun by James Spratt in 1860. He made his name in dog biscuits, marketed as the delicious-sounding “Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”. But he also branched out, with Spratt’s Works selling bird feed, pulses and live animals like horses, monkeys and foxes.
They even dabbled in food for humans; dense biscuits sold to the army (4 million biscuits a week were made for the British Army!) as well as Polar Explorers. These were sold under a different brand called Poplar, presumably an effort to distance themselves from dog food!
Among the many factory employees a 14 year old apprentice stands out. He overhauled the bookkeeping of the business and – after working closely supplying dog breeders with superior products – set up a dog-show department, creating a new revenue stream for the business. The young man’s name was Charles Cruft, founder of world-famous Crufts dog show!
A Dog’s Dinner
As with much of Poplar, Spratt’s factory suffered bomb damage during WWII. East London News in 1950 declared it was “impossible to carry on the work” but the building today doesn’t seem to carry much visible evidence of the damage.
The chimney in the picture above has evidently been shortened, losing its ‘S-P-R-A-T’ but it’s not clear when that amendment was made.
After lying derelict from 1970-85, Spratt’s was converted into studio live/work spaces and flats.
Today most of the units are residential rather than studio work space.
Still, evidence of the factory’s past abounds. From the old worker’s entrance on Morris Road;
To the white typography that piques the curiosity of passersby;
A Look Inside
It’s not just a beautiful building from outside, just look at one of the flats!
Photo by Enda Bowe
Both a family home and a popular photo and film location, you can see why the flats in Spratt’s are popular! Find out more and rent the space here.
Have you ever walked past the Spratt’s complex in Poplar? Maybe you’re lucky enough to live there? Let me know what it’s like!