The snuff makers of Kendal

Date: Saturday 8th November 2003

FANCY a pinch of snuff? Well, there are masses of the stuff in a new book, Kendal Brown: The History of Kendal’s Tobacco and Snuff Industry, by J. W. Dunderdale.

The authorship of the new book is a little story in itself.

James Dunderdale was born in Mansfield in 1912 and worked as a precision engineer, settling in Kendal after his retirement. Finding that the history of the local tobacco and snuff industry had never been written, he set to work on a book which was completed about 18 months later.

Sadly, James’s work was never published before his death in 1996. However, his only daughter, Patricia, showed the manuscript to Anne Bonney, of Helm Press, and with some editing and updating by her, Kendal Brown has now been published (writes JOHN HURST).

The town of Kendal has been renowned for its snuff for more than 200 years, especially for ‘Kendal Brown’.

Tobacco was landed at the Cumbrian port of Whitehaven and brought by pack horse over the fells to Kendal, on the main route between England and Scotland. The snuff manufacturing pioneer was Thomas Harrison, who gained experience of the industry in Glasgow before returning to Kendal with the snuff formula and machinery in 1792.

James Dunderdale writes: “The original snuff, of the dark, moist variety, is still being made from this old formula which, for the past 200 or so years, has been locked away in a bank strong room in Kendal, its secrets being known, and that by heart, of one or two only of the present firm’s most trusted staff.”

The main firms in the town have been Samuel Gawith & Co., Illingworths and Gawith, Hoggarth & Co., and the book tells of the families concerned in them, the various blends of tobaccos and snuffs, and details of production.

The book is strengthened by many fine illustrations, including striking old adverts, one urging gentlemen to buy “The aristocrat of snuffs” and another, from Gawith, Hoggarth & Co., showing two elderly chess players pausing for a pinch.

Kendal Brown, written by J. W. Dunderdale and edited by Anne Bonney, is published by Helm Press, Natland, Kendal, at £10.95 (£2 extra for postage and packing).