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Migration Museum receives funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund

The Migration Museum is delighted to have received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our project ‘Connecting Lewisham to its Migration Heritage’.

This will enable us to deliver a programme of events that bring our Taking Care of Business exhibition to life in new ways. We’ll train up new volunteers and deliver a host of activities for families and local residents over the next year. The funding will also support our People’s Panel and Network, inviting people to work with us to shape the future of the Migration Museum.

The funding will support our front of house team to continue and build on their work welcoming audiences and offering opportunities for people to learn about local heritage and connect with others through sharing migration stories. 

We’ll have Family Fun Days for young people to join us for stimulating arts and heritage activities and we will be offering a wide range of activities for families dropping in to see us at any time.

This funding will enable us to work with a range of community partners, artists, heritage experts and universities to co-create and deliver events that draw on the themes explored in Taking Care of Business and provide people from Lewisham with brand new ways to explore the borough’s rich heritage and their own stories and backgrounds.

We are proud to have extremely dedicated and talented volunteers at the Migration Museum and through this project will also support them to build up their skills in giving tours and engaging with our visitors to create a space where absolutely everyone can feel that they belong.

Thanks to National Lottery players for making this funding and these activities possible.

Call out for NHS singers to participate in our 2023 Heart of the Nation installation

Do you work for the NHS (or previously did) and love to sing?

The Migration Museum is looking for up to 8 people to take part in an exciting project that highlights the extraordinary role that people with migrant heritage have played in shaping and sustaining the NHS – and caring for us throughout our lives.

In 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic, we launched our digital Heart of the Nation exhibition. Building on this, we will produce an unforgettable and moving digital installation in 2023 that brings together singing and visual storytelling. The installation will feature a filmed performance that will tour across the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

The project will ask audiences: Who cares for us? And do we care enough.

The Brief
We’re looking for up to 8 NHS workers who are first- or second-generation migrants to participate in this project as singers and performers. We welcome people who currently work or have previously worked in the NHS in a varied range of roles (nurses, porters, cleaners, cooks, doctors, administrators, etc).

Led by a musical director, the singers will help develop and learn an ensemble music piece inspired by their stories and experiences. This piece will be recorded in a studio session and filmed to create a video art piece for the Heart of the Nation installation.

Selected participants must be available to take part in a series of workshops between January–April 2023. These include:

  • 1 workshop to meet each other and share stories and experiences of caring that will inform the lyrics of a new music piece
  • 4 workshop sessions to learn ensemble music (3 hours per session)
  • 2 studio sessions to rehearse and record the ensemble piece (4 hours person session)
  • 1 day film shoot to record the performance (8-10 hours)

Some of the initial workshops could be held over Zoom to accommodate schedules, but the rehearsal and studio sessions and filming will take place in person in a central London location.

Participants will receive a fee to cover their time and travel expenses.

The Heart of the Nation exhibition will launch in July 2023 (locations TBC but may include London, Leeds, Leicester and Birmingham).

How to apply
If you are interested in this opportunity, please email Aditi Anand at aditi@migrationmuseum.org by 19 December 2022.

We would appreciate if you could send us a 60-second video introducing yourself and your vocal range (i.e. alto, soprano, first soprano) with a singing sample. Please let us know whether you have done some studio recording before (no prior recording experience required).

Please click here to view and download the brief as a PDF

Marmite: the quintessentially British brand… made by a migrant 

This is a blog post written by Jen Baldwin, Research Specialist at family history website Findmypast, to accompany our Taking Care of Business: Migrant Entrepreneurs and the Making of Britain exhibition.

Composite image: 1921 Census of England and Wales, John Gollop/iStock

Marmite. A brand known and loved (or hated) across Britain. While today, most of us are familiar with its distinctive taste and iconic black and yellow jars, the story of how it came to be is not so commonly known.  

Let’s explore the history of Marmite and the man who made it famous: Frederick Wissler. Because its origin story, like that of so many other ‘quintessentially British’ brands, is a migration story. 

Frederick Heathcote Wissler was born in Morat, Switzerland in 1855, to parents Samuel and Elizabeth Wissler. He immigrated to England prior to 1880, when he married London-born Alice Maud Mary McLeog, in Hackney. The couple had four children together: Frederick, Jr., William, Alice and Clement.

 

In the marriage register, we see Frederick identifies himself as a merchant, and this is repeated in the 1891 Census of England and Wales. At that time, the family is residing in Woodberry Down, Stoke Newington, Hackney. He was 36 years old.  

In the years surrounding the census, he was involved in a partnership with the “Messers. Leon Brothers, of London and Paris,” and Mr. Ransohoff as merchants. This new relationship, Ransohoff and Wissler, were sugar merchants specifically dealing with Paris and London. In 1897, the partnership was sued over a beetroot sugar dispute and in 1898 the Daily Telegraph and Courier identifies ’21 Mincing Lane EC’ and Paris as their place of work.  

London Evening Standard, 2 Jan 1884

On 19 Dec 1898, the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser identifies Wissler as a director of the London Sea Water Supply Company. The company intended to construct works for “taking an unlimited quantity of sea water from the English Channel and conveying it through mains to London…”  

Daily Telegraph & Courier (London), 19 Dec 1898

An article on “Let’s Look Again: A history of Branded Britain” indicates that the Marmite Food Extract Company was incorporated in 1902 and initially produced on Mincing Lane, London. In the article above for the London Sea Water Company, Frederick Wissler, of Ransohoff and Wissler, is listed at “21, Mincing Lane, E.C., and Paris.” Thus, we can conclude that Marmite was certainly not his only business venture at this time, and that the original business location and production site for Marmite on Mincing Lane was the same as that listed for his other ventures. In the 19th century, Mincing Lane was the “world’s leading centre for tea and spice trading.”

21 Mincing-Lane, as seen on this 1915 London Ordnance Survey map (National Library of Scotland). The site is now one large building housing several businesses.

In 1902, the Marmite Company is incorporated and the Chemist and Druggist, “New Companies & Company News” publication indicates that the Marmite Food Extract Company (Ltd) has adopted an agreement to … “acquire any invention or process relating to the production of food-extracts from yeast…” This is the first mention of G. Huth, who would become a business partner to Wissler for just over a decade. By 1916, this long-time partner would cease to be mentioned in documentation regarding the company.

Chemist and Druggist, Vol 60, 1902. Google Books  

By October 1902, the company has relocated to Burton upon Trent, utilising yeast residue from the nearby Bass Brewery in the production of Marmite, and has started advertising the sale of residue from the manufacturing process as cattle food. It didn’t take long to expand from small-scale sales to national awareness.

Burton Chronicle, 11 Dec 1902

In December 1906, Frederick Wissler naturalised and became a citizen of Great Britain. This same year, a second factory was established in Camberwell Green, south London, utilising what was once a brewery.  

Naturalisation documentation for Frederick Wissler. Images: The National Archives 

The company was not without intrigue during this period, and in fact, we find William Wissler, Frederick’s son, acting as joint managing director, in the records of the Old Bailey. The Central Criminal Court on 22 June 1909 saw a legal fight for payment of an order of Marmite to the A. Huish and Co., a “tea and coffee merchant and importer of foreign products.” Orders were filled on credit but eventually it was necessary to take them to court to settle the outstanding balance due of £10 18s. 1ld.

 

Old Bailey Online

In the 1911 Census, we see the Wissler family as residents of Heath House, in Blackheath, south-east London. The Census does indicate his status as naturalised and the company appears to be progressing well. What is about to happen, though, will change everything.

Frederick Wissler and his family in the 1911 Census of England and Wales

Marmite was already growing in popularity as a product, and it was heavily advertised across the country as a replacement for meat extracts. Its value as a source of nutrients was already well known, and the discovery of vitamins in 1912 was a significant boost for the brand . Advertisements tell us it was, “… half the price, just as nourishing, eminently stimulating and digestive, very pleasant to take… and invalids will not turn from it, as is so often the case with Beef Tea.”

Burton Observer and Chronicle, 26 Nov 1914

As more and more men departed for the battlefields of Europe and trench warfare became the norm, the British Army struggled to find a way to keep their forces well fed and healthy. Part of the answer was in Marmite. It soon became a part of the standard field rations given to troops and contributed significantly to the wellbeing of many. First World War trenches were wet, muddy, cold and not always sanitary; the vitamin boost they could receive with a cup of Marmite tea was, for many, essential.

By forging the relationship with the government, Wissler and his company experienced significant growth during the war-time economy. In 1916, he and the board hosted the London employees to an event at the Surrey Masonic Hall. Over 250 people attended, including wives and children of the workers, where Mr. Wissler opened the day with a speech “full of patriotic sentiment,” the attendees enjoyed high tea, additional speeches, and “excellent entertainment.”

Burton Observer and Chronicle, 13 Jan 1916

As the war came to a close and the men returned home, they had developed a fondness for those little jars of spread, and in the inter-war period of economic recession and continued rationing, they remained an essential part of the British diet. The war also ensured that men from every town and village across the country were very aware of Marmite and its benefits, firmly placing the brand into the minds of people across Britain.

Finally, we see the Wissler family in the 1921 Census of England and Wales. He continues to act as Director of the Company, and they remain in residence at Heath House, 1 Shooters Hill Road, Greenwich – an area commonly referred to as Shooter’s Hill.

Frederick Wissler’s signature on the 1921 Census of England and Wales

The Census would become one of the last public documents of Wissler’s life. His son, Clement, also employed at Marmite, lived in a home on the same road. 

Frederick Wissler died on 8 April 1924 in London, aged 69. He left a will in which his shares of Marmite were inherited by his children and his cousin. Over the course of his career, he travelled to Algiers, Hong Kong, Saint John, New Brunswick and New York City, representing Marmite… a quintessentially British brand created by this Swiss-born, naturalised British citizen.

Visit Taking Care of Business: Migrant Entrepreneurs and the Making of Britain at the Migration Museum to find out the migration stories behind so many other British brands and businesses past and present.

And discover more migration stories, and perhaps even your own, with two weeks’ free access to Findmypast.

About the author

With a family tree that dates back to London in 1635, Jen Baldwin, Research Specialist at Findmypast, loves the moment of discovery. And with ancestors from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, the discoveries are endless. Jen specialises in the British diaspora and social history, adding depth and stories to traditional genealogy.

Migration Museum shortlisted for Lewisham Mayor’s Business Awards 2022

The Migration Museum has been shortlisted in the Best Visitor Attraction category at the Lewisham Mayor’s Business Awards 2022.

Lewisham residents have been nominating their favourite businesses in the borough – and we’re honoured to be among the highest nominated businesses in the Visitor Attractions category.

Thank you to everyone who has nominated us so far – we truly appreciate it. But we need your support to get over the line.

If you live, study or work in Lewisham and like what we do, please click on the link below to vote for us in the Best Visitor Attraction category. The public vote ends on Friday 21 October: 

Click here to vote for us in the Best Visitor Attraction category

We are delighted to be nominated alongside so many friends and partners in the borough, including a number of business that feature in our Taking Care of Business exhibition and whose products we sell in our Migrant Makers Market.

View a full list of the nominees in each category here

Please consider supporting these fantastic businesses – and congratulations and best of luck to all shortlisted nominees.