the coffee-shop writer

Jones jam factory in Suider Paarl

H Jones & Co in Suider Paarl was built in 1910 at a time when prospects for the local wine industry were very poor and farmers were encouraged to plant orchards of deciduous fruit instead.

Jam factories sprung up in Wellington, Paarl and Stellenbosch. In later years H Jones & Co produced jams, preserves and tinned vegetables for the local and export markets. Some brands like All Gold, can still be seen on supermarket shelves, while others like IXL, Silver Leaf and Victoria Falls are less familiar. By the 1950s the jam factory was one of the largest employers in Paarl and provided work for more than 2,000 people during the fruit season. At first working conditions in factories were often harsh and subject to few legislative restrictions. During the 1940s and 1950s unions like the Fruit and Canning Workers’ Union began to mobilise workers to improve working conditions on the shop floor.

The interesting thing about H Jones & Co was that it was not a South African company, but a subsidiary of an Australian company called Henry Jones IXL. In 1910 the company sent the 27 year old Howard Hope Just to South Africa to establish a subsidiary in Paarl. He became the Paarl factory’s first managing director. H Jones & Company was started by Henry Jones in Hobart, Tasmania in 1891. The company was later known as Henry Jones IXL, the ‘IXL’ referring to its Jones’s personal motto ‘I excel at everything I do’. 

Henry Jones was born in 1862 in Hobart to Welsh parents. After receiving a nominal education, he started working at a local jam factory at the age of 12. His first job in George Peacock’s jam factory was to paste labels on jam tins. He gradually worked his way up the factory floor and in 1885 he was promoted to factory foreman. In 1889 when George Peacock retired, Henry Jones and two shareholders bought the company, and renamed it H Jones & Company. The company eventually opened factories in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Jones’s became one of the driving forces in the Tasmanian economy, and had business interests in tin mining, saw mills, shipping and farming, and also became active in public life. He was knighted in 1919 and was often caricatured in the press as the ‘Knight of the Jam Tin’. He died in 1926 at the age of 64.

Today the ‘All Gold’ brand has found its way into the Tiger Brands stable. The brand’s famous tomato sauce dates back to the founding of the Jones factory in Paarl and was created by a Scottish chemist John Semble.

Originally published in the Paarl Post, 17 September 2012