Remembering Campbell’s in King’s Lynn

The demolition of Campbell's tower, King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The demolition of Campbell's tower, King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Christmas 2007 was not a happy one for the 250 or so people who worked at the Campbell's Soup factory in King's Lynn.

Campbell's in its heyday. Picture: EDP library

Campbell's in its heyday. Picture: EDP library - Credit: Matthew Usher

For 10 years ago, the last cans of the iconic soup, made famous by Andy Warhol, rolled off the production line.

In 2012, the equally iconic tower which housed the plant's giant boiler was brought down by powerful explosives, reducing it to rubble.

Soup trains ran from the factory. Picture: EDP library

Soup trains ran from the factory. Picture: EDP library - Credit: Matthew Usher

Campbell's worker Mick Locke from King's Lynn died after he was scalded by steam at the plant in July 1995.

His daughter Sarah Griffiths was chosen from 45 nominees to press the button to set off the charges which would bring down the landmark.

Soup rolled off the production line by the lorry-load. Picture: EDP library

Soup rolled off the production line by the lorry-load. Picture: EDP library - Credit: Matthew Usher


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'I will feel better not having to see it all the time and so will all my family,' she said.

Hardwick Road was closed and thousands gathered to watch the operation.

An artist's impression of the plant before it was built in the late 1950s. Picture: Archant library

An artist's impression of the plant before it was built in the late 1950s. Picture: Archant library - Credit: Matthew Usher

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The ground shook as the structure keeled over and came crashing into the car park.

Today just the name remains while the Campbell's Meadow retail park which was later built on the factory site contains a 140,000 sq ft Tesco.

A worker checks tins as she packs them. Picture: EDP library

A worker checks tins as she packs them. Picture: EDP library - Credit: Matthew Usher

When Campbell's came to Lynn in 1959, it was the US food firm's first factory outside of America. Its site on the town's southern outskirts was surrounded by fields, which are now occupied by a sprawl of retail parks.

Ready supplies of vegetables from the surrounding Fens were one of the main reasons the firm chose Lynn.

Classic cans of soup. Picture: Submitted

Classic cans of soup. Picture: Submitted

By the 1970s, Campbell's employed 500 and the booming food industry was a major employer in Lynn.

Other brands like Fray Bentos were being made in the factory. By the 1990s, it was also producing the then latest kitchen store cupboard must-have - ready-made pasta sauces.

A undated aerial view of the site, surrounded by fields. Picture: EDP library

A undated aerial view of the site, surrounded by fields. Picture: EDP library

But while Campbell's did its best to move with the times, it was eventually eaten up by a competitor and the Lynn factor was canned.

Premier Foods bought the Hardwick site as part of a £460m acquisition of Campbell's. It then announced its closure.

Condensed soup still lives on in the UK, surviving amid the whirl of foody fads. But Campbell's iconic can has been rebranded as Bachelor's.

Did you work at Campbell's or have you got memories of the factory? E-mail chris.bishop@archant.co.uk.

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