In Spring 1916 the Peckham Society was sent photos of Roberts Capsule Stopper Factory by Jill Abrey in New Zealand. Her father, Charles Reading, joined the firm as an office boy when the firm was in Harder’s Road, Peckham in 1916 and finally retired in 1976 as managing director.
Roberts Capsule Stopper Company Ltd. was founded in 1887 by the brothers E A Roberts and F C Roberts; their first premises were in Horseshoe Alley, Bankside, Southwark. They were initially cork traders, moved to the manufacture of cork stoppers and, as metal-forming technology developed, to the production of pressed metal decorative tops and pre-threaded metal caps in aluminium and tinplate. Around the turn of the century they took out many patents for bottle closures. The company swiftly became the first choice for manufacturers throughout the UK.
In 1912 the company moved to Peckham and opened two factories: tin plate printed at the metal printing works was taken to a separate factory, possibly in Canterbury Grove, for stamping and forming.
In order to merge all production on one site, a custom-designed factory was built in 1932 in a residential area at 159 Peckham Rye. The architects, Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, also designed the iconic Hoover and Firestone buildings in the Great West Road, West London. The two storey factory in Art Deco style did look too out of place with its Georgian neighbours. The internal arrangement of the factory continually changed as it responded to advances in technology and market pressures. The firm’s flexibility was one of the main reasons for its success in a competitive market.
In 2007 the company name was changed to Roberts Metal Packaging and the company moved to Birchmere Business Park in Thamesmead. Today they have moved away from cork and are Europe’s leading manufacturer of pre-threaded metal caps and aluminium and tinplate jars and containers, with clients including global cosmetics, healthcare and food companies.
The Peckham Rye factory was demolished in 2010 despite efforts by the Peckham Society to have it spot-listed, and a block of 79 flats, much of it social housing, was built on the site by Wandle Housing. This year a decision was made to demolish the new block due to faults in the fabric of the building.
Reprinted from Peckham Society News, Issue 145 (Summer 2016)