Henderson’s Relish is a Sheffield institution, poured over pies, stews, chips, almost anything, has its own unique flavoured crisp, and the secret of its recipe remains a closely guarded secret.
It is about as Sheffield as you can get, virtually unheard-of outside city boundaries, except for those cases exported to home-sick expatriates around the world.
Henderson’s Relish, Worcestershire sauce-like (without the anchovies), owes its existence to Henry Henderson, born at Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire, in 1850. He was the thirteenth child of Joseph and Hannah Henderson and grew up working on the family farm.
At 21, he left home and worked as an apprentice miller before setting up home in Sheffield with his first wife, Clara Cornthwaite, in 1874. In the early 1880s, Henry became a ‘drysalter’ – somebody who supplied salt or chemicals for preserving food, and somebody who might also have sold pickles, relishes and dried meat.
The Henderson’s set up home at 35 Broad Street, where Henry created a spicy Yorkshire relish in 1885, sold from his adjoining general merchant’s shop, and where customers returned their empty bottles to be refilled from huge barrels.
After Clara died in 1898, Henry remarried in 1904, Eliza Ann Swinterland, but suffered ill-health and made several attempts to sell the business, advertised as a Relish Manufacturer, Wholesale Druggist and Smallwares Dealer.
Henderson’s Relish was sold to Shaw’s of Huddersfield, pickles manufacturer, still in existence today, and appointed Charles Hinksman as General Manager.
Henry retired and lived at Beechwood House, Kenbourne Road, at Nether Edge, and died while on holiday at the Granby Hotel, Skegness, in 1930.
During the 1920s, the business moved the short distance, to Leavygreave Road, near the Jessop’s Hospital, where its small factory became a talking point. According to legend, nobody was ever seen entering or leaving the building.
In 1940, Hinksman bought the company from Shaw’s, renaming it Henderson’s (Sheffield) Ltd, and it has remained in the family ever since.
Harvey Freeman took over from his sister, Gladys, Charles Hinksman’s wife, in 1975, slowly growing the business, and it was handed over to Dr Kenneth Freeman in 1991, the man credited for the dramatic rise in the company’s fortunes. After he died in 2013, aged 92, his wife, Pamela, became its Managing Director.
In 2013, Henderson’s Relish sold the Leavygreave Road factory to the University of Sheffield, which had plans to develop the building as a Henderson’s themed pub. Production of relish was transferred to a new factory on J.F. Finnegan’s 58-acres Sheffield Parkway Business Park.
Stocked by supermarkets across the city, it’s a must for restaurants and takeaways, and woe betide anybody who compares it to Worcestershire Sauce, as did Lewisham MP, Jim Dowd, during a House of Commons speech in January 2014. He lived to regret his faux pas.