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Everyday Heritage: Wales’s Smith’s Potato Crisps Factory

In 1947, Smith’s Potato Crisps factory went into production at Fforestfach, Swansea. The factory was officially opened in October 1948 by Swansea’s mayor, William A. Jenkins. Half a century later, the building was Grade II listed by Cadw on 7 January 2000 for its exceptional architectural interest as a large-scale Art Deco design with a well-detailed entrance block and prominent clock tower.

The aerial photograph shows that behind the pleasing modern façade, there was a large workaday production area.
The aerial photograph shows that behind the pleasing modern façade, there was a large workaday production area.

The clock, as with so many commercial buildings of the period, is the central feature of the façade. As well as being decorative and modern, the clock was there partly to tell people that it was time for a break (Smiths crisps, of course!)  and partly for workers to know when to start and finish their shifts.

Smith’s Potato Crisps Ltd

Smith’s Potato Crisps Ltd was formed by Frank Smith and Jim Viney just after the First World War, by converting garages in Cricklewood, London, into a crisp factory. Smith conceived the idea of selling unseasoned potato crisps with a small greaseproof blue paper sachet of salt that could be sprinkled over the crisps.

The new crisp factory in Swansea went on to employ around 250 people, producing 230 tonnes of snacks every week. At its peak the factory was producing 400 million snacks every year, from Wotsits, Monster Munch and Cheese Moments to Bacon Fries and Scampi Fries. The factory became an integral part of the local community and a much-loved brand across the UK. 

The Smiths’ company was taken over in the late 1980s and, along with Walkers, became part of the US food giant PepsiCo in 1989. Production continued with most of Smith’s crisps being re-branded under the Walkers name and heavily marketed by PepsiCo in a long running TV campaign using former England international footballer and television presenter Gary Lineker.

By 3 March 2006 production had come to an end at the Swansea site, with the switch to Walkers plants in Peterlee and Coventry. Redevelopment of the site for housing was proposed in 2009 but with the retention of the splendid listed building.

Coflein: https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/404880/

Charles Green

13/03/2024

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