Retro: Happy ending and new home for lost Henderson’s Relish sign

Pat Byrne and Darren Bown with the restored Hendersons Relish sign that's on display at Kelham Island Museum
Pat Byrne and Darren Bown with the restored Hendersons Relish sign that's on display at Kelham Island Museum
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A familiar Sheffield landmark has found a new home on permanent display at Kelham Island Museum.

The iconic Henderson’s Relish sign, which once took pride of place on the Leavygreave Road factory wall, has been lovingly restored by the museum’s conservation team after being rediscovered and reclaimed by the Henderson’s team following its disappearance from their factory site in 2008.

The iconic Henderson's Relish sign before its restoration

The iconic Henderson's Relish sign before its restoration

The orange and black sign, originally produced in the 1960s, was donated to the museum last November.

It now resides in the industrial museum’s Unexpected Industries gallery, which has recently been redisplayed as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded project, Sheffield 1916: Steel, Steam and Power.

The gallery is home to the non-industrial manufacturers important to Sheffield’s heritage such as Stones Bitter, Ward’s Classic Yorkshire Ale, Izal Products and Batchelor’s Fruits – now famous for soup and mushy peas.

The story of the sign’s disappearance from the factory wall almost a decade ago still remains a mystery.

We thought it was most likely a prank as it was fresher’s week

Patrick Byrne, who recently retired as company general manager, recalled: “The calm of Henderson’s was rocked one morning in September 2008 when two security guards from across Upper Hanover Street knocked on our factory door.

“During the night they had seen some lads on the roof of the lean-to structure to the right of the house and when inspecting outside we realised half of the old sign on the side of the building was missing”.

“We thought it was most likely a prank as it was fresher’s week, given the intruders’ description,” continued office manager Liz Castleton, who expected the sign to return.

When the original did not reappear, an insurance claim enabled a new sign to be created by Sherffield firm Woollen Signs in April 2009.

Very soon after the new sign appearing, the factory was visited by builders from across the road with the missing half of the old sign.

They had been clearing the site of the newly-completed Jessop West University building and had found it wedged against the hoardings that had acted as security for the site.

The sign was too damaged to be re-used but was kept with its other half and moved to the new Henderson’s factory off Sheffield Parkway.

When Liz heard that Kelham Island Museum were collecting items from city industries, she decided to offer the sign in agreement that it could be restored for the people of Sheffield to see.

The original sign was painted onto two half-inch-thick plywood sheets, larger than the common sizes now available, each 9ft by 5ft.

The sign had been damaged on its top and bottom edges and had faded to a pale pink, as opposed to the deep orange of the famous brand.

The restoration process took place over a week.

The museum’s conservator Darren Bown, himself a fan of the popular relish, experimented with various processes such as rubbing the paint finish with renaissance wax and a light abrasive to remove the faded paint and reveal the brilliant orange underneath.

He said: “When we first saw the sign I relished the opportunity to conserve a bit of Sheffield’s history. A decision was made by us not to address the damage to the edges of the sign as it helps tell the story of its passage here to us.”

The museum has also welcomesdanother donation from the Henderson’s Relish team, a loan of one of their 100-year-old bottles for display in the new 1916 House.

The replica two-up, two-down terrace features interactive and sensory displays.

n Henry Henderson concocted his first batch of Relish in 1885.

Originally made at 35 Broad Lane, Henderson’s Relish has been in uninterrupted production within a short distance of the site from which the very first bottle was filled.

It is still being blended to the original secret recipe of Henry Henderson at the new factory on Parkway Rise.

The recipe remains a secret only known to three family members.