Manufacturers Overview

British Brewery Tray Manufacturing 1870 To 1970



Having painstakingly recorded all the manufacturers within my British brewery & cider tray collection, the total is 41 different companies. Of the 41 manufacturers 35 are British, 4 are Belgian and 2 are German. In addition to the 41 manufacturers I have in my collection I only know of 2 others. These are both featured on trays within the Andrew Cunningham collection.


The manufacturer who produced trays for the longest period is Hancock Corfield & Waller Ltd (HCW Ltd). Bearing in mind my collection covers the century 1870 to 1970, I have definite known trays from HCW Ltd from 1900 to 1970.

HCW Ltd still exists today with its headquarters being based in Epsom, Surrey. Waiter trays are this company's longest running product line -

Despite the length of time HCW Ltd has been producing trays, surprisingly this manufacturer is not the largest in terms of the number of different trays in my collection.


The honour of having produced the biggest number of different trays in my collection goes to Reginald Corfield Ltd who produced trays from 1935 to 1970.
Indeed this manufacturer produced over double the number of HCW Ltd (who were the second biggest). In fact just 3 manufacturers, Reginald Corfield Ltd, HCW Ltd and The Metal Box Co Ltd account for 56% of the collection. When taking into account that 31% of trays did not have a maker's mark and knowing that the vast majority of those that are unmarked are from the three above then I estimate 80%+ were produced in total by them. For an unknown reason manufacturers preferred not to leave their maker’s mark, apart from a handful of examples, on trays produced using aluminium for the period after WW2.


The period in which waiter trays were produced in the largest numbers was in the late 1950's and 1960's. This was a period when Reginald Corfield Ltd was producing by far the largest volume of trays.


In an interview with Christopher Corfield-Moore who was the Managing Director of HCW Ltd from 1966 until 1970 he confirmed the following in terms of production runs in the 1950's & 1960's.


Smallest Production Runs - 2,500 trays
Commonest Production Runs - 5,000 trays
Largest Production Runs - between 20,000 to 30,000 trays


In terms of location Birmingham was the city which over the years had the highest number of manufacturers, however London produced the biggest volumes.
In the earliest years of manufacturing Scotland was a key manufacturer of both copper and brass trays.


For the purpose of this website I have targeted 5 manufacturers to investigate their history in more detail.


Each will have their own difficulties for researching therefore if anyone has any pictures, information or stories regarding the following then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

  • Hancock Corfield & Waller Ltd
  • Reginald Corfield Ltd
  • The Metal Box Co Ltd
  • Sir Joseph Causton Ltd
  • B.A.T Co Ltd


I would like to uncover other trays depicting unrecorded manufacturers and would welcome a call on 07715 369540 if anyone has such items.


Inside the Manufacturer


Each of the largest manufacturers had all the key departments in the same buildings.
In the early days the manufacturers performed two key services for their clients, one being the design of the waiter tray, and then the manufacture.


The In-House Design Department Pre WWII


I have to confess that I am no production engineer and I do not completely understand the manufacturing process however the following appear to be the key steps:


Step 1 Metal sheets cleaned and free from grease


Step 2 Metal sheets put through a blacking machine for the back of the tray


Step 3 Metal sheets sent to Printing Room to apply a primer coat of white followed by the colouring/print design (flat-bed machines used before WW2)


Early flat-bed machines


Step 4 Printed metal sheets sent to Varnish Room for varnishing and drying


Step 5 Pressing & Finishing Shop cuts out and shapes (blanks out) the trays using power presses, cutting & curling machines


Post WW2 blanking & forming printed metal sheets on a 50 ton press


The Press & Formation Shop


Early Finishing Department


Step 6 Finished trays are packed and despatched


British Brewery Manufacturers Matrix


Hopefully the supporting photographs above give a sense of what it was like to work for these tray manufacturers.




Manufacturer's history is an area in which I have relatively limited information and my wish is to grow this in the future.
There were more than 43 manufacturers (41 known in this collection + 2 additionally known in the collection of Andrew Cunningham) and I therefore need help if possible.
My five favourite manufacturers and those producing over 80% of my collection, are those which I am particularly keen on further research.


The five which have separate information on this website are:


Hancock Corfield & Waller Ltd who produced throughout the period of my collection.
Reginald Corfield Ltd who produced from 1935 to 1970.
The Metal Box Co Ltd who produced in the 1950's, 1960's and beyond.
B.A.T Co Ltd who produced from the 1910's until the 1960’s.
Sir Joseph Causton Ltd who also produced from the 1910's to the 1940's.


Any other information will be eventually featured in a section "Other Manufacturers"


Please refer to the attached PDF matrix which summarises all British brewery tray manufacturers

British Tray Manufacturers Matrix





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