Criddle & Co Ltd has, since its establishment, been an integral part of the British family owned business, Edward Billington & Son Ltd (The Billington Group).
1858 - 1902
Edward Billington and Son was established on the Wirral in 1858 before moving to Liverpool just six years later, where the company has traded ever since. From its fruitful beginnings as a tea and coffee importer, the company soon realised an opportunity and moved focus, laying the groundwork for the company’s growth into the sugar industry. Billington branded sugar, a household name, can still be found on supermarket shelves today, although the company was sold to British Sugar in 2004.
In 1898 a Mr WE Criddle, the owner of a struggling, local syrup melting plant approached the Billington family and asked to join the firm. The Billington & Criddle partnership of manufacturing treacle and syrup continued until 1938 when the company, as part of a local consortium, was sold to Tate & Lyle. Half of the proceeds of this sale were used to build homes for the disadvantaged in Crosby.
Establishment of Agricultural Division
1902 - 1959
In 1902 the company explored the market for the manufacture of Cattle Cake, a concentrated feed for cattle made from milling by-products and processed in blocks, and decided that an opportunity was available and should be seized. A mill was established in the old bedstead manufacturing factory of Billington Brothers on Great Homer Street in 1903, just two miles from our present day headquarters in Liverpool. The name of the newly founded company though was to prove a little controversial; one of Billingtons' biggest customers at the time was Bibby, who would be a direct competitor to the new company. For this reason Billingtons paid £5 to the Criddle family for the use of their name and Criddle and Co Ltd was born.
The company was well known in the area through its three bright green steam-powered sentinel wagons. These travelled between the Liverpool docks and the mill bringing all the necessary ingredients that were necessary for the manufacturing process. The three steam tractors are still in working condition; one is in the ownership of, and exhibited at the Liverpool Museum and the remaining two are owned privately by enthusiasts and can be seen on occasions at agricultural shows and exhibitions.
Move from Liverpool and Change in Company Structure
1959 - 1986
By 1959 the company relocated the Liverpool Mill to a much larger site in Ellesmere Port, which at its peak manufactured 50,000 tonnes of animal feed per annum. However, the company had started to gain a large number of customers in the Lake District area and the reality was that supplying this region from the Ellesmere Port site wasn’t financially viable long term. As a result, a joint venture was established with Burgess Feeds of Walton-le-Dale and a new mill trading under the name Criddle Burgess Feeds Ltd was established with the opening of the Carlisle Mill in 1970.
Criddle & Co, wholly owned by Edward Billington & Son Ltd, was solely responsible for the sourcing of the raw materials whilst Criddle Burgess, jointly owned by Burgess Feeds, was the manufacturer. Criddle & Co Ltd was and still is based in the Cunard Building in Liverpool, this has been the home of Edward Billington & Son Ltd since 1959.
The partnership and early establishment of the country mill gave the company considerable advantage when membership of the Common Market changed the UK agricultural sector. Large increases in the availability of locally grown grains and feed ingredients ended the necessity for portside production. Another mill in Stone, Staffordshire was quickly established along with Anglesey, Oswestry (Shropshire), Glazebury (Cheshire) and Tetbury (Gloucestershire). The Ellesmere Port Mill was eventually closed in 1978.
The imposition of milk quotas in 1984 had a huge impact on the agricultural industry as a whole. The massive reduction in outputs that this caused, led to mass consolidation in the animal feed sector, with many large players exiting the market. Bucking the trend Criddle Burgess rationalised their operations by selling off smaller mills and increasing the capacity of their operations in both Stone and Carlisle.
Expansion of Criddle & Co Ltd, and creation of Criddle Billington Feeds Ltd
1986 - 1998
In 1986 the partnership with Burgess Feeds came to an amicable conclusion with Billingtons purchasing the other half of the business. The name changed again, this time to Criddle Billington Feeds Ltd. The supply of the raw materials remained the sole responsibility of Criddle & Co Ltd.
In this period the Billington group expanded its commodity trading operations with the acquisitions of Wrigglesworth of Hull and Joseph Pyke of Preston. These companies were later merged with Criddle & Co, bringing with them important new customers and trading volumes, whilst also adding extra expertise to the business.
Further expansion of Criddle & Co Ltd and emergence of Carrs Billington Agriculture
1998 - Present
In 1998 Criddle Billington with its mills in Stone and Carlisle entered a partnership with Carrs Agriculture of Silloth. Both companies shared some trading areas and as a consequence considerable synergies were achieved. Carrs' feed mill was closed and its volume added to the Carlisle Mill. The new entity was named Carrs Billington Agriculture and trades as two separate companies, Sales and Operations. Although the name Criddle was removed from the manufacturing of animal feed for the first time in 95 years, the exclusive supply arrangement between Criddle & Co Ltd and the Carrs Billington manufacturing business remained and has increased with time.
In 2000 Carrs Billington purchased Amalgamated Farmers and in 2005 also acquired the assets of Pye Bibby from the administrators. This brought the most modern ruminant feed mill in the country to the company, which is located in Lancaster. The company is currently producing animal feed from this mill, alongside the Stone and Carlisle mills and with blend sites in Kirkbride, Newtown (Powys) and Carmarthen. The exclusive supply agreement between Criddle & Co Ltd and Carrs Billington Agriculture provides an excellent platform from which to trade commodities.