Carr’s Biscuit Factory

Carr’s factory on Caldewgate was a local landmark by 1914, the country’s largest biscuit factory employed thousands of local men and women. Under the stewardship of Theodore Carr business was good at Carr’s, domestic markets were strong and the trademark Table Water Biscuit was also proving popular with foreign markets nurtured by Theodore’s brother, Bertram.

The outbreak of the war would bring mixed fortune to Carr’s, as it did for many local industries. In the initial recruitment rush, 100 Carr’s employees signed up for active service. Following the introduction of conscription in 1916, one third of the men employed at Carr’s had left to join the army, many would not return. Although flour supplies to the factory were fairly stable during the war, sugar was much more difficult to source. As such by 1916 the factory was producing fewer sweet biscuits.

However, despite these difficulties, Carr’s war work continued to keep business brisk at the factory. Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Carr’s Table Water Biscuits were a staple provision for the Royal Navy, as they stayed fresh on long voyages. During the war, the company continued to supply the navy and began to supply the army too. The needs of the military replaced any drop in domestic trade and the company was struggling to keep up with demand, particularly as many of their skilled staff were recruited to the Army. More women were employed by the company to continue production and one instance in 1915 suggests the pressure the employees were under. In 1915, 500 women in the packing department went on strike in response to the bullying actions of the works matron.

Outside of the factory, the Carrs contributed to the war effort in a number of different ways. As an important industrialist, Theodore was instrumental in the running of Carlisle Citizens' League. The Citizens' League was a group of prominent community and industry leaders who worked together to coordinate Carlisle’s war effort, fundraising and establishing factories and rest rooms for the benefit of the forces. Maud and Dorothy Carr joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment, and both worked at Chadwick Memorial Auxiliary Hospital in Stanwix, caring for wounded soldiers for the duration of the war. Bertram Carr returned to Carlisle, and in 1917 was elected Mayor of the city. On 11 November, upon receiving notification that Armistice had been declared, he sounded the factory’s hooter in celebration, the signal for all other sirens and bells in the city to be sounded and rung. It was he who announced from the steps of the Town Hall that the war had ended.

‘Well may the sun shine gloriously today, for in the annals of our country there is none that shall shine a brighter lusture than Monday 11th November 1918, for today we have received the glorious tidings that an armistice has been signed between the Allies and Germany.’

Mayor of Carlisle, Bertram Carr’s speech to citizens, 12 November 1918.


To find out more about some of Carlisle's other Great War sites, return to map