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Showering, Francis Edwinfree

(1912–1995)
  • Anne Pimlott Baker

Francis Edwin Showering (1912–1995)

by unknown photographer

Showering, Francis Edwin (1912–1995), drinks manufacturer, was born on 10 July 1912 at The Ship inn, Kilver Street, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, one of the four sons of Albert Edward Showering, an innkeeper and brewer, and his wife, Ethel May née Dyke. He was educated at Shepton Mallet grammar school and then spent two years in Bristol training as a chemist before (like his three brothers, Arthur, Herbert, and Ralph) he joined the family brewing business, Showerings Ltd, which had been brewing beer and making cider in Shepton Mallet since the early nineteenth century. On 25 August 1934 he married Hilda Florence Foote (1911/12–1980), the daughter of James Henry Foote, a cheese factor, of Shepton Mallet. There were no children of the marriage.

Showerings Ltd was a small local business which found it increasingly difficult to compete with the large national manufacturers. After the Second World War, Showering, by then managing director, turned his attention to perry, made from pear juice, which, unlike cider, had never been made on a large scale because of problems with the control of fermentation and the prevention of deposits and cloudiness. He began to research new methods of fermentation, and in 1946 developed a low-alcohol sparkling drink made from pear juice, which was given the name Babycham. This sparkling perry, attractively packaged in small bottles with gold foil round the top, was launched in the west country in the early 1950s and began to be distributed nationally in 1953, accompanied by skilful advertising. Babycham was targeted mainly at young women, as a drink they could order in pubs, served in a saucer-shaped champagne glass; it was marketed as 'the genuine champagne perry sparkling in its own glamorous glass', with the slogan 'I'd love a Babycham' and the brand symbol of a small blue and yellow Chinese water deer. In 1955 it was the first alcoholic drink to be advertised on television. An instant success, Babycham was in short supply to begin with, as production could not keep up with demand. Many of the old perry pear orchards of the west midlands had been neglected or grubbed up, so Showerings bought farms in Somerset, not traditional perry-growing country, and planted new pear orchards on them to supply the Shepton Mallet factory. By 1966 this was producing 108,000 bottles an hour. Factories were built in Ireland and Belgium, as Showerings managed to keep imitators at bay in a series of court cases and resisted the objections of the French champagne houses to the description of Babycham as 'champagne perry'.

Following the success of Babycham, Showerings became a public company in 1959 and went on to acquire other drinks manufacturing firms, including William Gaymer, Vine Products, Whiteways, Britvic fruit juices, and, in 1966, Harveys of Bristol. In 1968 Showerings was sold to Allied Breweries for £108 million, and Showering became a director of the merged company. Showering's nephew Sir Keith Stanley Showering (1930–1982) was chairman and chief executive of Allied Breweries (which became Allied-Lyons in 1979) from 1975 until his sudden death in 1982, when Showering became vice-chairman. Showering was appointed CBE in 1982. A keen sailor and a first-class shot, he was a generous local benefactor and financed the modern development of the centre of Shepton Mallet. His first wife having died in 1980, he married, on 7 October 1981, his former secretary, Rita Matthewman (b. 1928/9), the daughter of Ernest Matthewman, an army officer.

After an unsuccessful attempt to buy back Showerings in 1991, when Allied-Lyons decided to sell it, Showering, together with the four sons of Sir Keith Showering, formed a new drinks company, Brothers Drinks, and invented a new drink, Straight 8. He remained chairman of Brothers Drinks until his death on 5 September 1995, of a heart attack, at his home, Silton Lodge, Silton, Gillingham, Dorset. He was buried on 13 September at the parish church in Shepton Mallet. He was survived by his second wife.

Sources

  • L. C. Luckwill and A. Pollard, eds., Perry pears (1963), 11–12
  • The Times (8 Sept 1995)
  • The Independent (9 Sept 1995)
  • b. cert.
  • m. certs.
  • d. cert.

Likenesses

  • photograph, News International Syndication, London [see illus.]
  • photograph, repro. in The Independent

Wealth at Death

£2,139,362: probate, 12 Dec 1995, CGPLA Eng. & Wales