Week 21 2024

Bovril Sign

Oakham Treasures purchased both of these Bovril signs privately, and the portrait sign opposite is over 100 years old. These days you certainly wouldn’t see an advertising campaign showing a cow looking at a Bovril jar and saying ‘Alas! My poor brother’! When touring the museum, you will see many other fine examples of Bovril packaging and merchandising, both in the grocery store and in the general display cabinets.

Amazingly, Bovril’s origins can be put down to French demand! In the 1870-71 war against the Germans, Napoleon realised that his armies could not march on empty stomachs, and so ordered 1million cans of beef via a contract to a Scot called John Lawson Johnston. He, in turn, sourced and supplied the product via Canada, and then later produced it from a small factory in Shoreditch. By 1888 there were over 3000 pubs, grocers, and chemists serving Bovril.

It is sold world wide and is incredibly popular with football fans throughout the country. By 1994 enough Bovril was sold to make over 90 million mugs of hot drink, which is enough for every person attending a football League Match to have one at the beginning, one at half time, one at the end and another cup when they got home!

Bovril beef stock cubes, Bovril Chicken stock drink, Bovril Original and Bovril stock drink are all still available in the high street.