John Horniman was probably the first tea merchant to ensure that this product was
honest, clean and pure. This was almost certainly influenced by his Quaker upbringing
and the testimonies he was familiar with and clearly practised which underpin this
Religious Society of Friends known as Quakers.
Quakers believe that religion is about the whole of life which should be led as simply
as possible with honesty and integrity as essential ingredients to daily living.
During the 19th century many Quaker industries became successful and profitable:
they were known for being entirely honest in their business practices and in their
employment procedures. The outcome was that many of these Quaker business men, not
wanting to profit themselves by their newly found affluence, established trusts and
funds from which we all benefit today. Joseph Rowntree Trusts are some of the most
well known and the John Horniman’s Children’s Trust came into being due to the tea
merchant’s business success and on retirement the philanthropic practices he followed.
John Horniman was born in Reading on 04. 12. 1803 to Thomas and Hannah Horniman who
had joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) shortly after they were married.
So it was that John and his brother Robert were educated at Ackworth, the Quaker
school in Yorkshire.
Following their schooling John and Robert set up grocers businesses but by 1826 John
Horniman had founded the tea trading and blending business ‘Horniman’s Tea Company’
in Newport, Isle of Wight. In 1852 he moved the company to London to be closer to
the bonded warehouses of London Docks, then the biggest tea trading port in the world.
At the time that John Horniman established the business, tea was only sold as loose
leaf, enabling unscrupulous tea traders to add other items to the product, dust and
hedge clippings being some of the additives. John Horniman, following the Quaker
testimony of integrity, wanted to demonstrate the honesty of his company and so found
a mechanical method of filling tea packets which could then be sealed. A further
testimony to the quality of Horniman’s tea came following a series of articles in
The Lancet in the 1850’s about the adulteration of food. The editor Thomas Wakeley
arranged for food samples to be tested for purity and Horniman’s tea was ‘extremely
praised as passing the tests in triumphant fashion’. The business flourished following
this article, which subsequently led to the Foods and Drugs Act of 1860. John Horniman
could be seen riding to his London dockside warehouse in full Quaker attire mounted
on his black horse. By the end of the century Horniman was the largest tea trading
business in the world.
In retirement John Horniman devoted his energies and accumulated fortune to philanthropic
work. Amongst many other organisations that received his active support was the Anti-Slavery
Society and the Howard League for Penal Reform, both had significant Quaker membership
and allegiance. In 1899 he settled money on Trustees to buy or build a convalescent
home suitable for disadvantaged children in need of convalescence. This home opened
in 1892, a year before John Horniman died at his home in Croydon, Coombe Hill House.
He was almost 90 and had been married to Ann (nee Smith) for over 67 years.
The convalescent home closed in 1941 and after the Second World War it was leased
to the Invalid Children’s Aid Association, which in 1986 became Invalid Children’s
Aid Nationwide (ICAN) and eventually converted into a school for children with speech
and language problems. The school closed in 2003 and the building was sold. The money
from the sale has been invested to generate an income, and Trustees have revised
the deeds of the charity to carry forward the vision of John Horniman by making
grants to organisations to assist with the relief of sickness and the advancement
of the education of children who are sick, convalescent or have learning disabilities.
The Trustees are all members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Great