On 12 October 2006, the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Solihull, Lorely Burt wrote and submitted “Early Day Motion 2728” to The House of Commons.
That this House deplores the retention of the picture of the House of Commons on HP Sauce labels following the decision by new owners Heinz plc to remove production from the historic Aston site to Holland, making the 125 employees redundant; believes that Heinz should not exploit this symbol of Britishness to sell a product no longer made in the United Kingdom; and calls upon the Administration Committee to remove HP sauce from all House dining areas until the jobs are reinstated or the House of Commons picture is removed from the label.
Sadly for Lorely only 42 of her fellow MPs signed up for the motion so it was never passed.
However this wasn’t the first time that the sauce and the Houses of Parliament’s paths had crossed.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the sauce acquired the nickname “Wilson’s Gravy”, a reference to Harold Wilson, the late Labour MP who was twice Prime Minister. The nickname stemmed from an interview with Mary Wilson, his wife, that appeared in the Sunday Times. During the course of the interview she said “If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce”.
However perhaps the most famous and the original connections are the name and the picture of the Houses of Parliament which still adorn the front of every bottle
These can be traced back to the development of the brand. However exactly who the actual inventor was is still a matter of debate
Some say it was concocted in the 1870s by Mary Moore, the wife of Edwin Samson Moore, owner of the Midland Vinegar Company in Aston, Birmingham. Mary created the sauce using her husband’s vinegar and the exotic spices which had started to arrive from India. This story then runs that Moore purchased the brand name from one of his customers, Nottingham grocer FG Garton, supposedly in lieu of a debt, launched HP Sauce in 1903.
Another version of the story claims that Frederick Gibson Garton, the grocer from Nottingham didn’t just create the name but actually invented the recipe too. This story runs that a few years after launching it he registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1896. Garton because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it. The stories then tie together as in this one it is said that Garton sold the recipe and HP brand for the sum of £150 and the settlement of some unpaid bills to Moore.
A third version attributes the invention to one Harry Palmer, sauce-maker and horse-racing fan, who first produced it as Harry Palmer’s Famous Epsom Sauce, in 1899. This story then runs that Palmer, an avid gambler at the Epsom races, was forced to sell the recipe (to cover his debts) to Garton who then in turn sold it to Moore.
However this last story is seen as the outsider as there is no evidence in the official history of the brand to show Palmer existed and it seems a little unlikely that Garton, a grocer from the Midlands would have come in contact with a gambler from the South of England.