The sad news of James Blakemans’ passing has seen countless messages of condolence and memories pour in from far and wide.
Mr James Thomas Blakeman M.Inst.M passed peacefully at his home at the grand age of 93. Having recently celebrated his businesses’ 70th anniversary, James was still paying regular visits to the factory. His loss has been felt by Phil, Sue, their families and everyone on site, who dearly miss him; his gentlemanly demeanour, his wisdom and his humour. By any definition, he was a towering figure in his industry, a man who commanded respect and admiration and someone who could hold the attention of anyone with stories of a life well lived; his time serving in the RAF and playing football with Luton town against Sir Stanley Matthews being amongst his favourites to reminisce upon.
James spent a short time as a manufacturing supervisor with a pork butcher in Leek, Staffordshire, learning the ropes whilst becoming a master butcher and an elected member of the Meat Institute. In 1953 he decided to start his own enterprise, a mobile refreshment bar with his brother-in-law, whilst simultaneously working as a freelance sausage meat manufacturer. His tireless work ethic, ethos for producing quality products and charisma enabled him to establish his fledgling business.
Production of the Blakemans sausage that we all know and love started in earnest in 1955 after his marriage to Ann. The couple bought a farm in Caverswall near Stoke-on-Trent, converting the cow sheds and stables into a small production unit for the manufacture of sausage and cooked meats. Through the years, Jim and Ann grew their company, boosted in the 70’s with the creation of the chip shop sausage. The fish shortages of the cod wars inspired Jim to create a sausage that could be deep fried. It took him and a synthetic skin supplier 2 years of trial and error to master it, but his tenacity brought us the Supreme sausage which is still the market leading catering sausage today.
The turn of the millennium saw James step into his role as chairman, handing over the daily running of the business to his children, Phil and Sue. He often mentioned how proud he was of them, their successes and how they upheld his core values in business.
The Blakeman business and its 300 plus employees owes James a debt of gratitude for the foundations that he laid, his dedication, hard work and integrity leading them to the thriving enterprise that they operate today 70 years on. Many of the workforce knew him well due to his regular visits and will miss him, his humour, his character, knowledge and guidance greatly.
A beautiful service was held in celebration of James’ life on the 12th July which saw him visit his factory one last time, his cortege guided by his beloved lorries. In addition to his entire workforce lining the yard to say their goodbyes, neighbouring businesses downed tools to line the street and pay their respects in a fitting tribute to the life of a much admired, self-made man.
If you’d like to learn more about James. T. Blakeman and his family business then please visit Blakemans.co.uk.