A church's proposed revamp of the tomb of Edmund Crosse - of Crosse and Blackwell fame - has thrown the company and its philanthropic owners into the spotlight. Reporter IAN PROCTOR examines how the duo left a lasting impression on Harrow.

A crumbling tomb in a Harrow Weald graveyard marks the final resting place of a Victorian businessman - best known for his pickle.

The memorial of Edmund Crosse, the co-owner of the Crosse and Blackwell food company, is probably the most significant feature in the grounds of All Saints' Church, in Uxbridge Road, Harrow Weald.

It sits near the family grave of his compatriot Thomas Blackwell, adjacent to the north-east corner of the church.

The 7ft 10in-high carved stone shrine consists of a plinth on which a gabled house-shaped monument rests at right angles, all surrounded by a low rail.

However, the stone blocks are misaligned and cracking and the small decaying decorative pillars have been removed for safety reasons.

Reverend James Mercer, vicar of All Saints' Church, believes Mr Crosse's legacy must be preserved and wants to restore the monument.

He wants it added to the Harrow Heritage Trail - because the Crosse and Blackwell legacy in the borough is more than just Branston pickle.

Mr Crosse lived at Fairfields in Brookshill, Harrow Weald, while the Blackwells' residence was The Kiln in Clamp Hill, Harrow Weald - the result of an ancestor of Mr Blackwell marrying into the influential Bodymead brickmaking family.

The Blackwells once owned Cedars Open Space and Harrow Weald Recreation Ground and bequeathed them both to the local population.

St Anselm Church, in Westfield Park, Hatch End, was built on land provided by Mr Blackwell, and nowadays there is, of course, a Blackwell Close in Harrow Weald and a Blackwell Hall in Uxbridge Road.

Mr Crosse met Mr Blackwell in 1819 when they were apprentices at the same firm, West and Wyatt, which produced pickles, sauces and condiments for wealthy and fashionable households from a factory in central London.

The pair bought out their employer in 1829 and renamed the company after themselves.

They bought up chefs' recipes and two years later received the first of an unbroken succession of royal appointments.

Mr Blackwell was the neighbour of composer William Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, and they apparently once argued about the former's straying dog. Gilbert is recorded as writing "please keep your pickles out of my preserves".

He was also a patron of painter Frederick Goodall and gave him a statue of Charles The Second, taken from the Crosse and Blackwell factory.

Both Mr Crosse, who died in 1862, and Mr Blackwell, who died in 1879, were buried at All Saints' Church, where the philanthropist son of Mr Blackwell, who shared his father's name, funded an expansion in 1886.

Mr Mercer said: "Edmund Crosse was a one-time resident and generous benefactor living in Harrow Weald.

"We'd like to restore his monument and receive a grant from Premier Foods, who own the Crosse and Blackwell brand.

"The monument has deteriorated. It's over 100 years old and the ground has shifted and the stones have come loose. It's cordoned off but it could become dangerous."

Mr Mercer has applied to the Bishop of London for a 'faculty' - the ecclesiastical equivalent of planning permission - to repair the Grade II* monument.

Professional conservators of monuments have surveyed the tomb and produced a report that will be forwarded to the diocese, and Mr Mercer said if permission is granted work will begin in the autumn.

Churchgoer Nick Oulton, who researched Crosse and Blackwell for the parish magazine, said: "The Crosse monument is opposite the Blackwell one, so just as in life they were partners in death."