The company was founded as an oilseed business in Evesham, Worcestershire in 1730. In 1862 Thomas Nelson Foster and his brother Richard Gibbs Foster, moved the company to Bakers Quay in Gloucester following a fire which devestated the Evesham premises. Foster Brothers established an oilseed crushing mill on Bakers Quay and the mill continued to be managed by three generations of the Foster family until 1945.
Batches of imported linseed oil and cotton were crushed, heated and then pressed to extract the oil, and the residue was sold as cattle cake. A major expansion of premises was carried out in 1891-93 to provide more milling capacity and warehouse space with a detached boiler house and a tank house. The output capacity was 600 tons per week, and the workforce increased from an initial 10 or so to over 100.
In 1899 Foster Brothers joined with sixteen other similar firms from around the country to form British Oil & Cake Mills Ltd. (BOCM). Another phase of expansion took place in 1910, including the installation of a second mill and a deodorising plant. The production capacity subsequently increased to 1000 tons per week. In 1925 BOCM was taken over by Lever Brothers, but the mill in Gloucester continued to be managed by members of the Foster family until 1945.
During the 1920s and 30s, Foster Brothers mainly processed linseed (from Argentina, India and Canada), cotton seed (from Egypt, Bombay and Greece) and groundnuts (from the west coast of Africa). Most of these products came by large ship to Sharpness and then by barge to Gloucester. Much of the linseed oil was sold to paint and varnish manufacturers and some was used in making linoleum. Cotton seed was sold for fish frying and soap making, and groundnut oil for making margarine. It was all sent out in barrels made on the premises. Much of the residual cake was sold as slabs direct to farmers, while some was mixed with grain and certain additives to produce a range of animal feeds.
In the early 1950s, BOCM installed a large, new oil extraction plant at Avonmouth. This led to the closure of the Gloucester mill in 1955, and the building was later sold to West Midland Farmers who used it as a distribution depot.
Foster Brothers' oilseed crushing mill, built on Bakers Quay in 1862.