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Tony Rea: A Family History of Ice Cream

Carlo Tiani - 'Mama It's Carlo!'
My family's involvement in the ice cream industry starts in the 1880's with Carmine ('Carlo') Tiani, my great grandfather on my maternal side. He was married to Carolina Fusco, and came from the Italian village of Settefrati, in the Valle di Comino in Lazio.

Carlo settled in Manchester's Ancoats 'Little Italy' purchasing a property, No.13 Jersey Street, on the corner with Henry Street. The house had a shop on the ground floor, accommodation above, and workspace at the rear and in the cellar. Here he established himself as a food retail merchant, specialising in importing Italian foodstuffs from the regions of Campagna and Lazio (particulary Torre Annunziata, Napoli) and manufacturing ice cream, cones and wafers.

As business grew, he sponsored young fellow Italians from his village to come and work in England, by offering them jobs. He was one of the first to install electrically operated ice cream machinery in Ancoats. This was much more efficient and produced ice cream in much greater quantities than the old manual methods. He had seven pony carts and three push carts, selling ice cream around the streets of Hulme, Moss Side and Ardwick Green. He became known as 'Carlo's Ices' with the catchphrase 'Mama It's Carlo'. He was also a founder member of both Italian Associations in Manchester: The Manchester Italian Catholic Society founded 1888, and the Italian Mutual Aid Society founded in 1900 (reformed 1902). He had three sons, Natalino, Alberto and Enrico, and three daughters, Brigida, Esterina, and Winifreda. They carried on his business after he died in 1922. Uncle Albert continued to sell ice cream up until the Seventies in Ardwick and outside Platt Fields.



Vincenzo Schiavo -'Vincent's Ices'
Another side of the family involved in ice cream was my maternal grandfather, Vincenzo Schiavi (Schiavo). He was born in 1885 in the village of Gallinaro, Frosinone, Lazio, to Gerardo and Maria Schiavi. He was one of eight children. He emigrated first to America, passing through the famous Ellis Island, and living in the Bronx. Eventually he came to Manchester England, where his brother Luigi was already settled.

Vincenzo started his career in the ice cream business selling from a hand cart in 1912. He met and married my grandmother Brigida Tiani, one of Carmine Tiani's daughters, and together they settled on Jersey Street, buying The Vine Tavern public house circa 1919. They had twelve children, seven girls and five boys, all eventually to help in the family business. They established an Italian food store, my grandmother continuing in her father's footsteps, and an ice cream factory. It was the first fully tiled ice cream factory in Ancoats, consisting of the latest electrical machinery. My grandmother was a very astute business lady. They had four pony carts and a few hand carts, later moving on to motorised vehicles. His slogan was 'Vinnie's Ices - good for the ladies, makes bonny babies'. He was loved and respected on his round in Salford and is still remembered today by the older customers.

In 1940, in the early years of the Second World war, my grandfather Vincenzo sadly passed away, leaving my grandmother and her eldest son, Carmine (soon to be called up for military service) to run the family business and bring up the family. After the War the family continued manufacturing ice cream and selling from vans. 'Vincent's Ices' became well known in the Salford area, where they have traded now for a hundred years. They also owned three cafes within Manchester and Salford, and a little ice cream shop on Ashton Market. The family was well known within the ice cream industry, and had strong links with the Ice Cream Alliance, winning many awards in their annual competitions. Sadly the family stopped making ice cream in the mid eighties, but continue to be involved in mobile selling from vans.



Marco Rea - 'Marco's' and 'Mr.Really Good'
My grandfather Marco Rea was born on the 22nd April, 1889, in the frazione of Collina, Arpino, Frosinone. He was born to Domenico and Conceta Rea (nee La Tessa). He was one of five children, Antonio, Donato, Giovanni and Maria. My grandfather left Italy at the age of 13 with his brother Antonio for England. He arrived in London and settled in Clerkenwell for several months doing various jobs. Eventually he made his way to Dublin, Ireland, where he stayed for twelve months with his cousin Pasquale Rea and family. Pasquale was already established in the ice cream business, owning cafes and chip shops around the O'Connel Street area of Dublin.

My grandfather moved back across the Irish Sea in 1905 to north west England: Wrexham and Chester. Here he met his future wife Maria Carmella Arcari, who had been born in Manchester from Italian parents. Her father and mother, Antonio and Elizabeth rented barrel organs in Chester, and Antonio also played the famous Italian bagpipes - the 'zampognari' around the streets. My grandparents married at St.Werburgh's RC Church on 22nd December 1907, both aged 17. My grandfather set himself up with a mobile barrel organ and donkey, trading with his brother Antonio as street musicians. They travelled the many pageants and fairs around northern England by train, getting as far south as the Nottingham Goose Fair, playing the organ and selling toys such as balloons, birds on sticks and balls from a large basket. After a while they too moved into the ice cream business and also bought a fish and chip shop in Chester. He had a small property at 3 White Horse Yard, off the main High Street in Chester. My grandparents had eleven children, moving after their sixth child to Manchester in 1922.


My grandfather's Ice Cream Alliance medal 1950s

They lived first of all in Gun Street, before my grandfather bought a former public house as a family home and shop, at 133-135 Reather Street, Collyhurst, adjacent to Ancoats 'Little Italy'. He quickly established himself within the Italian colony, becoming an esteemed member of the community as President of The Manchester Italian Catholic Society from 1937 to 1955. He was also Vice-President of the Italian Mutual Aid Society. My grandfather started making ice cream in 14 Hood Street with various other families - Patriarco, Monte, and Protano. The Mancini family rented part of the yard for their barrel organs. The whole block, no.s 12, 14,16,18 and 22 were owned by a company from the old Smithfield Market, Cochran's. Originally the property had been a farm building dating from the 1700s. After that it had been an iron foundry. Eventually in the late 1930s my grandfather purchased the whole of the building from the Cochran family, who had owned it for some 30-40 years.

When the Second World War broke out my grandfather was interned and five of his sons were called up for service in the British Army. My grandmother was left with the youngest of the children to look after. All ice cream businesses were closed during the War due to rationing, men away at war, and internment. It was a hard time for my grandmother.

Early ice-cream take home pack from the 1950's

The family was reunited after the War, and my grandfather and his sons worked to reform the business. In 1947 after the ice cream exhibition held at Olympia, the first after the War, he purchased the latest modern ice cream manufacturing equipment. This was a 'Creamery Package' 400 gallon mixing plant, imported from America, the Rolls Royce of such equipment. It was able to produce 1,200 gallons of finished ice cream product. They made ice lollies, brickettes, tubs, choc ices, and supplied several picture houses around Manchester, such as the Odeon, Rialto, Osbourne, Empress and the Oxford. They had 17 motor vans, 4 pony carts, tricycles, and hand carts. At their height they employed a staff of 25 people. With the new mixing plant the factory was modernised to include hardening rooms, warehouse and storage, garaging for the vans, and ice cream dairy. At the time it was the largest and most modern ice cream factory in Ancoats. Manchester was growing, and the company exploited the sale of ice cream in the new suburban estates, such as Wythenshawe, parts of Didsbury and Platt Fields. They also sold in Collyhurst, Ancoats and Cheetham Hill.

Mr. Really Good, trade brand of Rea's of Middlesborough and Marco Rea in Manchester, for their softee ice cream vehicles early '60s

After Marco's death in 1955 his sons, Antonio, Gerardo, Donato, Loreto, Giovanni and Domenico carried on the family business, creating a limited company in 1957, known as 'Marco Rea and Sons Co. Ltd.'. The family continued to grow with the sons of the sons entering the business, and the number of vans increasing to twenty. Investing in the most modern ice cream vans they purchased some 'Mr.Really Good' softy vans from Reas of Middlesborough, another ice cream family who were one of the biggest manufacturers in the north east of England (and incidentally the family of the pop singer Chris Rea).

I myself worked with my father in the factory from ten years old, learning the trade. During the mid-eighties my father and his brothers retired, passing control of the business over to myself and my cousins. We wished to pursue seperate directions with the company, and stopped manufacturing in 1986/87, a sad time for us all. My father and his brothers decided to sell the business off, leaving us to inherit the mobile selling rounds. I left the business in 1999, but my cousins continue today.

Throughout the history of the business my family made some of the best ice cream sold on the streets of Manchester, earning many distinguished awards in the Ice Cream Alliance's annual competitions. In 1962 it won first prize in Folkestone - unfortunately it had been entered into the premium dairy class by mistake, but had still won on taste, despite not containing butter! The winner had to be redecided, but our family took it as a compliment!

Tony Rea helping cousins in factory
Outside the factory 2010

See also:

Rea Family History

My great grandfather Carlo Tiani outside his Italian deli, 1913, which sold everything from prosciutto, salami, wines, oils, cheese, biscuits, bread, cakes and terrone to handmade italian shawls
My great uncle Albert Tiani, President of the Manchester Italian Association 1956 - 1977 (and a real character!) with the Ricci children, early seventies.
The Vine Tavern which my grandfather Vincenzo Schiavo purchased from Warrington Ales brewery.
Vincent's Ices of Salford, my Uncle Carmen serving in Weaste, circa late Thirties.
Vincenzo Schiavo(i)'s, otherwise known as Vincent's of Salford, the old firm
My uncle Giovanni Rea with Uncle Pasquale outside his home in Black Rock, Dublin, circa 1952
My paternal grandfather, Marco, and his brother Antonio, with an Antonelli barrel organ they had bought, Chester 1909
The first ice-cream cart my grandfather, Marco Rea, purchased in 1906
My uncle Antonio (Tony) Rea on a Marco Rea's ice cream cart 1922
Rea's first motorised ice cream vehicle, 1924
My father, Loreto Rea, on his ice cream round in Collyhurst, Manchester, circa 1934
My grandfather Marco Rea on his round in Collyhurst 1950
Business card circa 1950s
Bedford van 1930s
Marco Rea Bedford ice cream van on the round in Ancoats 1968
Mixing plant - pasteurising, cooling and homogenising - the start of the ice cream process
The ageing vat
The freezer
Finished product into 6 gallon containers for the ice cream vans
My late father Loreto Rea making 'the best ice-cream in Manchester!' 1974
Ageing vat, milk vat and CP freezer filling 6 gallon containers
Outside the dairy, Hood Street, 1974
Part of the yard and garage
One of the many Rea family ice cream
vans 1975
Outside the factory in Hood Street 1978

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved