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  Themes Homepage > Biscuit Town
 
Reading Town
Biscuit Town

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From 1870 until the 1970s, Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’ because of the fame of Huntley & Palmers biscuits. The population of Reading boomed and the firm influenced almost every aspect of life in the town. Reading Prison was nick-named ‘the biscuit factory’ because of its close proximity to the factory and Reading Football Team were known as the ‘Biscuit Men’. The Reading Factory, 1937
The Reading Factory, 1937
 
Beginnings in Reading
When Joseph Huntley opened his bakery in London Street, Reading he could not have foreseen the part that the business would eventually play in the life of the town. The bakery stood on the busy London to Bath road, near the Crown coaching inn and each day Joseph Huntley would send a boy to sell biscuits to the hungry coach travellers. As the railways developed, Reading's position on the main line from London to the West Country meant that Huntley & Palmers biscuits could be easily transported around the country.
 
Leaving for dinner, about 1910
Leaving for dinner, about 1910

Population Growth
The opening of the Kings Road factory in 1846 led to a dramatic increase in the number of people employed by the firm. From 16 workers in 1844, this figure reached 5,000 within 50 years. This demand for labour contributed to the town’s population growth from 19,000 to over 88,000 in 1911.
 
Housing for the Workers
The terraced houses of New Town, Reading were built from the 1870s and its proximity to the factory made it a popular place for the employees to live. In 1881 biscuit factory employees comprised ninety-nine of 260 male heads of households residing in New Town. Lower Caversham was also a popular area for Huntley & Palmers employees as they could walk to the factory across the Clappers footbridge.
Kennetside by Christopher Hall, 1975
Kennetside by Christopher Hall, 1975
 
Work for the Town
From the early days, the firm created additional work within the town as carriers were employed to transfer their goods to other areas of the country. Local people were required to transport the biscuits to the canal wharves and to outlying districts of Reading and then to bring back the returned tins and tin-lined boxes.
 
Buying Local Produce
In the early days of the firm, George Palmer purchased ingredients from the local area, even going so far as helping local farmers with cash advances during the bad seasons to enable them to buy their seed and manure. In 1856-7 more than half of the flour bought came from mills situated within a few miles of Reading and was transported to the factory along the canal.
Sonning Mill, 1949
Sonning Mill, 1949
 
 
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