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Reading Biscuits


From the mid 19th Century until the 1970's, Reading was known as 'Biscuit Town'. It was home not only to its native sons, the vast Huntley and Palmers, established in the 1840's, but also the Jacobs from Ireland and McVities from Scotland had factories there.

Although old tins are regularly found marked 'Reading Biscuits', it was simply used as a generic for Huntley and Palmers, so much so that in 1892 the company managed to get an injunction to restrain a competitor setting up as 'The Reading Biscuit Co'.

Former Huntley and Palmers factory, Reading

Image: Andrew Smith: "Huntley and Palmers, Reading This is Reading's last reminder of the company that was at one time the world's biggest biscuit manufacturer. J. Huntley and Son was founded in 1822 by Joseph Huntley and operated from premises in London Street. George Palmer became a business partner in 1841 and the company was renamed in 1857. They moved to this site on King's Road in 1846, continued to grow and pioneered the mechanisation of biscuit manufacture in the second half of the century. The twentieth century was not so rosy. The company suffered from labour shortages, two world wars and a lack of innovation. In 1955 a factory was opened in Liverpool to cope with the labour shortages. In 1969 the company became part of Associated Biscuits Ltd, but by then profits were in decline. The Reading site was thought too cramped for modernisation and its closure was announced in 1972. Production ceased in 1976. The building pictured was originally the company's office block, but later became its recreation club. Today it has been converted into flats. Reading's former industries are known as the three Bs - biscuits, beer and bulbs. Beer is the only one that survives today, Simonds Brewery having been taken over by Courage (Scottish and Newcastle today). Bulbs is a tenuous reference to Sutton Seeds. Confusingly there is a fourth B in the form of bricks. One of the Reading FC's nicknames was the Biscuitmen (or boys). It's not used these days, though it does live on in the name of a fanzine, "Hobnob, anyone?". "

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