Factory visits

By 1860 Huntley & Palmers was already the largest biscuit manufacturer in the world and the importance of the firm was reflected in the numerous visits made to the factory by members of the Royal Family and other famous people.

Kings and princes

The first reported Royal visit to the Reading factory was in 1882 when the Illustrated London News had a full-page article on the visit of the Prince of Wales. In 1918, when King George V and Queen Mary visited the factory, the employees were informed that they would receive an extra weeks pay in honour of their visit.

The enthusiasm to see King George V and Queen Mary in 1918 is clear, with dense crowds forming between the train station and the factory (REDMG : 1997.120.268.1)

Foreign visitors

Even foreign royalty came to see the firm including the Emir of Katsina in 1933. Unfortunately the Emir's party could not sample the delicious products in the factory as their religion precluded them from eating in public.
The visits by Royalty continued well into the twentieth century and in 1955 the Queen Mother’s visit was commemorated in a booklet produced by the firm.

The Emir of Katsina and his party, including his two grandsons, were guided around the factory by Mr Herbert Pretty and Mr E.A.Wrottesley, two directors of the firm. The Emir's grandsons left with two tins of Breakfast biscuits. (REDMG : 1997.130.538.3)

Oscar Wilde

On the left-hand page of this factory visitors' book is the signature of Oscar Wilde, the poet and playwright, who visited the factory on 22 September 1892. The Wildes were family friends of Walter and Jean Palmer. Only three years later Oscar Wilde returned to Reading as a prisoner at the gaol. Situated only yards from the factory, the gaol was called the ‘biscuit factory’ by inmates.

Visitors book (No.13) to the Reading Biscuit Factory, signed by Oscar Wilde, on 22 September 1892 (REDMG : 1997.120.267)

Factory guides

The factory was also a popular place to visit for humbler visitors, including school trips. Each child was given a paper bag and at every machine they were given a biscuit. From 1919 factory tours were organised and a group of factory guides were employed to show the visitors around the site.

Factory guides in 1957. According to 'First Name News', the staff magazine, a tour should "arouse in visitors a keener desire for biscuits of real quality", and ensure that "an enjoyable visit would long remain a warm memory." (REDMG : 1997.130.87)

The guides were not allowed to accept tips from any visitors. This notice, hung up in the biscuit factory, states:
'Visitors are requested not to offer gratuities to any employee of the Company. The Benevolent Fund offers a more satisfactory medium for those who desire to show any slight recognition of services rendered.'

(REDMG : 1997.130.179)

In the next section, learn about developments at the Huntley & Palmers factory throughout the early 20th century.