Aundre: Welcome to No Ifs, No Buts, Only Gingernuts: A Huntley & Palmers Journey. This audio trail is a theatrical experience for the mind. It will use your imagination to transform the landscape around you. Don’t worry, I am here to help guide you, asking you to stop and start the audio from time to time, take care crossing roads. We’ll start here by the Queen Victoria statue in Town Hall Square, take a seat and let yourself be transported back in time…
[STEAM TRAIN – CHATTER]
Train Worker: It’s ere. This lots come in from Barbados. C’mon you going to help unload this sugar or what?
Train Worker 2: Sure thing guv.
[SOUND OF WORKERS UNLOADING BAGS OF SUGAR]
Train Worker 1: Put your back into it lad. Mildred wants these ingredients back at the factory ready for the next batch to go to market, Paste haste!
Train Worker 2: This one is ready to go sir.
Train Worker 1: Well, what are you standing there for. Chop Chop.
[CLAPPING HANDS TWICE]
[TROLLEY – SOUND OF MAXCHINERY AND MIXERS]
Train Worker 2: Hi Mrs Springer, here’s a load of sugar for ya. There’s more to come.
Mildred: Jolly good. The higher-ups will be pleased. I won’t be here when the next lot arrives. I’ll be inducting new starters.
Train Worker 2: okay ma’am.
Francis: Um, hi… excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me please? I am looking for the –
Mildred: Ahh yes, I’ve been waiting for you. Nice and early. I’ve always said if you’re 10 minutes early you’re on time –
Francis: if you’re on time, you’re late.
Mildred: Indeed. Come along, let me show you around. Here is where the ingredients are brought in. Walkthrough here and you can see this is where they are carefully measured and mixed. Once the dough is formed, they travel through this area where it is cut.
Francis: My word, there’s so many. . .
Mildred: Yes yes, we export biscuits all over the world.
Mildred: You must pay attention! I have seen many come through these doors over the years. See this lady over here, she’s been here almost as long as me and has worked her way up.
Shirley Wilcox: “1956 I started there. Then I was there until I had my first child and then I went back afterward, you didn’t I did.
Peggy Fuegell: I started in 1956 and stayed there until, um, 1966. Yes, I was in the wages office and played hockey for them as well when I was there and had a very good time.
Aundre Goddard: Turn towards Saint Laurence’s Church and head down the alley to the left of the Church’s entrance.
[MACHINERY NOISES – HAMMERING, STEAM – FADES OUT]
Aundre Goddard: Walk along the path through the graveyard. Stop before you reach the steps
[MUSIC – BIRDS – HORSES AND CARRIAGES – DISTANT CHATTER]
Aundre Goddard: Find Henry Wests’ wooden memorial
[ STEAM WHISTLE – FACTORY SOUNDS]
Mildred: You either hear that sound for lunch or at the end of the day.
Francis: and how long is the lunch?
Mildred: 1 hour and a quarter.
Francis: That should give me enough time.
Mildred: Time for what?
Francis: I have been tasked with going to the market. Am I right in thinking it is this direction?
Mildred: Correct. I will accompany you, as you’re new here there are some things you should know about the Huntley & Palmers. I call it the Biscuit Trail.
Aundre Goddard: on the other side of the path from Henry West’s memorial is the altar tomb of James Cocks. Turn and face it.
[BELLS – BIRDS]
Mildred: My dear, do you know whose grave you’re looking at right now.
Francis: I’m afraid not ma’am
Mildred: This is the grave of James Cocks known for Reading’s Cock’s Sauce which started manufacturing around 1793. My word it was delicious, probably the only sauce that rivalled Worcestershire sauce.
Francis: excuse me but what does this have to do with the company –
Mildred: Well, you see. Mr. Cocks was a businessman much like Thomas and George. His sauce was sought after throughout the world and Mr. Cock’s had established many trading routes through the British Empire.
Francis: Pardon me, but what does this have to do with Hunley & Palmers?
Mildred: Well, when Thomas Huntley opened his first shop – Mr. Cocks was his landlord. This was the first step in Huntley & Palmers becoming the company it is today because we had access to the global trade links established by James’ Reading sauce.
Francis: Goodness me. How interesting, who knew this was here all along.
Mildred: come with me.
Aundre Goddard: Turn right and head down the steps to the black railings. You should be facing Forbury Gardens. Stop by the railings and imagine beyond Forbury Gardens was all flat land.
[SHOVELS – BIRDS]
Francis: Wow what a sight! I have never seen it from this perspective before. It’s just . . .
Mildred: He decided to build the factory right over there, on that piece of land opposite Reading Gaol. That way, we would have direct access to the train tracks. The trains have greatly improved distribution.
Francis: Much like with James Cocks. He Strategically placed the business where he could take advantage of the trade route to reach people throughout the empire. Where exactly can you find our biscuits?
Mildred: Well, let me see
Aundre Goddard: Turn right and follow the wall round. Do not cross the road.
[INSTRUMENTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, TALKING]
Aundre Goddard: When you reach the fountain on the side of the church turn left and head towards Market Square.
[MARKET SOUNDS – HAMMERING, TALKING, FIDDLE, HORSES AND CARRIAGES]
Aundre Goddard: You should be by the monument in Market Square now
Merchant: Hello there, quality seeds you don’t want to miss out on. They’re going fast.
Francis: No thank you.
Merchant: You sure my love, you won’t get any better than Sutton’s Seeds. Whatever you’re growing this year, carrots, parsnips, corn you name it! Our seeds are guaranteed to provide a good yield.
Mildred: I’m terribly sorry sir but we must get going maybe next time.
Boy Salesman: Ma’am. [Whistle]We’re over here.
Aundre Goddard: On the corner you should see a white building called the Chancellors Estate Agents. This is the old Huntley and Palmer’s shop. Please walk towards it.
[SOUNDS OF BICUIT SHOP – BELL, TALKING]
Francis: Oh hello, you’re the young man I met during my induction.
Boy Salesman: Yes, that’s right. How are you settling in?
Francis: Fine thank you. Mildred is really helpful and I feel like I have a handle on things. So, this is-
Boy Salesman: This is where used to be our shop. We’ve been here for almost 20 years now. Right above your head, there was an enormous sign with Huntley & Palmers written across the top.
Mildred: It is indeed! Do you know? I recently met with the sign makers family, he created the most delightful signs for the company.
Aundre Goddard: Head to the right of Chancellors Estate Agents towards Kings Street. Pause the audio to cross the road, restart on the other side.
You should be facing the George Hotel now, turn left and walk to the corner of the crossroads, stop opposite Jacksons Corner.
[STREET SOUNDS – BELLS, HAMMERING, CHICKENS, HORSES AND CARRIAGES]
Narrator: You should now be at a crossroads by Jackson Corner, stop here.
Factory Worker: So, there was sweet taste in the air. It smelled because there was sort of different biscuits; A really wide variety being made. Um, but there was that sweet sort of cloying taste in the air. From what I remember, I think was called the tier plant, the sugar of the sponge fingers as it cooled . . . it nice was a smell from what I can remember.
[MARKET SOUNDS – HAMMERING, TALKING, FIDDLE, HORSES AND CARRIAGES]
Mildred: Our offices are right down there at the other end of this road. So, if ever get lost, just remember this cross and from here you will be able to find your way to our offices.
Mildred: What is it
Francis: One of the reasons I came here was because I heard about these magnificent tales of women fighting for equal pay. You seem like a person who wouldn’t…
Mildred: Would what? My dear
Francis: Well, take any… you know? From any man.
Mildred: Walk with me
Aundre Goddard: Looking at Jacksons, pause the audio and cross the road to your right, restart on the other side of Duke Street.
Walk down Duke Street until you reach the bridge.
[BELLS – SPLASHING – JEERING]
Mildred: Before the Great War in 1914, we women were already in the midst of our own battle? The fight for votes, equality our right to be heard. This wasn’t just for themselves but for their daughters and their children too.
Don’t get me wrong, Huntley & Palmers contributed a great deal to this town, to the world even, they cared about their workers. However, they still operated in a system unfavourable to us women. We will be walking over the River Kennet in a moment. Upriver, in the direction of our offices is where a troupe of women stood their ground.
Aundre Goddard: you should now be standing on the bridge
[SOUND OF MACHINERY BEING THROWN INTO RIVER – LAUGH]
Mildred: My word they were a rowdy bunch. In protest of unfair treatment and low pay, they spoiled biscuit mixture, and threw tins and plant equipment into the river. They received a 3 shilling pay rise and stood firm.
Francis: Wow, they sure showed them who’s boss, didn’t they?
Mildred: They did indeed. It was the first of many battles to come but of course, the Great War played its part, if Britain were to lose the war, all women would face a fate worse than the one they were already in.
Aundre Goddard: Turn Right and walk towards London St, stop at the traffic lights.
[SOUND OF MACHINERY MAKING ARTILLARY]
Mildred: In support of the war effort, they rolled their sleeves up and got to making ammunition casings. 1833 men from the factory went to battle and 145 didn’t make it home. My dear, never forget, the work we do is essential and just as important as those who may say or think otherwise. We women have earned the right to be here and have shown we are just as good, if not better than any man, in any role
Mildred: Right, come. There is something else I’d like to show you.
: Pause the audio use the traffic lights to cross the road and restart on the other side, I’ll see you by The Great Expectations.
[BELLS – TALKING]
Mildred: These buildings, the Great Expectations and RISC play a significant role in Thomas and George’s partnership. Reading is a town of free-thinking innovators who would meet here to share knowledge. They were the Quakers.
[FOOTSTEPS – HORSES AND CARRIAGES]
Aundre Goddard: Take a walk up London Street with Thomas Huntley and George Palmer, be mindful when crossing the road at South Street
[STREET SOUNDS – BELLS, HORSES AND CARRIAGES, DOG BARKING]
George Palmer: Well, what say you? £550 and we’ll take the shop to places only one could dream of.
Thomas Huntley: Come walk with me to discuss this matter further. We are currently situated in a prime location, right along the route to London. The coaching inn provides a substantial amount of revenue. However, our fellow Quakers are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire opportunities for we follow our own Christian faith.
George Palmer: We have a duty to change lives for the better. With you behind the product and me facilitating managing the business we can transform this town into something truly spectacular.
Thomas Huntley: I do not dispute that. We will have to plan our next steps to best position ourselves to trade.
George Palmer: You already have access to Mr Cock’s established shipping routes throughout the empire, yes?
Thomas Huntley: I do. His insight has been extremely valuable.
George Palmer: Transportation is the key. We can increase the amount of produce in a strategic location that makes transporting produce to the ports easy. You will have the capacity to go beyond anything You could have imagined.
Aundre Goddard: continue walking up London Street, stop at the building with the blue and yellow plaque.
Terry Dixon: A big thing about those days, Huntley and palmer were one of the best examples, they look after their workers. They had facilities not only within the social club but they had sports grounds, Kensington Road, and down by the River Thames, so, tennis courts, football pitches and loads of activities for their workers. So, it was much more than just a place to go to work.
Peggy: We had workers’ playtime.
Shirley: Oooh, that used to come.
Peggy: That would come into the canteen a couple of times a year. We would go down there and we’d have people . . .
Shirley: Well, I remember Jim Dale. I still got a picture of him.
Peggy: It was sort of the well know people of the time. We to have comedians come as well in our lunchtime and we have our meal and they would be there entertaining us.
Factory Worker: I got moved on to the canteen and that was really enjoyable. It was an opportunity to come into contact with people from all over the plant. From what I remember, I wasn’t just the factory workers, it was the workers of offices and things like. They would come for their breaks for a meal. So that was more socially rewarding, not socially in terms of chatting but you met a lot of different people.
Terry: I had my joint 21st birthday party there with one of my best friends who I done my apprenticeship with. I remember it vividly, they had really big nice hall quite nicely decorated. You could get 150 to 200 in there with a disco tech or a live group with loads of laid on because facilities were there with the kitchens and that. A great was had by all, so, I remember it very well.
Aundre Goddard: You should be at Huntley House now, take note the blue and yellow plaque.
[STREET NOISES – DOG BARKING, BIRDS, HORSES AND CARRIAGE]
Mildred: James Cocks, Thomas Huntley and George Palmer were all Quakers who played a significant role in our town’s development. This is the shop Mr. Cocks rented to Thomas Huntley. George Palmer later moved into the flat above the bakery with his mother and sister. Travellers would spend the night at the inn across the street. They would buy biscuits from this shop before heading on their way again.
[CART – BELL]
Boy Salesman: Ello Ello. You look like to have come from someway – can I trouble you for a biscuit? you look like you could do with one if I’m honest.
Mildred: What have got there?
Boy Salesman: Rusks, cakes, spice nuts, macaroons and captains’ biscuits. When the travellers arrive, Mr Huntley sends me over with a fresh batch to sell.
Boy Sales: Looks like I’ve got to go, I only came over here to get some more Rusks for the inn Keeper.
Aundre Goddard: Pause the recording and use the traffic lights to cross the road. Restart on the other side.
Head down London Street and stop when you get to buildings numbered 114 and 110. In between, you’ll see an alleyway with a black gate.
[HAMMERS – STEAM – GRINDING SOUNDS]
Mildred: The ironmongers were here. Joseph Huntley ran this shop establishment. This is where they made the tins for the biscuits. They were made such to a high standard that they were used all over the globe for all sorts of things from Sudanese scabbards [SWORDS CLASHING] water carrier [WATER SPLASHING] Ballot Boxes in Switzerland[VOICES],as bible cases in India[SOUND OF TIN OPENING AND CLOSING]and African finger pianos.[THUMB PIANO MELODY]
Aundre Goddard: Continue walking down London Street until you see a sign for the Quaker’s Meeting House.
Peggy: They did look after us you know. If you were ill you used to still get paid if you had the sick and that. They treated you very well in Huntley & Palmers. I think it were a family firm for us.
Shirley: We used to like the Palmers, didn’t we?
Peggy: Yeah, we didn’t see them much but if you did, they would always speak to you, wouldn’t they?
Shirley: Yeah. I think it was very sad when it went to Huyton. I was such a big thing in Reading, Huntley & Palmers.
Aundre Goddard: You should be by the Quaker sign now, turn left down the alley, Church St, and stop when you get to The Quakers Meeting House. If Open, enter the grounds.
Terry: They wanted this small family firm that got bigger and bigger to retain that family feel. And the members of the Palmer family as they went on, so many of them worked for the actual company. It was a family company, for nearly all of its 150 years of existence.
Factory Worker: People were always willing to help co-workers and the people from all over the plant, the people who worked there in the deliveries, the ovens, the making when they came into the canteen, from what I remember, it was an awfully long time ago almost 50 years ago, they were absolutely lovely… always friendly.[BIRDS]
Mildred: Well, I guess your induction is coming to an end. I have shown you what I can but thought it was best we stop here. You see, Huntley and Palmer’s are embedded into Reading’s heritage which helped the town interweave itself into a global narrative. Look, most outside of Reading do not notice the impact they’ve had on the world. All you must do is turn the corner, take a moment, look around [BICYCLE BELL] and see what may lie beneath your feet. This is where they rest. Just reflect on how sweet Reading has become because of Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits.
Let’s head back to work for a cuppa and some ginger nuts biscuits.