Wilkin & Sons, Jam Making Extraordinaire

Arthur Charles Wilkin took over his family farm, located in Tiptree, Essex, England,  in his late 20s. The family had owned the farm since the early 1700s. Arthur had a vision for the farm, which was not producing as well as it could. He was determined to specialize in growing fruits to market to the London jam-makers of the mid 1800s. Originally, he thought to ship his fruit via the Kelvedon and Tollesbury Light Railway, which operated in Essex at that time (and did so until 1962). But reliable transportation of his fragile product forced Wilkin into the jam making business himself. He was introduced to an Australian merchant who agreed to take as much strawberry jam as Wilkin could produce. This Australian did not want the jam that was being produced in London at the time. He wanted jam that was glucose free, as well as free of preservatives and added colouring. It was decided to call this new product “conserves” to distinguish it as a higher-quality product. Moreover, the name Britannia Fruit Preserving Company was chosen because that name would be more marketable in Australia than would the Wilkin & Sons Limited. Since 1885, the Wilkin family has made some of the finest preserves, marmalades, etc., marketed to the public. William Gladstone, the British Prime Minister from 1868 to 1894 praised Wilkin’s product.

Wilkin used his wife’s recipe and her kitchen to make the first jam. Three boiling pots and tractor engines were required to make that jam. Mechanisation came about in the 1890s. Nowadays, the company produces 90 different conserves, chutneys, honeys, marmalades, and preserves. The Tiptree trademark was set in place in 1905, when the company became Wikin and Sons, Ltd. 

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Arthur Charles Wilkin

 As the business grew, Wilkin & Sons leased other farms to meet the demand for the company’s product. By 1900, 100 tons of fruit was needed to make jams and preserves. “By 1906, the company owned 800 acres (320 ha) of land on farms in Tiptree, Tollesbury, and Goldhanger, producing 300 tons of fruit per year, and feeding a factory capable at peak production of making 10 tons of strawberry jam per day. The company has held a Royal Warrant for preserves and marmalades continuously since 1911.” (History Timeline)

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“With the need for a pound of sugar to a pound of fruit to produce 2 lb of preserves, production was halted during World War I due to a lack of essential supplies. But by 1922, and now owning 1,000 acres (400 ha) of farmland across eight farms, the company was creating new record outputs of fruit and preserves. An integrated production facility, the company also owned 100 houses, the village’s windmill and blacksmith’s forge, the Factory Club and the freehold of the Salvation Army hall. During World War II, the company and factory came under the control of the Ministry of Food, and kept producing its preserves alongside other essential food products. In 2010, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary, highlighted by a visit from Her Majesty Elizabeth II.” (Wilkin & Sons)

The company also owns a chain of tea rooms in Essex, as well as a specialty bakery and patisserie.

Resources:

“History Timeline: 1885 – The First Jam,” Tiptree https://www.tiptree.com/index.php/ourcompany/history-timeline.html

“No Additives or Secrets, Just Fruity Jams,” The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/1985/07/03/garden/no-additives-or-secrets-just-fruity-jams.html

Wilin & Sons Celebrate Their 125th Anniversary, Essex Life http://www.essexlifemag.co.uk/people/wilkin-sons-celebrate-their-125th-anniversary-on-25th-june-1-1638654

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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