Reading Biscuit Town 2022
The story of 200 years of biscuit heritage comes to Reading this summer
Reading is celebrating 200 years of its amazing biscuit heritage this summer with a special exhibition, guided tours, biscuit events, a unique museum collection and afternoon teas… with biscuits!
In 1822, one of the most famous names in baking, Huntley & Palmers biscuits, began life as a small baker’s shop in London Street, Reading. Within 40 years, the company that created the Nice biscuit, Gingernut and the Bath Oliver was exporting its goods across the globe and Reading became known as Biscuit Town, home to the largest biscuit manufacturer in the world with cakes and biscuit names still known today.
While the company is no longer located in Reading, biscuits have left their mark on the town. To mark the special anniversary, Reading is re-discovering its biscuit heritage this summer with a series of events and tours.
A special exhibition Biscuit Town: 200 years of Huntley and Palmers in Reading at The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) will explore Huntley & Palmers’ impact on the growth of Reading, examine the company’s international reach and take a more personal look at some of the people who worked within the innovative King’s Road factory. Drawing on gems from the Huntley and Palmers archive held in the University of Reading’s Special Collections, these stories will be illustrated through photographs, packaging, catalogues and more. The exhibition takes place from 10 May - 25 September 2022. The museum itself is located in what was Alfred Palmer’s family home.
The astonishing collection of decorative biscuits tins and ephemera in the Huntley & Palmers Gallery at Reading Museum includes almost 300 decorative biscuit tins as well as the earliest surviving film of a British factory. You can also see a biscuit supplied to Captain Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition, and the rude ‘Kate Greenaway’ biscuit tin that embarrassed the biscuit company in 1980! A new leaflet will also help visitors explore Reading’s biscuit heritage at your own pace. Pick up a copy of the self-guided Biscuit Crumb Trail at The MERL or Reading Museum and find out more about the joint programme of events and activities for Biscuit Town 200 at the museums, as part of Museums Partnership Reading, funded by Arts Council England.
Join a Biscuit Walkabout guided tour of Reading’s biscuit heritage with Terry’s Reading Walkabouts – weekly from April to October. Terry is a Reading walking tour guide and is passionate about all things Reading. His mother worked for Huntley & Palmers in Reading and this special guided walk will take in many of the places synonymous with biscuits in Reading as well as other aspects of Reading’s Biscuit history.
Reading Children’s Festival (14 May – 5 June) will also be taking on the theme of Biscuit Town. This year's festival celebrates its 33rd anniversary with three fun packed weeks of events and activities for children all over the borough. The festival gets off to an action-packed start with Forbury Fiesta on Saturday 14 May, where there will be a whole host of biscuit related activities – Join Alice and the Mad Hatter for a tea part with a twist, be entertained by the biscuit choir, create your own biscuit hat and join in the biscuit parade!
A new Huntley & Palmers Audio Trail will be available from 21 June. Take a journey through time and the world of biscuits with this fascinating audio trail by Aundre Goddard and Richard Bentley. Real and imagined voices and sounds tell the story of how Huntley & Palmers of Reading’s London Street became a global powerhouse. Listen and walk the trail via your smartphone at https://www.reading.gov.uk/audiotrails/londonstreet
Finish off your biscuit itinerary with Afternoon Tea at the Reading Room and Lounge at the Roseate Reading Hotel, complete with biscuits inspired by Huntley and Palmer. Available from 9 May 2022. Or have Afternoon Tea afloat on a Thames River Cruise as the banks of the River Thames glide by.
Alex Brannen, Reading UK, said:
“For well over a century Reading was synonymous with biscuits, gaining its nickname as Biscuit Town. The impact of Huntley & Palmers biscuits on Reading has been huge and this summer Reading will be paying tribute to its fascinating biscuit story with a series of special events and activities, starting in May with the new exhibition at The MERL.
“The coming of the railway to Reading in the nineteenth century helped take Reading’s biscuits all over the world, so we are delighted that GWR has become the ‘Official Travel Partner’ for Biscuit Town 2022, bringing people to Reading to retrace the steps of the largest biscuit manufacturer in the world.”
GWR Senior Regional Marketing Manager, Gauthier Hardy, said:
“We are proud to be partnering with Reading UK to help promote Reading Biscuit Town 2022. Great Western Railway has a long association with Huntley & Palmers as its factory was located on King’s Road, close to the railway line, and its biscuits were carried by train to London, Bristol and beyond.
“Reading remains one of the busiest destinations on the GWR line and we look forward to welcoming customers keen to get a taste for the town’s rich biscuit heritage.”
More information at www.visit-reading.com/biscuittown