Wilkin & Sons - 125 years of jam making
Fields of rich strawberries, rows of delicious loganberries and orchards of cherries and plums can be found on Wilkin & Sons Ltd's 1,000 acre estate at Tiptree in Essex, the home of Tiptree preserves.
The world-renowned Little Scarlet strawberry, only grown on Tiptree's estates, is noted as James Bond's favourite conserve in Ian Fleming's 1957 novel From Russia with Love.
Fruit farmers since 1860 the Wilkin family had a great understanding of fruit growing before Mr Arthur Charles Wilkin first made conserves from his own strawberries in 1885. The tradition of jam making at Tiptree has been handed down through the generations to the current chairman, Mr Peter J Wilkin the great grandson of the founder. See www.tiptree.com for more details.
In the last 125 years the business has developed to meet the demands of an increasing number of consumers at home and abroad, for Tiptree products are now available in 70 countries. Tiptree Strawberry Conserve remains the top seller but some of the 17 marmalades are in the top ten of popular preserves. Tiptree Lemon Curd was selected by one our favourite cooks for a very easy Lemon Tart and two famous bikers chose Crab Apple Jelly for a recipe.
Fruit picking and jam making are labour intensive tasks. At Tiptree all the fruit is still picked by hand and each summer the traditional "caravan" pickers, mainly retired people, and overseas students gather the crops from May to October.
The Queen visited Wilkin & Sons Ltd on the 28 October 2010 to mark 125 years of jam making at Tiptree. Staff from the offices crammed the steps to watch the arrival of the Royal visitor who was welcomed by Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex. Lord Petre presented Cllr Sonia Lewis the Mayor of Colchester, Ms Priti Patel MP and Mr Peter Wilkin, the chairman of the company and great grandson of the founder. After a short walk through the busy filling room where many of the staff had gathered to watch the Royal party, the guests moved to the Tiptree Visitors' Centre.
The Jam Museum was the perfect setting for presentation of retired staff, many of whom remembered the visit of HRH The Princess Alexandra 25 years ago. They were able to talk to The Queen about the changes to the working life on the farm and the factory. "We were keen to involve as many staff from all parts of the company as possible on this special visit from Her Majesty," said Peter Wilkin, chairman. "125 years of jam making is a remarkable achievement but we can't stand still and we are now looking forward to 2030 as the business develops."
The Queen was invited to sign the Visitors' Book before unveiling a beautiful Welsh slate engraved plaque marking her visit and 125 years of jam making. A unique gift, a tiny gold and silver Little Scarlet strawberry, was presented by Peter Wilkin.
Visitors to Essex have a choice of Wilkin & Sons' tea rooms each providing traditional waiter service but in contrasting locations:
Tiptree Visitors' Centre overlooking the orchards.
The Jam Museum has examples of factory and village life. The Jam Shop has an extensive range of preserves, cards and gifts. The Tea Room and Terrace offer morning treats, lunch and cream teas
A special high tea is available, please ask for details.
The Essex Rose 16th century Tea House Dedham
A beautiful timber framed house in the centre of the village, close to the ancient church and 5 minutes from the River Stour and Constable Country. Coffee, lunch and Tiptree cream teas.
"the lock" tea room on the waterfront at Heybridge Basin
An airy tea room with a popular terrace overlooking the Blackwater Estuary. Home cooked English breakfasts using local ingredients are very popular, lunch and teas are also available.