Wilkin Cafe and Museum

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Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2017

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So, do you do it the Devon way or the Cornish way?

No sniggering at the back, please.

I am of course, referring to scones and the order in which the clotted cream and jam is applied.

The Devon way is to apply the cream and dollop the jam on top whilst the Cornish way is to apply them in the reverse order.
It is an individual’s choice but there has been many a heated argument, especially in the South West, as to which method is best.

As the warm scone, the creamiest of cream and the sharp, fruity taste of the jam rolled around my taste buds, I have to say that I didn’t care less. I just enjoyed the moment.

Sitting in the summer sunshine on the terrace outside the Wilkin café in Tiptree, Essex, I was able to reflect on the subtleties of this sublime combination and of the hundred and thirty year history of the fruity jam currently creating a jamboree in my mouth.

In the early 1700’s, a farm was established at Trewlands Farm in Essex. The Wilkin family farmed this land from 1757. Arthur Charles Wilkin (1835 – 1913) took over the farm from his parents when only in his 20’s. He could have had little idea that his humble farm would one day be the base for an internationally renowned business with a turnover of millions.

By 1865, the business had turned from arable to fruit farming, and in 1885, the first home-made batch of jam was made by Arthur on the premises. The farm produce was transferred by horse and cart to the railway station at Kelvedon for rail transport to markets in London.

So impressed by the quality of the fruits and preserves was an Australian businessman, that he signed a deal for the entire production to be exported to Australia. The company at that time was called the Britannia Fruit Preserving Company.

A direct railway line was built into the farm in 1904 which made transportation much easier.
The initiative thrived and in 1905, the family had the confidence to rename the business as Wilkin and Sons Ltd., to distinguish it from the many other businesses now named Britannia.
Trade had also expanded to other countries including the UK.

Six years later, their produce was awarded a Royal Warrant by King George V, an acknowledgement of high quality and of the right to supply the royal family.

The 1950’s saw the company expand greatly, acquiring more land and premises and resulting in the award of a second Royal Warrant in 1954, this time from Queen Elizabeth II.

Subsequent takeovers by the company included other preserve makers, cake and pudding producers and yet more land on which to grow more and more varieties of fruit.

The number of products also expanded and today’s range of over 90 different products includes jams, marmalades, preserves, honey, sauces, fruit juices, fruity gin liqueurs, ice cream and even fruit scented candles and diffusers.

Their famous oval, black and white label is now familiar to many the world over.

The associated village of Tiptree, where many of the farm’s workers live, also expanded exponentially and today, with 11,000 residents, it is said to be Britain’s largest village.

In 1985 John and Daphne Wilkin opened the Tiptree Museum in the original farm building at Trewlands Farm and this has become a visitor attraction in it’s own right, attracting thousands of people annually. The museum tells the Wilkin story and has many original exhibits.

Today the company own over 1000 acres and export to over 60 countries around the world.

Around Essex there are ten fabulous shop/tearooms operating under the Wilkin name. All are in historic buildings or have amazing views.

Who would have thought all those years ago from those humble beginnings, that this would be the case? Certainly not Arthur Charles Wilkin, who would surely have been dumbfounded.

Now, should I have a second one, or would that be wanting jam on it?

For further information go to www.tiptree.com and to find the farm go to CO5 0RF.


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