NEWS FROM 2020
“60 years of loyal service at Tiptree”
This week marks 60 years of loyal service for David Cross at Wilkin & Sons Ltd at Tiptree.
On the 4th January 1960, David aged 15, started working with Charlie Challis in the Box Room, he then moved to the Crate Room where the fruit is checked and cleaned before going to the jam making process. Today David will still be on site at 6.30 a.m. busy clearing, helping people and as he calls it being a generally “gopher”. Ask David and he will know where it is, a term that has been linked to him for many years.
Walter Scott, chairman of Wilkin & Sons, marked David’s special anniversary by presenting him with a cake with a message “marking sixty years of loyal distinguished service” ; friends and colleagues shared the celebration.
Walter said: “When David joined us we only had two television channels and they were black and white. When I joined in 1985 he was in charge of the Crate Room, we paced it together when his daughter was due to be born. Now that daughter is on maternity leave from our company.” Walter thanked him both personally and on behalf of the company for his service and his loyalty. Several of the old pieces of equipment that David worked on when he was first with the company, such as the cherry stoner, can now be seen in the Tiptree Jam Museum.
Ten years ago David was asked about his best times at Tiptree, and his response is the same today: “the people: you get to work with and have a laugh with that’s what makes it special.”
The Tiptree bus was spotted in Braintree Shopping Village on a rather cold February weekend, which might have encouraged more sales of the warming fruit liqueurs.
Royalty at Tiptree Celebrating a Birthday – March
The staff and directors of Wilkin & Sons were delighted to welcome TRH The Earl & Countess of Wessex who visited the farm and factory on Tuesday 10th March. The Earl of Wessex has a special interest in farming and water while The Countess of Wessex is Honorary President of LEAF (Linking the Environment AND Farming), an organization that promotes a better understanding of sustainable farming with close links to the Tiptree farm.
The Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst, introduced the welcome party including the Mayor of Colchester Borough Council, Cllr Nick Cope, the chairman of Tiptree Parish Council and other dignitaries and the company’s directors. Chris Newenham, joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons invited The Earl and Countess to plant a tree, a very special Tilia Europaea - Golden Sunset Lime tree that will be part of a new avenue of lime trees.
On arrival at the factory Walter Scott, chairman of the company, greeted the Earl and Countess as they started their tour of the traditional factory. They were keen to talk to the staff who were checking and preparing the fruit for jam and splitting the oranges for marmalade before moving to the busy filling room where they spotted the hundreds of mini jars being filled with Strawberry Conserve. As they left the factory the group passed the photographs of HM The Queen’s visit in October 2010 marking 125 years of jam making at Tiptree.
“As a significant Essex food manufacturer who is also a LEAF demonstration farm of which the Countess is patron, Wilkin & Sons seemed the perfect location for their visit,” said Chris Newenham joint managing director. “It was a very special occasion and we really appreciate the time the Earl and Countess spent talking to so many staff and then greeting the local children and families that had gathered outside to wave them farewell”.
Following the tour of the factory the royal party moved to the tea room where Scott Goodfellow, joint managing director, and Georgina Offord, finance director introduced representatives from across the family of Wilkin’s businesses. The highlight came when the Earl of Wessex was invited to cut his birthday cake, a special chocolate cake made at Tiptree Patisserie and Walter Scott said, “Your Royal Highnesses, on behalf of the company I’d like to say we hope you enjoyed your visit – we did, I’d like to ask you to cut the cake.” The Earl of Wessex responded, “Thank you very much for inviting us to look at this very famous factory that makes jams, cakes and sauces.” Lots of singing “Happy birthday.
The Earl and Countess signed the visitors’ book, received a basket of preserves from David Cross, who has been with the company for 60 years and the Countess was presented with a posy by Jackie Dustan, one of the supervisors who joined in 1997.
Leaving the Tiptree visitors’ centre the royal party were met by a crowd of smiling faces from local school children, friends and families; and they spent time chatting to many of the children who also sung Happy Birthday.
Home delivery – A Tiptree tradition for over 100 years – with support during Covid – April
Tiptree has provided a home delivery service for more than one hundred years, serving local, national, and international customers. A price list from 1901 states that the company had over 8,000 customers and that all goods “were delivered directly”, a tradition that Wilkin & Sons continues.
Letters found in the company’s archives show customers included international royalty. A letter from the Lady in Waiting to the Empress of Russia in 1908 asks for her order to be delivered to the Russian Embassy in London to be forwarded to St Petersburg. In another letter dated 1914 the housekeeper of The Queen of Greece requests Blackberry Conserve, Strawberry Conserve and Home-made Marmalade to be delivered.
Home delivery grew and in the 1920s the company had 200,000 customers on its books but in 1941 the company was asked by the government to deal with retailers and home deliveries were stopped. Direct delivery picked up in the 1950s at a time when local bakers, greengrocers, vintners, and local stores provided a delivery service for customers.
Scott Goodfellow, Joint Managing Director, commented, “For those customers who can’t get to their local shops during the pandemic, or who wish to send a gift to a friend, we can deliver a wide selection of preserves, marmalades, honeys, sauces, savouries, gifts, and spirits. Delivery to any UK address usually takes around a week, and during April and May there is 20% off Tiptree Fine English Spirits, Gin Liqueurs, Vodka Liqueurs and Rum Liqueurs.
10 years since Tiptree and RABI’s garden at Chelsea - May
“The John Joseph Mechi Garden 2010”
“Strawberries and Champagne”: the theme for the John Joseph Mechi garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010 created huge interest from fruit loving visitors. The garden reflected the times of this innovative Victorian farmer and marked the anniversaries of two amazing organisations The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and Tiptree jam.
John Joseph Mechi founded the farming charity The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) 150 years ago and it continues to help those in need in the farming community. In June 2010 Wilkin & Sons Limited celebrated 125 years of jam making at Tiptree, where fruit is still grown on the land once farmed by John Joseph Mechi. The creative skills of Ben Wincott, the designer from Writtle College, were reflected in his choice of the water feature, natural stone and the challenging planting.
Ben’s design illustrated the values of the Victorian plantsmen who were keen to introduce new methods of cultivation and new plants from abroad. A bubbling champagne style water feature, the introduction of copper to remind us that copper is still used in jam making pans at Tiptree and innovative ways of growing rhubarb may have inspired some visitors to replicate his methods in their own gardens.
After months of searching Ben found a superb specimen tree for the garden, a medlar, some beautiful Espalier pear trees, hundreds of strawberry plants grown for the show by Essex plant grower, Ken Muir, and rhubarb crowns that were taken from the fields where once Mechi farmed at Tiptree. The medlar tree that featured in the Chelsea garden was replanted in the medlar orchard at Tiptree where it thrives.
We hope that this virtual reminder of the Chelsea Flower Show will rekindle some memories as we look forward to a time when the Chelsea Show will be open again in 2021.
Turnround in lockdown to create a new business
6,000th Afternoon Tea delivered to your door - in Essex - June
Tiptree Patisserie in Witham has just delivered their 6,000th Afternoon Tea Box to a home in Essex since the start of lockdown; an amazing turnround from their usual business of baking and delivering great cakes to London hotels and East Anglian tea rooms. The bakery, which has a reputation for making hand finished cakes, had to change direction overnight and look for a new market to protect the jobs of their bakers and staff.
“We quickly created an afternoon tea box for four people: handmade cakes, biscuits and scones, with Tiptree Strawberry jam and optional Cornish Clotted Cream which proved to be a great hit with people in Essex. We have extended the options adding fresh Tiptree strawberries and a “Tipsy” version with a bottle of Tiptree Strawberry Gin Liqueur,” said Daren McGrath managing director of Tiptree Patisserie. “People in lockdown were keen to enjoy a treat at home and many of our customers are now sending the afternoon tea box to friends and relations as a birthday gift.”
As a way of helping people who had difficulty obtaining some of the basics during lockdown the Patisserie also offered customers: fresh eggs, flour, milk and cream.
Orders and payments are only taken over the phone, which can be busy, but it means queries and delivery dates are confirmed immediately. The cakes and scones are freshly made so they could be frozen if you can’t eat them all in one day – good news for solo households.
With the virtual National Cream Tea Day on Friday 26th June it is expected that Essex consumers will be keen to place their orders prior to the day.
Afternoon tea: 4 pieces of Lemon Drizzle cake, 4 pieces of Carrot cake, 8 shortbread biscuits, 4 handmade Fruit scones, 4 mini jars of Tiptree Strawberry Conserve - £20
Optional extras: 4 portions of Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream £2; Tiptree strawberries £3; 1 x 35cl bottle of Tiptree Strawberry Gin Liqueur - £15
Father’s Day 21st June option: 1 x 35cl Tiptree Spiced Rum Liqueur - £15
“Stars” in the field - The Tiptree Strawberry Race - June
This year we are reflecting on some of the celebrities and guests who have helped raise funds for charities at this very unusual race: The Tiptree Strawberry Race. The Little Scarlet strawberry is really the star of the day and the race is a chance to find the fastest/best picker of these tiny berries; but for those who are less dexterous there is still a chance to win a prize with the best costume reflecting the theme of the race. For our traditional pickers this is just a short break from their usual routine of early morning picking.
We have been fortunate to host several television personalities at the Tiptree Strawberry Race include: Jimmy Doherty (2004), Vicki Michelle (‘Allo ‘Allo), Helen McDermott (ITV Anglia 2005), Babs Powell & Hannah Waterman (2007), George Cole (from Dr Who), Holby City stars Tom Chambers and Rebecca Grant, X-Factory stars plus guest appearances from cricketers: Darren Gough and Ronnie Irani as well as some enthusiastic London chefs – we are grateful for their support. Judging the best dressed picker and the best hats is a challenge for the celebrities. It was fun to see an array of lavish hats bobbing along the strawberry fields as pickers crouched on the ground to pick the fruit; but this is changing as the fruit is now grown on table top height – making it quicker and easier to pick. One year our special guest was a replica Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this was the most popular ride of the day,
The original idea of the Tiptree Strawberry Race was to have an hour of fun in the strawberry field and create media interest while raising funds for charity; over the years donations have been given to: Essex Air Ambulance, Essex Wildlife Fund, Essex Hospices, Local Playgroups, Brainwave, Lord Taverners (giving young people a sporting chance), RABI, Aspire (helps people with spinal injuries), Farleigh Hospice, RAF 100, Royal British Legion, Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and towards a local pensioners’ lunch to mark H M The Queen’s 90th birthday.
While we will miss the fun of this year’s Tiptree Strawberry Race the Little Scarlets will still be picked ready to be driven across the field to the jam factory where they will be made into our finest of Tiptree conserve.
135 years of jam making at Tiptree - June
2020 marks 135 years of jam making at Tiptree; it was in June 1885 that Mr. Arthur Charles Wilkin made his first batch of Strawberry Conserve from strawberries grown on his farm, a tradition that continues today. During the 135 years everyone in the Wilkin family has seen the company overcome great difficulties and celebrate amazing achievements. The highlights have included three royal visits: H.M. The Queen (2010), HRH Princess Alexandra (1985) and TRH the Earl & Countess of Wessex (2020)
Throughout these years the farm has been at the centre of the business and while innovation has ensured increased crop production, more efficient use of water and easier picking levels, it is the actual taste of the fruit that will always be of prime importance. Our library of images take us through 100 years of picking with girls wearing long dresses as they gathered black currants, enthusiastic farm workers returning from the fields piled into a tractor trailer, picking Little Scarlets at the annual Strawberry Races through to the innovative Tiptree New Growing System opened in 2016.
The innovation on the farm is reflected in the changes in the factory – at one time teams of men in flat caps and women with long aprons worked at the open boiling pans, one of these pans can be seen in The John Wilkin Collection at the Jam Museum. The photograph of the flat capped men sorting crates of oranges from Seville was probably taken in the 1920/1930s, the apparel may have changed but the Crate Room name continues; it is the room where all the fruit is washed and checked by hand as it enters the factory before being prepared for the boiling room. The open boiling pans of the 1900s have mostly been replaced by small copper lined boiling pans where batches of jams and marmalades are cooked for a precise time to retain the maximum flavour.
The mini jars of Tiptree marmalades and jams can be found on breakfast tables across the world. Historic order forms show conserves (made with home grown fruit), preserves (made with fruit from another source), bottled fruit and other unusual items that were sold direct to individual consumers in the UK and overseas. Direct sales ceased during war time when rationing was introduced but online home sales have shown a rapid increase during 2020 due to lockdown, a circle of sales.
Farming requires long term planning, some strawberries that will crop in 90 days and in contrast we have mulberry trees that take many years to reach their peak and some of them were planted more than 100 years ago. The company’s marketing strategy reflects tomorrow’s trends and changes in tastes as new products are introduced: slim bottles of Tiptree Tomato Ketchup, fashionable Salted Caramel Spread organic preserves, reduced sugar jams, fruit juices and an increasing range alcoholic products including the very popular Tiptree Strawberry Gin Liqueur.
The tradition of providing homes for many of the staff helps to build the community feeling and the company has always taken an active part in village life supporting projects and assisting charitable enterprises. Some of those special events have been capture by television and press reporters to share across the UK and overseas.
The royal connection has always been important to the company and to customers across the world and we are proud to have held a Royal Warrant continuously for over 100 years. An accolade that now appears on every jar: “By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen purveyors of Tiptree products”.
National Cream Tea Day – Virtual & Reality - June
The Cream Tea Society’s special day stimulated comments, videos and chats on social media with amazing images of scones, jam and cream being enjoyed across the world
The day started with a Phil Khoury, Harrod’s patiserrie chef, introducing an unusual way of making scones giving them time to rest and rise, resulting in an extra fluffy scone – perfect for the jam and cream. His early video was timed to catch viewers in Australia as well as the UK and by Monday night it had 12k views; a huge “thank you to Phil and to our colleague Marky at Mayers”.
James Hillery’s scone bake-a-long video showed the effort that goes into producing an eye- catching scone with Tiptree Conserve and Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream; for which we were very grateful. The day continued with Lavender and Lovage’s perfect afternoon tea, Jane’s Patisserie recipe, Juliet Sear’s video of a great scone, then a conversation with Nick Rodda and Scott Goodfellow about the art of making clotted cream and the skill in picking fruit and making Tiptree Little Scarlet Conserve.
Many people found an opportunity to share a cream tea some virtually and some in reality including the staff working in the jam factory who were given a surprise cream tea box to take home at the end of their shift. Although charity fundraising events have been postponed we were delighted that people at The SW Children’s Hospice, Haven Hospice at Southend and St Helena Hospice at Colchester were able to be part of National Cream Tea Day.
At the end of a busy virtual day it was time to indulge in a cocktail making session with Chloe McGrath showing ideas for using Tiptree spirits and Rodda’s cream in some delicious cocktails – cheers!
New product – Fine English Spirits – September
The Fine English box of 24 spirits is proving to be very popular as a gift with a great selection of gin, vodka and rum liqueurs.
Open Farm Sunday – virtual tour - September
This year Open Farm Sunday is virtual but there is still a great opportunity to see what is happening on the farm at Tiptree via the video which coincides with British Food Fortnight. It had been hoped that Open Farm Sunday postponed from June would take place later in the year but this will not be possible.
Strawberry picking which started in May will continue through to early October, depending on the weather, and the fresh fruit can be found in Sainsbury’s, local shops and the Tiptree Jam Shop. The last of the stone fruit, the traditional damson were picked at the beginning of September and these will be used in Damson Conserves and English Damson Gin Liqueur.
The video is a chance to see a variety of seasonal fruit across the farm and there may even be a glimpse of the last fruit to be picked: the medlar, an ancient fruit popular in Victoria times when the fruit was picked, stored in bran and served as a sweetmeat at Christmas. At Tiptree we usually pick the medlars after the first frost so that they will softer (“bletted”) before they are cooked and made into a crimson coloured jelly that is served with meat.
Eating in the steps of celebrities – at Tiptree tea rooms
The Tiptree tea rooms in Essex and Suffolk have welcomed regular customers, international visitors, friends and families as well as some interesting “secret” celebrities – you can share their experience. When they first opened each tea room had a name linked to the location but they are now all officially called Tiptree tea rooms.
Royalty and V.I.P.s at Tiptree
We were honoured that her H.M. The Queen came into the tea room at Tiptree in 2010 to meet the staff and unveil the plaque during her visit to the company marking 125 years of jam making at Tiptree.
Early in 2020 TRH The Earl & Countess of Wessex completed their tour of the farm and factory by visiting the Tiptree tea room where The Earl was presented with an amazing birthday cake and a basket of preserves for his special day.
China correspondent and television presenter Carrie Gracie enjoyed a cream tea after filming part of the television documentary, “The Silk Road” in 2017; at the time customers in China were being introduced to the intricacies of a very English cream tea with Tiptree conserves. Mrs Hinch visited in September meeting some of the team.
Poets and history at Dedham
The 16th century Essex Rose Tea House in Dedham was bought by the company in 2000 and there was a special event in 2002 when Peter Wilkin, then chairman of Wilkin & Sons, met guest of honour Miss Mary Loe who first named the tea house “The Essex Rose”, many years ago.
Poet, journalist and rock star Martin Newell entertained visitors at the Essex Book Festival evening hosted by its chairman, Seona Ford, in the spring of 2013 and again in 2014.
Film Star and Sporting visitors at Heybridge Basin
Colchester United’s then goal keeper, Simon Brown officially opened “the lock” tea room on the waterfront at Heybridge Basin in 2003, guests enjoyed a cream tea. The team room has developed a great reputation with walkers and yachtsmen for a traditional English cooked breakfast on the terrace.
Jude Law popped in to “the lock” at Heybridge Basin in a break from filming “The Third Day” on Osea Island across the Blackwater Estuary.
Tiptree World Bread Award winners have been enjoyed a feast at Heybridge Basin as part of their prize - including Lilly Clervi in 2018.
BBC Essex presenters at Saffron Walden, Dedham and Tiptree
Liana Bridges and Barry Lewis, stars of BBC Essex “Quest” programme visited the tea room; they were guided there by listeners responding to cryptic clues to the secret venue. Liana and Barry didn’t have time to stop for tea but we hope they found a cake box in their car.
TV Bake Off winner at Writtle
Winner of TVs Great British Bake Off Frances Quinn added her decorative touch to scones at Writtle during her tour of key Tiptree tea rooms in 2015 to meet customers and staff to help celebrate National Cream Tea Day.
Lord Taverners and Cricketers at Chelmsford
“Giving young people a sporting change” is the mantra of The Lord Taverners; Wilkin & Sons have supported this vital charity for many years; in 2018 a presentation at the new Tiptree Bond Street tea room in the heart of Chelmsford benefited a local school.
Bond Street has also been a special venue for Essex County Cricket players when they displayed their amazing county trophy.
Regal International guests - Cressing Temple
A grand afternoon tea was served to the guests of the Sultana of the Yemen at her international fundraising event in the oldest timber framed barn in Europe, just across the grounds from the barns tea room. TV History presenter George Clarke has been spotted at Cressing Temple where he met the tea room team.
Football celebrity at Barleylands Billericay
The Tiptree tea room at Barleylands opened in 2016 on a site that attracts visitors keen to use the many small specialist shops as well as those who take children to see the animals. Phil Brown, who at the time was Southend United’s manager, broadcast an interview with a sports editor from a quiet space next to the tea rooms.
Secret visitors - The View overlooking the Blackwater estuary
Amazing views are enjoyed by walkers throughout the year as they stop at the tea room for a hot chocolate or a light lunch at the View; a lovely location to enjoy the birds, watch the boats and the big skies as well as any surprise visitors.
TV Filming for Great British Railways – September
Michael Portillo and the crew making an episode of Great British Railway Journeys filmed conversations with “land army girls” in the damson orchard.
Walter Scott, chairman, thanked Michael for his visit on the steps to the jam factory.
Pub that transformed into a community bakery in lockdown crowned
Tiptree World Bread Awards Heroes with Brook Food - October
The winners of the Tiptree World Bread Awards Heroes with Brook Food were announced on Tuesday 13 October 2020 in a special online awards evening, marking an extraordinary year for the nation.
Rob Allcock, owner and Head Chef of The Longs Arms in Wiltshire, was selected as Overall Winner. Rob was forced to close his pub in South Wraxall due to the restrictions of Covid. But he didn’t close the doors completely. He took the bold and radical decision to completely transform his business and convert the pub kitchen into a bakery to serve the local community.
‘Well it’s simply very humbling that the village and our customers thought us worthy for nomination for such an amazing award.’ said Rob. Charli Boddington, one of Rob’s nominators said, ‘The entire village is reliant on his delicious output. He has certainly kept the village smiling.’
In normal times, the Awards celebrate the bread; hundreds of loaves would be delivered to a London venue for assessment by a panel of esteemed judges. Instead, in a special edition for 2020, the Awards recognise the people behind the loaves: the bakers, millers and farmers.
Hundreds of nominations for the Bread Heroes were sent in from across the UK. ‘All the nominees in this year’s Awards truly deserve recognition for their generous, considerate and often altruistic initiatives to help others.’ said Stephen Hallam, Chairman of the Judges.
12 regional winners were selected by the judging panel. They included Gilchester Organics - farmers and millers in Northumberland - who worked tirelessly to keep their community supplied with flour and donated flour to top chef, Dean Parker, to help him provide free loaves of fresh bread to NHS workers in London. Also the North West’s Seasons Bakery, which baked around the clock and delivered over 5000 loaves to the local community and 1000s to charities across the country.
One of the judges, Emma Freud, Executive Producer Comic Relief, said, ‘These nominees were so well found - each of them have done remarkable things for their communities, using their talent with bread to make life easier for people who need support. It was a seriously tough choice, but I am confident we got the right winners…’
‘The efforts of the bread community during these challenging times have been truly inspiring.’ said Scott Goodfellow, Joint Managing Director, Tiptree, ‘We are delighted that this year’s Awards have been able to shine a light on their incredible endeavours.’
An exhibition of portraits by photographer Henry Kenyon of the 12 Bread Heroes will be touring the UK, including a display at the City Food Lecture 2021, the annual lecture on the future of the food industry, organised by the seven food-related City of London livery companies.
Congratulations to all the winners – their details can be found on www.worldbreadawards.com
Rob Allcock has been crowned Tiptree World Bread Awards Hero with Brook Food 2020. Credit: Henry Kenyon.
Celebrating Mary’s 50 years at Tiptree - December
“We all know Mary”, this is a comment often heard in the Tiptree jam factory where Mary Beal worked for 50 years. From the time she joined Wilkin & Sons Ltd in November 1970 until the day she retired Mary was based in the Crate Room, where all the fruit is checked and prepared before it is made into Tiptree jam or marmalade. Sorting the fruit was her main task but in January and February she would be splitting oranges and separate the peel from the fruit before it was mixed with sugar and made into one of the many marmalades. Chris Newenham joint managing director commented: “We will all miss her enthusiasm and sunny disposition, she was very much part of the furniture.”
At the end of December Mary was presented with gifts and a special cake, made by Tiptree Patisserie Witham, which she cut in front of her “bubble” of colleagues. Chairman, Walter Scott, spoke via Teams, to recall a time when Mary and some colleagues made a special fact-finding trip to Holland to see the preserves they had helped to make on the shelves of local shops. He said: “We are all the richer for having known you, thank you for being ‘Mary’”.
In reply she thanked everyone for coming and said she would miss her friends; but not for long as she now lived opposite the factory could wave to them as they passed each morning.
Other visitors during the year between lockdowns:
Mrs Hinch who visited the Tiptree tea room.