A lifetime ago, Mr J.S. Wilkin began collecting the paraphernalia of preserve making and Essex village life. In quiet corners of the preserve factory he carefully stored away pictures, documents and redundant machines. Then, as the business approached its Centenary celebrations, ‘Mr. John’, as he is known, asked for room to display some of his hoard.
At first, the collection was displayed in a private room within the factory. Mr. John’s wife Daphne worked tirelessly to record each artefact and document, producing notices to explain and help visitors understand the history of the jam-making business and indeed that of the village itself.
Later, with the opening of the museum in a renovated farm building at Tiptree, Mr. John’s foresight was at last rewarded. Today, visitors can see how village life used to be and how the art of preserve-making has advanced over the years at Tiptree.
Entry to the Tiptree museum is free. For your guidance, a quick visit may take just fifteen minutes, but it’s more usual to allow 30-45 minutes with perhaps an extra 10 minutes to watch the video display that explains how the fruit is grown and illustrates how traditional preserve making continues to this day in Tiptree.
Rather like an iceberg, much of the collection is carefully stored away in an archive. From time to time the collection is used as reference material and can on occasion provide a unique insight into the history of the village. Although it has a serious purpose and is much loved by all who work at ‘the jam factory’, there is something rather reassuringly British about a museum which houses railway maps alongside images from a young photographer, an aircraft propeller and a four-legged chicken. For many years, the aircraft propeller (Sopwith Snipe) was carefully stored out of sight, in the ladies’ toilets.