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That takes the Biscuit !

Updated: Aug 4, 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.

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.

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