Huntley & Palmers

Huntley & Palmers

Huntley & Palmers was a British firm of biscuit makers based in Reading, Berkshire. The company created one of the World's first global brands and ran what was once the world’s largest biscuit factory. Over the years, the company was also known as J. Huntley & Son and Huntley & Palmer. A business of the same name has recently been re-established in Sudbury in Suffolk.


Huntley & Palmers was founded in 1822 by Joseph Huntley as "J. Huntley & Son". Initially the business was a small biscuit baker and confectioner shop at number 72 London Street. At this time London Street was the main stage coach route from London to Bristol, Bath and the West Country. One of the main calling points of the stage coaches was the Crown Inn, opposite Joseph Huntley's shop and he started selling his biscuits to the travellers on the coaches. Because the biscuits were vulnerable to breakage on the coach journey, he started putting them in a metal tin. Out of this innovation grew two businesses: Joseph's biscuit shop that was to become Huntley & Palmers, and Huntley, Bourne and Stevens, a firm of biscuit tin manufacturers founded by his younger son, also called Joseph.Reading History Trail. " [ Huntley and Palmers] ". Retrieved October 10, 2005.]

In 1838 Joseph Huntley was forced by ill-health to retire, handing control of the business to his older son Thomas. In 1841, Thomas took as a business partner George Palmer, a distant cousin and member of the Society of Friends. George Palmer soon became the chief force behind its success, establishing sales agents across the country. The company soon outgrew its original shop and moved to a factory on King’s Road in 1846, near the Great Western Railway. The factory had an internal railway system with its own locomotives and one of these has been preserved. It is currently stored on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway but there are plans to return it to Reading during 2008 and put it on public display.

Thomas Huntley died in 1857, but George Palmer continued to direct the firm successfully aided by his brothers, William Isaac Palmer and Samuel Palmer, and subsequently by his sons, as heads of the company. They became biscuit makers to the British Royal Family and in 1865 expanded into the European continent, and received Royal Warrants from Napoleon III and Léopold II of Belgium. At their height they employed over 5,000 people and in 1900 were the world's largest biscuit firm. The origins of the firm's success lay in a number of areas. They provided a wide variety of popular products, producing 400 different varieties by 1903, and mass production enabled them to price their products keenly.

Another important part of their success was their ability to send biscuits all over the world, perfectly preserved in locally produced, elaborately decorated, and highly collectable biscuit tins. The tins proved to be a powerful marketing tool, and under their easily recognizable image Huntley & Palmer's biscuits came to symbolise the commercial power and reach of the British Empire in the same way that Coca Cola did for the United States. The tins found their way as far abroad as the heart of Africa and the mountains of Tibet; the company even provided biscuits to Captain Scott during his ill-fated journey to the South Pole. During the First World War they produced biscuits for the war effort and devoted their tin-making resources to making cases for artillery shells.

The Palmers were notable local figures in Reading who generously gave money and land to Reading, including Palmer Park and town was often known as "biscuit town". The firm was merged with other biscuit makers to become Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd and the Reading factory closed in 1972; manufacturing in Reading ceased in 1976.

The firm manufactured over 400 different types of biscuits and innovated many new types of biscuits including the famous "Nice" biscuit.

A history of the company, "Quaker Enterprise in Biscuits: Huntley and Palmers of Reading, 1822-1972" by T.A.B. Corley, was published in 1972 on the firm's 150th anniversary.


As of 2006, Huntley & Palmers has resumed operations from Sudbury in Suffolk. The new management includes a former marketing director of Jacobs Bakery, which once owned the company, and a founder of Vibrandt, a successful packaging design company. They are targeting the speciality and fine-food sector.cite web | url = | title = Huntley & Palmers - About Us | publisher = Huntley & Palmers | accessdate = March 8 | accessyear = 2007 ]

ee also

*Burton's Foods
*Fox's Biscuits
*Jacob Fruitfield Food Group
*United Biscuits


External links

* [ Web site of the Huntley & Palmer's Collection] at the Museum of Reading
* [ Official web site of the re-established Huntley & Palmer's business]

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