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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 07:28 GMT
Biscuit factory makes 'comeback'
By Colette Hibbert
BBC News, London

The sweet smells of a factory that produced some of the country's favourite biscuits - like the Garibaldi and the Bourbon - are to be revived after 16 years.

Kitty Williams carrying Peek Frean tins
Peek Frean & Co employed about 3,000 workers

With the help of a 33,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the 123-year-old biscuit company Peek Frean & Co, which closed in 1989, is making a 'comeback' in the form of an exhibition.

From September, The Pumphouse Educational Museum in Rotherhithe, south-east London, will host a permanent exhibition about the company, which was based in Bermondsey, south-east London.

Peek Frean & Co was the first mass producer of biscuits and employed over 3,000 people in its time from when it opened in 1866 to when it closed in the late 80s.

The exhibition will include collections of Peek Frean artefacts dating back to 1900, which have never been publicly displayed.

We are grateful to the HLF for providing this opportunity to give local, national and global visitors a sense, and even a smell, of the past
Caroline Marais from The Pumphouse Educational Museum

It will also feature recorded interviews with former employees, several of whom still live in the area, as well as sound and pictures so that visitors can explore the factory's past.

To complete the experience there will also be a "smell pod" which will allow visitors to experience the aroma of the factory.

Caroline Marais, from the museum, said: "We are grateful to the HLF for providing this opportunity to give local, national and global visitors a sense, and even a smell, of the past."

Peek Frean logo
Peek Frean & Co operated for 123 years in south-east London

Peek Frean & Co stood at the centre of the local community in Bermondsey and was the biggest company in the area at the time.

Besides the Garibaldi (made in 1961), Shortcake (1912) and Bourbon, formerly Creola, (1910), other celebrated lines included Marie (1875), Chocolate Table (1899), Golden Puff (1909), Glaxo (1923), and the cocktail snacks, Cheeselets and Twiglets.

It also made a 6ft wedding cake for Queen Elizabeth II's wedding which will be on display in the museum.

Former employee Graham Stephens, 71, who worked there from 1957 until 1987, told BBC News that generations of families often worked at the factory.

"Peek Frean & Company was a very friendly firm, a very caring company for its employees.

Cake for Queen Elizabeth II's wedding
Queen Elizabeth II's wedding cake is on display in the museum
"Working at the company became a tradition. Fathers and sons joined.

"As an employee you were really made a fuss over. We had great fun working at Peek Frean."

The factory closed in 1989 when its then US-based owners, Nabisco, decided that the company had too many manufacturing units in the UK.

Mr Stephens has provided the museum with memorabilia, including a whole range of biscuit labels and a booklet outlining the history of the company for the first 100 years.

"The exhibition will show what life was like in those times. I do think it will be very good for children to see how life was both before and after the war," he said.

The museum will be producing educational worksheets for schools and a booklet on the social history of the factory to accompany the exhibition.

Sue Bowers, HLF Regional manager for London said: "The factory is over 120 years old and was loved by the community and people who worked there.

"The company played a crucial role in developing Southwark's unique character. This project will ensure everyone can celebrate that inheritance."

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