PEEK, FREAN & CO. (1857-1989)
Bourbon. Garibaldi. Chocolate digestive. Whatever your favourite biscuit, there’s a very good chance it can be traced back to Peek Frean Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey. Built across 10 acres of land, the sprawling factory was the birthplace of numerous iconic biscuits, and even the humble Twiglet. The sweet scent that wafted each day over Bermondsey earned the area the nickname of Biscuit Town.
What better accompaniment to a cup of tea, than a delicious biscuit? This was exactly what 19th century businessman James Peek asked himself whilst looking for a complimentary new business venture for his £5M per year East End tea importation company. In 1857 he enlisted the help of his son-in-law, George Hender Frean, and Peek, Frean and Co. biscuit makers was born.
Over the years the company became known for its innovative recipes, and by 1906 the factory had become the subject of one of the first documentary films ever made. As the 20th century progressed, so did the company, and cakes came to fore. This culminated in the commissioning of wedding cakes for both Queen Elizabeth II, and Lady Diana Spencer. However by the late 1980s, after 126 years, the Bermondsey factory baked its final Bourbon, and was closed.
Today the company is remembered as a true pioneer of the biscuit world, and an excellent employer within Victorian London, offering its workers better-than-average hours, pay and benefits. Meanwhile the former factory has now been converted into an exciting office space, hosting dozens of businesses, and it’s just outside the entrance that a blue plaque can be found in honour of the site’s sweet past.