PUBLISHED: 12:23 18 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 20 February 2013

The Museum

The Museum

Tiptree has grown rapidly over the last two centuries in the light of its resident jam factory, but it will always maintain its village character, explains Joanne Jarvis

Bearing fruit

Tiptree has grown rapidly over the last two centuries in the light of its resident jam factory, but it will always maintain its village character, explains Joanne Jarvis

SITUATED between Maldon and Colchester, the village of Tipree may lack traditional features that other villages in the county enjoy, but despite its late development, Tiptree has a lot to be proud of. Most notable of all is it being home to the world-famous jam makers,
Wilkin & Sons.

Before Wilkin & Sons became established in the village, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area simply remained part of the Great Forest of Essex. There was no parish of Tipree, but individuals gradually claimed sections of land and built cottages. The development of arable land during the Napoleonic wars led to a local enclosure act and land began to be brought into cultivation.

A turning point in the villages development was when Arthur Wilkin began farming at Park Farm in Tolleshunt Knights and then at Trewland when he inherited it in 1864. He began to experiment with soft fruits for the London market and his moment of inspiration came when he saw jam made from his fruits. Deciding that he could make the jams himself, he started the Britannia Fruit Preserving Company based at the Tiptree Jam Factory which was renamed Wilkin and Sons in 1905.

Part of village life
Suddenly the Wilkin family became an integral part of village life in Tiptree, bringing industry and employment to the area. Today, the company farms almost 1,000 acres in and around the village and has provided employment for people from Tiptree and the surrounding villages for more than 100 years. In keeping with tradition, Wilkin & Sons still provide housing for more than 70 families in the village and have employees who can trace back several generations of their family who have worked for the firm.
Ian Thurgood, joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons Ltd, explains: The churches and schools have all benefitted from the success of the business and any request for assistance from the local community is viewed favourably. Wilkin and Sons is the largest employer in Tiptree and is perhaps the Colchester areas best-known premium brand with worldwide recognition.

By the 1950s, the company had grown to such a point that there were not sufficent local pickers, so it set up the The Farm Camp which offers working holidays to foreign students studying the english language. Ian adds: For many years it was an opportunity for young people from many different countries to get together, earn some money during the summer months and then travel around Britain before returning to university. Today, the students are predominantly Bulgarian and Romanian working under a Government-approved scheme during the summer months. They use many of the facilities of the village of Tiptree, including its shops and pubs, and many take the opportunity to visit local and national sights and attractions.

Reaching the world
The jam factory in Tiptree has itself become a popular tourist attraction in recent years following the opening of a museum, tearoom and visitor centre.
A peep into the visitors book in the jam museum shows comments from guests who have travelled to Tiptree from Australia, North America and all parts of Europe, adds Ian. In the last 12 years the visitor centre has attracted about 1 million visitors who have enjoyed a cream tea or lunch and some wander back to the village shops.

Building on this proud history, the future continues to look bright for Wilkin & Sons although there are challenges ahead. Our sales of preserves are increasing both in the UK and overseas, explains Ian. This increased demand is putting a strain on the capacity of the existing factory and something has to be done to help the business continue to grow. Wilkin & Sons jam factory has been at Tiptree for more than 100 years and we hope that it will be able to stay in the village providing employment opportunities to people of all ages and generating income for the local community.

There have been some innovative and interesting techniques introduced to the fruit farm which is part of the 1,000 acres of farmland on the estate. But, despite the introduction of modern machinery, hand sorting and fruit cutting still requires experienced and skilled people to do the work.

As a result of Tiptrees development, it is now home to four primary schools, sports facilities including a gymnasium and a golf driving range and a selection of shops as well as two supermarkets and a pub. But despite being home to the international brand of Wilkin
& Sons, Tiptree has retained its rural appeal and proudly maintains its reputation as a village community.


  • The area was known as Tiptree Heath before the village was created in the 1800s

  • John Mechi, who bought land and a farmhouse which he developed as Tiptree Hall, is believed to be one of the leaders of the movement to set up a parish of Tiptree

  • The roads which form the cross-roads in the centre of Tiptree arethought to follow the lines of green lanes that in medieval times ran across the Tiptree Heath

  • Tiptrees village status was the subject of a local referendum in1999 but residents and secondary school pupils rejected town status

  • Arthur Wilkin fought for a railway link from Kelvedon to the coast. The Kelvedon and Tollesbury light railway opened on October 1, 1904 and Arthur provided a large amount of the freight traffic. The line became known as The Crab and Winkle Line

  • The parish church of St Lukes was built in 1856

  • Since 1900 Tiptrees population has grown from 1,000 to 10,000

  • Tiptree Heath is the largest surviving fragment of heathland in Essex. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest


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