There's far more to Tiptree than just its trademark jam
PUBLISHED: 10:16 22 January 2019
As the largest village in Essex, you might think that it's hard to foster a sense of community in Tiptree, but Petra Hornsby discovers that there is plenty to keep the locals entertained
Tiptree is officially the largest village in Essex and is a close contender for being the largest village in England. In 1999, there was a local referendum which resulted in residents voting against adopting town status despite the village growing significantly in size. Although it falls within the Borough of Colchester, it is also served by its own parish council and its parliamentary constituency is Witham.
Tiptree is, of course, very well known for its jams. Produced by Wilkin & Sons, the preserves, pickles and liquors are all made in the village and, employing more than 200 full-time staff, the hugely successful company has come a long way since the Wilkin family founded the company in 1885.
As well as having a museum on site and offering factory tours for interested visitors, the company also owns nine tearooms across Essex, including venues in Dedham, Colchester, Chelmsford and Saffron Walden.
Tiptree enjoys a very active sense of community and there are many groups for locals to join, volunteer for and participate in. One area that seems to hit the mark with locals is performance arts. The village is keen to give its young people plenty of opportunity to get involved and one group has been doing just this since 2014.
The Tiptree Academy of Performing Arts is based at St Luke’s School. The group runs classes each Saturday for talented young performers aged two to 18, developing drama, singing, performance and dance skills.
Rebecca Fowler, co-principle and dance teacher, outlines what the academy offers: “If you want to have fun and learn the skills required for all disciplines, then our Young Performers or TAPA Juniors is the class for you. For pupils who wish to take exams and receive recognised qualifications, we also offer ISTD Dance, Solo Acting LAMDA and Trinity Musical Theatre exam classes.
For older students aged 12 and upwards, the Senior TAPA package that runs independently should be just what you are looking for while for our very little students, Tots classes are a lovely introduction to either ballet and tap or drama.
“Our classes not only offer the best pre-professional training to our students, but also help them to develop their confidence, communication skills and creative thinking. Most importantly, all this takes place in a supportive and encouraging family environment, where each student’s happiness and well-being is our number one priority.”
Singing in choirs is hugely popular these days and, as well as the pure enjoyment and sheer fun, this type of activity can bring physical, emotional and mental health benefits too.
Tiptree Choral Society (TCS) boasts an unbroken record of performing concerts every year since its formation in 1945. The choir meets weekly for rehearsals and currently has around 60 members.
Liz Lazell, chairman of TCS, explains more about the group: “We sing well known classical pieces like Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem, but we also sing modern classical music by living composers such as John Rutter, Karl Jenkins and Ola Gjeilo. We have a range of other lighter music in our repertoire too, including songs from musicals, music from other countries, unaccompanied pieces and modern classics like Leonard Cohen’s Allelujah.
“We perform two or three concerts a year at our home performance base of St Luke’s Church, Tiptree. In 2012, we instigated a Prom in the Barn, held every two years at Park House Farm by kind permission of Mr & Mrs J Strathern, which has become a very popular addition to the local music scene and is sold out every time we do it.”
Information on future performances can be found on www.tiptreechoral.co.uk
The society also performs with other choirs and, in recent years, members have enjoyed trips to France, Switzerland and Wales as well as playing host to visiting groups from other countries, performing in St Luke’s Church and St Botolph’s Church in Colchester, as well as other local venues. We have a tradition of performing for local charities and we are happy to sing in fundraising concerts.”
The society has two significant milestones to look forward to in the very near future. In 2020, Tiptree Choral Society celebrates its 75th anniversary, while 2021 will mark Malcolm Boulter’s 50th year as the choir’s musical director.
Tiptree Sings is another choir based in Tiptree, meeting every Tuesday evening from 7pm to 9pm at the United Reformed Church. Established quite recently in 2013, the choir’s preference is to choose songs from the American Songbook and popular hits from recent decades.
The atmosphere is relaxed and there is the tantalising promise of time to stop for a cup of tea or coffee to catch your breath, have a good chat and even a tasty biscuit! Everyone is welcome – there are no auditions and nor do you need to be able to read music. All you need is the passion to sing.
Stepping away from the bright lights of the stage, other activities and groups in Tiptree include The Tiptree Art Club which meets every Friday from 9.30am to 12.30om in St Luke’s Extension. As the group is very popular, it is recommended that people who are interested pop in during a session and put their name down on the waiting list.
Those who like their recreation in the form of conservation would be very welcome to join the Friends of Tiptree Heath. Tiptree Heath is common land and was first recorded as such in 1401 with locals once making use of the space to graze her cows, sheep and ponies. Overall, it features two ponds, a stream and large areas of woodland.
Although Tiptree Heath is managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, they rely on the help and support of volunteers to help maintain it and preserve the habitats essential for its flora and fauna.
There is a weekly Tuesday group that meets in the car park at 2pm and there are also regular winter weekend working parties. Visit tiptreeheath.co.uk to find out more details.
Alternatively, the Tiptree Community Website is a great source of information for anyone in the village or surrounding area wanting to search for fun things to get involved in, whatever their age or interest.
It’s obvious that Tiptree’s preserve is its lively community – not just its trademark jam!