(June 2021) Sibford Primary School head starts biscuit business

Joseph Huntley was born in 1775. His father, Thomas Huntley, was a Quaker school master in Burford and Joseph followed his father into teaching and was appointed Headteacher at Sibford Gower Endowed School. However, Joseph who had lived in Sibford Ferris with his wife Mary, left Sibford Primary School in 1811 and moved to Reading with his young family. He opened his own private school which was not very successful due to Joseph’s inability to manage his financial affairs very well. In 1817 he sent his eldest son, Thomas to be apprenticed to a grocer and to learn the baking trade from an uncle. In 1822, Joseph opened a baker’s shop on London Road, Reading, and he and the newly qualified Thomas ran the shop. The bakery, at 72 London Road, was opposite The Crown Inn, a posting inn for those travelling from London via Bristol to the South West.

The food at the inn was poor and expensive so, in addition to local trade, Thomas successfully sold biscuits and baked goods to travellers making the stop in Reading. Thomas soon sent a boy carrying a basket of wares to meet each arriving horse drawn coach. Once passengers reached their destinations, they often asked their own local grocers to order and stock Huntley’s goods so they soon enjoyed a thriving and growing market.

Thomas had a younger brother, Joseph who, following an apprenticeship with a Quaker ironmonger and tin plate worker in Reading, set up a separate business manufacturing tins near to the bakery. To keep the biscuits fresh and whole for delivery across the South East, Joseph was able to supply the tins keeping business in the family.

In 1829 Thomas, became a partner in the business and he and his father traded as Huntley and Son until Joseph Senior retired in 1838. In 1841 Thomas, who was very conscientious but lacked the drive to run a successful business joined with a fellow Quaker, and cousin by marriage, George Palmer, to form the successful biscuit company Huntley and Palmer.

To be continued … Maureen Hicks