Biscuits and George Palmer MP; JP. for Reading
Biscuits Industry Businessman Mr George Palmer – Benefactor. One of the Founders of Huntley & Palmers – the best biscuits in the world!
Before the Ladies Bath – the Bathing Place
Daphne Phillips “The Story of Reading” P.137
“…Reading was in festive mood…Mr George Palmer J. P. M.P. for Reading, and head of the town’s greatest industry- Huntley and Palmer’s Biscuits, had given 14 acres of King’s Meadow, beside the Thames, for use as public recreation ground…”
Ref: Reading Illustrated 1899
“King’s Meadow Recreation Ground is around 24 acres in extent, adjoining the Thames – the Corporation having purchased some thirty years ago.
The late biscuits founder George Palmer generously added the rest as a “free gift
” one of his many benefactions to the town, and not least appreciated, as is shown by the constant use of the site by cricketers, footballers, and other fond out-door exercise.
Plans are now before the Town Council for a suitable Caretakers residence, and other buildings for those using the ground.”\
Biscuits entrepreneur Mr Palmer loved healthy outdoor recreational living and provided many facilities for his employees and of course the people of Reading in general. Not just 14 acres of King’s Meadow, Palmer Park near Cemetery Junction is a testament to that, with development over the years many recreational and training facilities for all budding sports people. A very busy sports stadium today.
There was horse racing on the Meadow as far back as 1840s
Thorough-Bred Stock Auction on Kings Meadow
Kings Meadow Lane in Biscuits Magnate George Palmer’s time. The Ladies Baths is on the right, the large men’s Pool on the left, with a convenient tuck shop on the corner.
Biscuits Manufacturer George and owner of the “best biscuits factory in the World” was born into a Quaker family, and with his two brothers William and Samuel provided Temperance Halls – one especially, and well architecturally designed, can be found next to the present Primark store in West Street.
He sat and served on the Town Council for many years.
Mr George Palmer lived along London Street in a plain bath stone government building “The Acacias” . Some believed it wasn’t good enough for him!
He was one of the very few employers that held a “sick fund.” If ever an employee was not able to work because of sickness, he still gave them a wage.
When he died in 1897 just before his 80th birthday, he was mourned deeply and more than 5000 employees lined London Street as his funeral cortege passed by.
Other reminiscence quotations pre the building of the Baths on Kings Meadow bequeathed by one of the Founders of the Biscuits Industry
Further Extract pre the Baths
Ref: W.S. Darter- “Reminiscences of Reading” edited by Daphne Phillips P 75/76
“I think it is very likely there is good places for bathing in Reading, and in the days of my boyhood the most popular with us youngsters were the swing bridge (the approach by Blake’s Wharf), the “Little Corner” situated about half-way between the playground at Dr Valpy’s and the Lock Pool in the King’s Meadow, and a place for expert swimmers, a place about a hundred yards from the Pound Keepers until the new bathing house was erected there there was no safe for young people to acquire the art of swimming.
During my boyhood the King’s meadow was held by Mr Jonathan Tanner, a brewer in Castle Street. he was one of the few I remember to have worn powdered hair with a pig-tail and also hessian Boots.
For many years the King’s Meadow continued in the occupation of Mr Tanner.
Until recently, Reading with an approximate population of 27,000 inhabitants had no baths where Ladies could learn the art of swimming, and it entirely owing to the enterprise spirit of Mr W.H. Simonds, a builder of South Street, that this necessity had been provided. I’m sure he had the hearty good wishes of us all that it may prove a success. if it were not that the Corporation, as a Saniotary Authority, have already too much business on hand, I, for one, should have thought it was the duty of such a body to provide an establishment of this kind, especialy as they have not only control over the supply of water but the price to be paid for it…..”