Sounds like a dream… Where is this place? by Ruth Parr

could it be a real place or just something along the lines of ‘The Big Rock Candy Mountain’; a fantasy destination full of all the things you love best, where hens lay soft boiled eggs and there are natural springs of lemonade? During a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off it was said that Bermondsey had once been known as ‘Biscuit Town’, and amazingly – it’s true!

James Peek and George Hender Frean founded Peek Frean at Dockhead, just off Jamaica Road in 1857. Many of the famous lines we still know today were invented by them: Garibaldi in 1861, Marie in 1875, Chocolate Table (the first chocolate-coated biscuit) in 1899 and the classic Bourbon in 1910.

Biscuit Town Bermondsey London Old Factory Workers
When their Dockhead factory burned down in 1873, the enormous production machine moved to Drummond Road. It was at this point that Bermondsey became known as ‘Biscuit Town’.

By the 1940s Peek Frean was a powerhouse, employing over 4,000 people directly. Located so close to Surrey Docks and the railway line, the factory was perfectly placed to import the best ingredients from all over the colonies and equally well-placed to export the biscuits back again.

Perhaps so long ago the story drifted over to hobo travellers in America, of a town that just made fabulous foods and inspired the Big Rock Candy legend, ‘a land of milk and honey, where you can stay for many a day and you won’t need any money’.

Biscuit Town Bermondsey London Old Factory Workers

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