The Tiptree Visitors’ Centre adjoins the factory of Wilkin & Sons Limited, jam and marmalade manufacturers since 1885. Inside, the factory processes soft fruit including medlars, mulberries, quince, plums, loganberries and the famous Little Scarlet Strawberry which are grown on Wilkins 1000-acre / 4 km2 Tiptree estate. The factory also occupies buildings of the Model Farm constructed by the Victorian agricultural improver John Mechi who originally developed the estate.
The Jam Museum was opened in 1994 to display a range of jam making equipment that had been hidden in old buildings in different parts of the farm. A welcoming video brings the story of Tiptree jam making to life with the voice of Mr John Wilkin introducing visitors to the collection of open boiling pans, mechanical peelers and other specialised equipment. Video presentations include a year in the life of the farm and the factory showing strawberry picking, Christmas pudding making and jam production. Outside, Wilkins are assembling a collection of agricultural machinery formerly used on their farms.
The Museum also features the “Crab & Winkle” railway line, a so-called Light Railway with restricted weight loadings. This line used to serve the jam factory between its two main stations of Kelvedon and the riverside Tollesbury Pier where jams, preserves and agricultural produce were loaded onto coastal freighters. The Pier was demolished at the beginning of the Second World War.
Next to the Museum are famous Tea Rooms where morning coffee, lunch and cream tea with Tiptree preserves, made in the adjacent factory, are available throughout the year. In 2004 the Tea Rooms were extended, the popular outside terrace was constructed and the Jam Shop was relocated into a new spacious area beside the Tea Room. The shop is stocked with preserves and a range of interesting gifts for visitors.
Wilkin & Sons Ltd holds a Royal Warrant for the making of jams and marmalades and is a leading supplier to hotels and high-class retail outlets.