peek frean's biscuit factory, bermondsey
The Environmental Statement for a hybrid planning application for redevelopment of the former Biscuit Factory recognised heritage significance in relation to a wider community and social legacy.
A previous phase of refurbishment had successfully established sustainable re-use of redundant buildings within a factory that has existed for 150 years. This delivered c.650 direct jobs and sustained employment within the wider Southwark area. Further re-development sought to regenerate South Bermondsey, an area still known by the community, including many families previously employed by Peek Frean, as ‘Biscuit Town’.
A 1906 film ‘Visit to Peek Frean and Co.'s Biscuit Works’, by film pioneers Cricks and Martin, one of the earliest structured documentary films, contributes to heritage significance of the site. It also provided unique historic baseline information detailing socio-economic and technical aspects of the factory operating at the beginning of the decade before World War I.
The assessment identified a previously unattributed 1930s modernist factory building designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, pioneers in early 20th century factory design. This had been designed specifically to house the latest automated production machinery imported from the USA. As well as the latest technology, the former factory invested in socially progressive employment practices, especially towards women, as detailed in Pearl Jephcot’s seminal 1962 study ‘Married Women Working’. Biscuit Town also benefited from the activities of civic leaders, most notably the public health and welfare policies developed by Ada and Alfred Salter.
This rich community legacy was reflected in the masterplan for a contemporary mixed use scheme, ensuring long-term economically viable use of refurbished industrial buildings, creating new residential high-rise blocks, introducing retail spaces that revitalise the viaduct supporting London’s earliest passenger railway and reconnecting urban and community links through inspirational public realm design and highways improvements.