Wilkins the Bakers origins lay in the early 1900s.
F Wilkins started out as a franchise holder for the Isaac and Co Dairy Company’s bakery division and by 1911 had taken over Fippard and Sons bakery and shop at 192 Old Christchurch Rd on the corner of Glen Fern Rd [ now Pizza Express ].
By the early 1930s Wilkins had a string of local shops and a purpose built bakery at 62 Malmesbury Park Rd on the site of a former laundry.
By 1935 the business had been purchased by a Canadian businessman named W Garfield Weston who had taken over his father’s bakery business and who was now expanding into Britain.
By 1937 he had acquired 15 bakery plants across the country which had been unified as ‘Allied Bakeries’, mass producing bread in large, modern baking factories.
Weston later founded Associated British Foods, incorporating a whole range of brands across the world and many household names in Britain including Ryvita who’s main factory is in Poole.
The Wilkins factory at Malmesbury Park Rd was extended at various times over the years and by the 1970s was producing tens of thousands of loaves a day from two large production plants situated on the top floor of the main factory. The lines ran 24 hours a day, only closing for maintenance at 6am on Saturday morning before starting up again frst thing Sunday morning.
The loaves were sent via a conveyor system to the ground floor where they were sliced, bagged and despatched. Also on the ground floor was a confectionary department that produced bread rolls, doughnuts, sausage rolls, currant buns and other goods for the network of local shops that they still ran across Bournemouth, and for other customers.
They regularly produced over 2 million hot cross buns for the Easter market and also had a specialist cake decorating department that made and decorated cakes to order.
As well as producing for their own shops Wilkins also mass produced bread under various Allied Bakeries brands such as Sunblest, Allinson, Mighty White, Hi Bran, Betabake, Slimcea, Kingsmill and Hovis as well as supplying a lot of the major supermarkets.
The company employed up to 250 people at any one time across in house departments such as baking, machine operating, hygiene, drivers, maintenance engineers, mechanics, office staff and building maintenance, with many hundreds, and probably thousands, being employed over the years.
Until the early 1980s wages were still paid in cash with the money being delivered to site by an armoured van with each individual wage packet being made up in the main office block. An announcement was made over the tanoy for employees to remain inside the factory whilst the wages were being delivered. From 1983 wages began to be paid directly into employees bank accounts.
In the late 1980s the confectionary department closed along with the shops, and in 1994 it was announced that the bakery was to close down in two phases with production being transferred to large super bakeries in the London area. Production finally ceased with a second wave of redundancies in 1995.
The site remained as a distribution centre until 2007 with bread being delivered by lorry from other bakeries with the depot moving to the Ferndown Industrial Estate where it still operates.
The Malmesbury Park Rd premises were demolished in 2007 and replaced over the following 18 months by The Granary housing development that resulted in the creation of Chelsea Gardens and Wilkins Gardens.
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