Biscuit Factory visitors' book
On the left-hand page of this Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory visitors' book is the signature of Oscar Wilde, the poet and playwright. The Wildes were family friends of Walter and Jean Palmer. The novelist George Meredith was a guest at their house in Southcote Road on the same occasion. These two literary figures did not get on well together, as both liked the sound of their own voice. Meredith's signature can be seen above that of Wilde - they visited the factory on different days! Other famous visitors to the factory whose names appear on the same page of the book were the artist Louise Jopling, and actors Henry Irving and Johnston Forbes-Robertson.
Only three years later Oscar Wilde returned to Reading as a prisoner at the gaol. This being situated only yards from the factory was called the 'biscuit factory' by inmates. Occasionally a kind warder smuggled Wilde, whose stomach was permanently upset by the prison food, a few Ginger Nut biscuits. After his release Wilde wrote 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol' drawing on his time in the prison.
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