Factories

Plutus Estates Buy Abandoned Shredded Wheat Factory In Welwyn Garden City For Demolition

Plutus Estates Shredded Wheat Factory Demolition In Progress In Welwyn Garden City

The former site of the Shredded Wheat Factory has dominated the skyline of Welwyn Garden City for the best part of a century. The Grade 2 listed buildings and silos seized operation in 2008 after 73 years in the cereal making industry. There was a period in which the cereal was branded as Welgar Shredded Wheat, so named the town. Today locals will share their memories of the bakery smells that were once infamous to the town.

This site opened in 1926 by American company The Shredded Wheat Company with just 100 workers. The company became part of National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) two years later. The first of the silos were built shortly after opening and the second silos were built in the 1930’s.

In the first gallery here, we’ll look at some pictures I’ve found at http://www.ourwelwyngardencity.org.uk of the factory in it’s day and some pictures from my first visit to scope the place out. Let’s take a look.

Plutus Estates Shredded Wheat Factory History

Shredded is a well known cereal made from whole wheat into pillow shape cases. They come in three sizes, original, miniature and bite size. They were invented by Henry Perky in Denver, Colorado in 1890. It is said that in observing a diner blend wheat with cream, he was spurred to develop a method of producing wheat into small strands that then formed the pillow shaped biscuits.

Henry Perky first sold Shredded Wheat to vegetarian restaurants out of his Niagara Falls, New York factory. At the same time he sold wheat processors to other bakers. One of his buyers was Dr John Harvey Kellogg. Although admiring the manufacturing process of Shredded Wheat, Dr Kellogg declined to purchase the patent because of its lack of taste. However in 1906 after co-founding the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake company with his brother Will Keith, which later became Kellogg Company, Dr Kellogg was impressed with Shredded Wheat’s success and attempted to buy the patent. Unfortunately at too low a price to tempt Henry Perky.

In 1901 the cereal was being manufactured under the name of The Natural Food Company. But by 1904, Shredded Wheat Company was adopted. As mentioned above, in 1926 production ventured across the pond, with its new UK factory based in Welwyn Garden City. Designed by Louis de Soissons architects.

Henry Perky died in 1908 and the patent for his Shredded Wheat biscuit expired in 1912. This led to Dr John Harvey Kellogg to start producing his own version of Shredded Wheat. This provoked National Biscuit Company to sue Kellogg Company for trademark infringement. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Kellogg Company, saying Shredded Wheat was a generic term and not trademarkable.

During the 1930’s tours of the factory were common place. They made their own recipe book called From Harvest Fields To Breakfast Table, that was given to visitors as souvenirs of their visit.

The First Explore At Plutus Estates’s Shredded Wheat Factory

The next picture gallery is of my first urban explore. I had almost given up hope on seeing this place inside because when i scoped the place out, there were workers everywhere and the demolition equipment already in place. I felt the opportune time had passed. However after gaining new information from a fellow explorer, I learnt that there was still a way in, but I’d have to go at night. That gave me the hours between 10pm and 5am to choose from. I was torn between going early or late as seeing the sunrise from the rooftop was very tempting. Although it was a good job I didn’t choose the latter as the stairs to the roof had been cut down. I went about midnight. Found the gap in the fence. It was a tight squeeze but i made it through. Let’s take a look.

The Factory Buildings

The Shredded Wheat Factory and it’s silos are a local landmark. In 2014 it joined a list of top 100 influential buildings of the 20th century. Joining the likes of Battersea Power Station. The factory and silos were built by Peter Lind and Co construction company who are still in business today. They also built Waterloo Bridge in 1945 and the BT Tower in 1962.

The silos construction were an early form of slip form concrete, which is where a shuttering frame is used as the mould, concrete poured in, hardened, and then the frame moved. When the required height is reached, the frame is then removed. The inside of the silos were also concrete moulds with steel reinforcements, somewhat like a honeycomb, in which the wheat was stored. There were a total of 45 silos. The first 18 were built in 1928 in six rows of three. A further 27 silos were constructed a decade later.

Later Years Of The Shredded Wheat Factory

The production hall, grain house and silos were granted Grade II listed status in 1981. In 1988 Nabisco sold the WGC site to Rank Hovis Mcdougall, who made supermarket home brand cereals. Two years later in 1990 it was sold to Cereal Partners, a Nestle/General Mills company.  The doors closed for good in 2008. The site changed hands to a subsidiary of Tesco, Spen Hill. They were however unable to come to an agreement with WGC council on redevelopment plans. Earlier this year, Tesco sold the site to two allied property businesses, Plutus Estates and B3 Living. The plans are for a 1400 homes development, with latest artist impressions being released just last month.

Our Shredded Wheat Factory Final Explore

For the final explore I teamed up with my urbex partner Glen. He records the video footage and I take the photos. The gap in the fence proved a little too tight for him so we scaled the perimeter to find another way in. We found a small clearing through some bushes between two fences that led us right in. We had to time it right with the traffic to not be seen. It was another successful explore. We spent a couple of hours seeing as much as we could. There were parts I hadn’t seen the first time round and we found another way onto the roofs. This time i was armed with a better torch, which helped getting pictures in the darkest areas. We had to be careful using the torches in areas we were visible to the security on site. There is so much more to the factory than you can grasp from the outside. See pictures below.

Demolition in Progress

I returned for one final visit to Nabisco’s Shredded Wheat Factory to see how the demolition was coming on. I was surprised by just how far they’d come. As I drove along and the silos came into view, I immediately noticed the change in the skyline. All that remained were the original 6 silos that are to be saved and used in the redevelopment, along with the front part of the factory. The rest had been reduced to rubble.

 

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