Shredded Wheat Demolition

In recent weeks we’ve watched  areas of the former Shredded Wheat factory site be razed and cleared. This week they’ve begun nibbling away at the silos, surely one of the most iconic and certainly one of the oldest structures in the town. Judging from the comments on social media many residents are unhappy about it, a lot of memories are tied to that site. To mark the event, here are a few pictures and notes about the site and its history.

SW Silos demolition 180118 1280 closeup

Shredded Wheat Factory Silos being demolished on the 18th January 2018.

The new owners, Plutus Estates, are demolishing only the sections of the site that were given demolition consent, as part of the outline planning consent that was previously granted to Spenhill (Tesco) by WHBC in 2015. Plutus Estates will soon submit an entirely new planning application for their own proposals, this is expected to be significantly different to the Spenhill plan that was approved. The silos were/are grade 2 listed according to Heritage England, you can find their listing entry here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1101084

The 2015 planning consent stated the following:

“Part demolition, repair, restoration, extension and conversion of the former Shredded Wheat factory complex to include demolition of all buildings and structures except the original 1920’s silos, production hall, grain store and boiler house. Refurbishment and change of use of the retained listed buildings to provide2 Class C3 residential units, a Class C1 boutique/budget hotel, Class B1(a) offices, a Class A4 pub/bar, a Class D1 crèche and a Class D2 gym/dance/exercise studio.”

It is unknown whether the boutique, gym, etc will be part of the new planning application, but the above does allow for the demolition of the newer silos and some of the newer buildings on the site. The original silos will remain however. The below picture shows which these are, based on what we’ve been told by the new developer.

 

Shredded Wheat silos

How these silos will be separated in coming weeks will be interesting to see, presumably it is an engineering challenge that can be overcome.

The original set of silos were built not long after the main building was completed in 1926. The second set, now being demolished, were completed in the late 1930’s.
Cereal production ceased in January 2008, after 73 years. The factory is of course synonymous with town, for a while one of the nations favourite breakfast cereals was branded ‘Welgar” Shredded Wheat.

The second set of silos under construction in the 1930’s.

The 20th Century Society put forward the building as one of their top 100 buildings of the last 100 years. It is described thus:

“My choice is Louis de Soissons’ 1926 complex for Nabisco, the Shredded Wheat factory.  The ranked silos and spreading sheds alongside the railway track in Welwyn Garden City have always fascinated me, glimpsed almost kinetically from the train windows.  American companies, drawn by innovation, were quicker off the mark to move into Ebenezer Howard’s radical ‘cities’ (another example being Spirella at Letchworth, built 1912-20). Here, long before I’d learned that le Corbusier had published the grain stores of the American Midwest prairies as the epitome of modern form following function, was an anglicised version, a cathedral in a leafy Beaux-Arts planned town.”  – Gillian Darley. Original article available here.

 

The factory can even be seen on the box!

Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) was founded in the USA in about 1898. It expanded into the UK in the 1920’s. Nabisco was sold to Kraft foods in early 90’s, soon after Cereal Partners was formed as a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills.  They ran the factory which by that time also produced Shreddies and Bran Flakes. Who can forget the malty wholesome smell of baking that often drifted across the town centre! Cereal Partners moved cereal production to Staverton in Wiltshire in 2008, where it remains today. However their head office, marketing, sales and finance are still in the town, opposite the factory site in fact. Spenhill, the development arm of Tesco, then bought the vacant site from Cereal Partners for something in excess of £20 million, or so it is rumoured.

Interesting Shredded Wheat trivia: The factory ovens were 100ft long and each biscuit weighs 22.5 grams, could you eat three?

 

 

Early promotional poster

The Society looks forward to scrutinising the planning application soon to be submitted by the new owners. This site has the potential to once again be a landmark development for our town, a visual, economic and social asset…rather than the unkempt decaying eyesore we’ve had to endure for the last decade.

 

Share

Comments are closed.