1911 – 2006
John spent most of his live at Bounds Farm in Goldhanger. He was born into family firm Wilkin and Sons of Tiptree. He became its Chairman and was known within the company as ‘Mr John’ and was the grandson of the Company founder, Arthur Wilkin. His father was Stanley Wilkin (1874 – 1946) who also spent a large part of his life at Bounds Farm. Here is a brief summary of John’s very full life with links to more details...
o John was brought up by his father and mother, Stanley and Evangelene Wilkin, initially at Tiptree
o the family moved to Bounds farm, Goldhanger in 1924, which is where John spent most of the rest of his life
o He was brought up with heavy horses and from a very early age helped take them to the blacksmiths for shoeing
o John played the organ at the Goldhanger Wesleyan Chapel when his father was the preacher
o He also played in the village brass band which was based in the Chapel
o He was a member of the Goldhanger cricket team for many years
o John was also keen on boxing and hosted a boxing club at Bounds Farm
o On one occasion the Club took on the Army boxing club at Colchester and won
o He joined the RAF at the beginning of WW-2 and served in airborne Camera Section
o in 1940 he married Barbara Page whose parents lived at Thatch End in Fish Street
o Towards the end of the war John was asked to go to Belsen prison camp as an observer
o At the end of the war and on the death of his father John was appointed Factory Manager and later the Director
o In the 1950-60s he was a member of Goldhanger Parish Council
o John was a keen dingy sailor and provided the land on which the Goldhanger Sailing Club is based
o John was also a sports car enthusiast and for many years drive his red open top MG from Bounds Farm to Tiptree
o In 1985 John again helped Maura Benham to write.. The Story of Tiptree Jam, the First Hundred Years
o After John retired in the late 1980s he and Daphne created the Wilkin Museum at Tiptree
o In 1995 John himself wrote... The Story of Tiptree Jam – Beginning the Second Hundred years
o In later life John also took up painting as a hobby and submitted some of his work at Goldhanger Art Shows
here are some images from John's life...
Part of An Appreciation of the Life of
JOHN SWINBORNE WILKIN
written by Martyn Woodland
and given at John's Memorial Service at St. Peter's Church, Goldhanger
on Tuesday, 1st August 2006
John Wilkin - or Mr John as he was and still is affectionately known by many -was a man that I am very grateful and proud to have known. He was unique, and a very special person, as I indeed discovered when we first met about 25 years ago.
• John was a true 'people-person' long before the term had been coined and what is more, it was real and not artificial - indeed the only artificial things about John were his knees - which although he joked about, did give him quite a lot of trouble in his later years.
• John came into the world on a Wednesday in 1911 - just an ordinary day. but a day that saw the beginnings of an extraordinary man. To put the length of John's life into perspective he was two years old when Henry Ford invented the assembly line.
• His parents, Stanley and Evangeline, were both very loving and caring people and John's own stories of those early days were always happy and filled with the love that the family shared. John was, of course, a child during the First World War, and then he spent much of the 1920's at boarding school. But by the time the Second World War came about he was in his late 20's and love was about to blossom in the shape of Miss Barbara Page. Barbara had come down to Goldhanger from London with her mother to escape the bombing. She was full of life and was also a very determined young woman because when she saw John she calmly announced to her mother that she was going to marry him! - John was unaware of this at the time! Anyway, they evidently went sailing a couple of times and I remember John telling us (with that twinkle in his eye) that 'she looked alright" and they married in 1940. Incidentally that was the year that Nylons first came onto the market and, knowing John, I bet that he found her some from somewhere!
• Barbara didn't see much of her husband during the war because John was in the RAF doing his duty as an instrument technician. He installed reconnaissance cameras in aircraft and then repaired them after they had been damaged in action. This of course took him very much into the firing line because he would always be working on airfields that were enemy targets, and he suffered many terrible experiences during the many bombing raids that he had to endure. John nevertheless enjoyed the technical side of the work - he always had an aptitude for all things mechanical and after the war he used to repair watches and clocks as a hobby. However, I have heard - from a reliable source - that he could also be a bit clumsy about the house and therefore occasionally spent time repairing broken china objects - but with his characteristically endless patience and desire to do a professional job.
• John was deeply affected by the war and in particular by the sights he witnessed at the Belsen Camp. He was invited to go to the camp as a witness to the horrors by the Americans who liberated it. He was very reluctant, but eventually he did go because, as he put it "I felt I owed it to the world to look and tell what I sow".
• After a while he took a seat on the board. However, he wasn't an armchair director. Jam production and shift-work go together because ripe fruit won't wait, and Wilkin and Sons products have to be 'top notch'. John was right there, working shifts as well as the production staff. John's natural empathy meant that he was driven to work alongside his staff simply because he "wouldn't ask them to do anything that 1 wouldn't do". This was the time when he became known as Mr John, with great and very real affection by all who worked at the factory. His love for Barbara and his children - and his dog Larry - was constant and unfailing and both Robert and Lynn have many fond memories of John taking them sailing (although there is a story there for later) and reading them bedtime stories that were often from Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass - two books that John loved and could quote from extensively right through into his later years.
• Time went on and Robert and Lynn grew up. But then, in 1973 Barbara tragically passed away.
• However, life has many strange twists and turns, and there was another family suffering a similar tragedy in that Daphne had just lost her husband Clifford - and Jane and Frances had ... lost their father. Of course, neither family was aware of the other until fate, and a long story that we don't have time for now, brought John and Daphne together.
• John and Daphne were married in 1975. and I know that each of them thought they were the luckiest person dive to have found the other. So we now have a mother and a father married and each with a stepfamily. Ordinarily that would seem to be a recipe for complete disaster but not with John at the head. His steadfast and even-handed approach and love for everyone of them has enabled he and Daphne to forge a large mutually supportive family that is a credit to both of them.
• I know that throughout their marriage Daphne saw John as her "steadying and levelling" influence. John was ultra-reliable and always the 'perfect gentleman' and Daphne was attracted to him because he wasn't the typical 'go-getter'. On the other hand, John loved, and to some extent needed, the 'get up and go' that Daphne brought to their marriage, and the development of the museum – which was created from old photos and documents and redundant machinery that John had collected over 50 years - is a perfect illustration of what can be achieved when two people complement each other in character.
• John lived his first 12 years in Tiptree but then spent the following 82 in Goldhanger. He was always a staunch supporter of local village life - for example he loved cricket and was a member of the Goldhanger team for a number of years. He was also president of the sailing club for a long time although his sailing prowess was somewhat questionable as I alluded to earlier. Robert and Lynn both bear witness to that since they were tipped out of John's boat into the river by accident when they were children and had to walk a long way over the salt marshes home. Isn't it strange how something so utterly miserable at the time can become such a fond memory later on?!
• John was what they call an 'incurable romantic' - although why anyone would want to cure somebody of that is totally beyond me - and he always supported Daphne in any way he could. He even went to choral concerts when his own love of music centred on Jazz. He was the kind of man who left poems in odd places for his wife to find ... and flowers on her pillow.
John lived a long life that was filled with a combination of love and hard work. Indeed he was so committed to the factory, and the people in it. that he actually retired in three stages! Each stage relinquishing a particular Job or area of responsibility. He finally retired completely when he was 90 and lived out his last years in the house he had known and loved as home for 82 years.
The Museum at Tiptree
for more about the museum see... www.tiptree.com/museum
In 1983 Maura Benham wrote…The Story of the Chapel in Goldhanger
The 12-page booklet was produced with the help of John Wilkin, who had been very involved with the chapel in his youth.
The text of booklet is available at… Story of the Chapel in Goldhanger
This story is compiled mainly from the records and memories of Mr Arthur Powell of Tiptree, Mr John Wilkin of Goldhanger, reminiscences of Goldhanger people, and...
...John, played the organ for 16 years and has many memories of the chapel services...
A copy is in the Goldhanger paper archives.
In 1985 Maura Benham published… The Story of Tiptree Jam, the First Hundred Years
In the Acknowledgments Maura wrote...
This booklet could not have been written without the drive and enthusiasm of Mr J. S. Wilkin who knows the story well and loves it. He provided most of the source material and worked with me on the production. Together with his wife Daphne he sorted out the firm's vast collection of photographs and other records from which we have selected most of the illustrations.
Extracts from the book are at... The Story of Tiptree Jam
Copies are in local libraries.
The book has this photo of the Directors at the time with has John and Daphne in the middle...
In 1995 John wrote... The Story of Tiptree Jam – Beginning the Second Hundred years
This 6 page booklet was a sequel to The Story of Tiptree Jam, the First Hundred Years written by Maura Benham and John in 1985. It was written by John just before he retired from the position of Chairman of the company.
A copy of the booklet is in the Goldhanger paper archives.
These are extracts from the booklet...
The first edition of the story of Tiptree jam, "THE FIRST 100 YEARS", proved to be of great interest to a large number of people and has sold out. I am delighted to be able to write of the continuing changes which have taken place at Tiptree, since the beginning of 1985.
That momentous year in the history of the company, in addition to reaching one hundred years of jam making, gave an opportunity for much rejoicing: Early in the year saw the culmination of a project that I had kept in mind for almost fifty years. Old papers, pictures and files, together with tools and machinery, had been kept. Stored away in all sorts of corners, and jealously guarded in the hope that one day, they could be brought together and displayed, in the form of an historical museum showing the development of the company since its inception.
On February 7th the grand opening took place. After some exciting and frantic weeks of very hard work, the photographs, documents, and machinery were brought together and displayed by my wife, Daphne, ably assisted by Mrs S M Wilkin. I acted as sponsor and adviser. Journalists from several food magazines and papers were invited to the opening. At last a part of our history was safe.
In a relay race, as each participant finishes their part, the baton is handed on and eagerly taken by others. Likewise, this can be applied to carrying on the business venture begun long ago, by a man who had it in his nature to always keep his standards high, and in no circumstances use, as he was fond of quoting:-
“No foreign gums nor essence fetched from far
No volatile spirits nor compounds that are adulterate,
but at nature's cheap expense
With far more genuine sweets refresh the sense"
May the company never depart from these splendid principles which have been its foundation, and not be diverted at any time purely for financial gain.
I cannot complete my contribution to this, the continuing story of the company, without saying thank you to Mr P Holmes and others for their help in supplying me with much information about the "goings on" as and when they occurred. This has made my story much more accurate and interesting than it otherwise might have been.
In conclusion, my heartfelt thanks go to my long-suffering wife Daphne, who has given me help and encouragement in a million ways.