Desmond storms the biscuit factory

Carr's Crackers
Carr's Crackers
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

The production of Carr’s famous table water biscuits has been suspended because the factory in Carlisle was severely damaged by the heavy rain brought by Storm Desmond in December.

The manufacturers recently took out adverts in the national papers to inform customers about the news, stating, ‘Oh the irony!’ and splattering their ad with images of water spots.

What am I to do? The company haven’t yet sourced a particular brick oven which will ‘deliver the same unique Carr’s taste’ and I only have one packet left. Shall I tear it open now, savouring every light, crispy mouthful, or keep it unopened, in case the holy grail of brick ovens is never found and I can double my money on eBay?

I’m not sure how my son, Rory, is managing in Exeter. These are his favourite crackers: he could eat a whole packet in one sitting if I wasn’t keeping my eye on him. I wonder if he is scouring the local shops to find pre-flood stock. I should do the decent thing and send him mine: a good mother would do that.

It’s a funny term, table water biscuit. They were traditionally made with flour and water rather than fat, designed to be eaten by sailors as the lack of fat helped the biscuits stay fresh on long voyages. I notice there is no mention of water in the ingredients on the current packet, they appear to use vegetable oil instead - but who am I to quibble?

Jonathan Dodgson Carr first started his bakery business in Carlisle in 1831. In 1837 he moved the business to Caldewgate which is where the biscuits were made until this unfortunate halt. Carr was quite the social reformer; a Quaker, he looked after his workers, fought against the slave trade and helped establish water and gas supplies in Carlisle. He also put pressure on the government to repeal the Corn Laws which were causing hardship to ordinary people because of the inflated price of wheat. Just knowing this makes me want to support his crackers as best I can, even though the company was bought by United Biscuits in 1972.

In 1841 a Royal Warrant was granted by Queen Victoria, making Carr’s the first biscuit maker to receive the accolade. I was horrified to learn during my extensive research into this topic (ok, a quick browse on Google) that this Royal Warrant was lost in 2012 due to ‘changing tastes’ in the Royal Household. Changing tastes? That’s sacrilege. I’m curious to know what they prefer: posh Grissini breadsticks and linguette crispy flatbreads? Or are the Royal Family just fans of the odd Jacob’s Cream or a Ritz? Either way, I’m hugely disappointed.

I’ve now discovered there is also a shortage of McVities ginger nuts, which were also made at the Carlisle factory. This is very serious. No table water biscuits and a lack of ginger nuts? The edifice of biscuit excellence is crumbling...

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at


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