29 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 22

Oliver's travels

The strange case of the wandering Oliv- er has taken a new twist. This is the celebrated biscuit invented in Bath by Dr Oliver, who said that, eaten in moderation, it was good for you. Since moderation in almost any respect was probably good for his patients — the Doctor's practice and his biscuits flourished. He left the recipe'

ecipe to his coachman, who sold it to Cater Stoffell & Fortt of Bath, who in our own time sold out to Harveys (sherry) of Bristol, who have now disappeared into Allied-Lyons, but not before shutting the factory and licensing the biscuit to Huntley

& Palmer in Reading. Huntley and Jacobs and Peak Frean became Associated Biscuits, and moved their Reading Oliver production to Liverpool, before re-naming themselves Huntley & Palmer and selling out to the world's largest biscuit company, the National Biscuit Company of ParispannY, New Jersey. But, as so often after a takeover, the bidder examines his purch- ases under the light, swallows, looks for a plant to shut, and finds it in Liverpool. Out went the old Jacobs factory, and out went the Liverpool Oliver. To myriads of cheese-eaters suffering genteel withdrawal symptoms, Nabisco promised relief — coming from the Bermondsey Oliver. Pro- duction would be moved to Peak Frean, whose biscuits would be just what the Doctor ordered. Then, mystery. Paxton & Whitfield, which is among cheese shops what Bath Olivers are, or were, among cheese biscuits, has not seen an Oliver from that day to this. Others report, the fitful appearance of an altered Oliver. Not bad, but not the same — compared with the original, curiously flat and heavy, with an aftertaste of Horlicks — a sort of unleavened Oliver. Can this be the Ber- mondsey influence? Where is the Doctor's secret recipe? Come back, Bath Olivers.