It's not about the biscuits. This is perhaps a surprising conclusion to reach about an exhibition dedicated to a biscuit factory.

However, The Spirit of the Cracker Packers: In Our Own Words is much more about the packers than the crackers.

The exhibition opens today at Tullie House in Carlisle, a few hundred yards from the Cracker Packers statue unveiled at Paddy's Market on Thursday.

Both are dedicated to female workers at the Caldewgate biscuit factory founded by Jonathan Dodgson Carr in 1837.

The exhibition includes tins made for Carr's biscuits, company newspapers, and banners and recordings featuring cracker packers' words.

These comprise new interviews and some recorded in 1980. Those include the words of women who worked at Carr's, which later became McVitie's, as long ago as 1903.

Women separated by decades, with similar thoughts and feelings.

This is what struck Tullie House assistant curator Claire Sleightholm, who interviewed several women in the factory's retirees' group.

"Exactly the same comments come up 100 years apart," says Claire. "Looking out for your co-workers. Working to support them. If they were having a bad day, covering for them, knowing they would do the same for you.

"The women themselves have been a joy. They invigorated the process of making an exhibition. You do it in your own little bubble sometimes. This has been a breath of fresh air for me, working with the people we're talking about.

"In a museum that's not something we do. We're usually working with things that are hundreds or thousands of years old. Having that real human contact with the stories was a real joy. I feel really privileged to take part in it."

The retirees' group has been going for decades. What is it about the factory which inspires such friendships?

"You're working in such close proximity with the other women. Maybe mentally it's not as engaging a job as working behind a desk might be. You have that opportunity to chatter. Although they were constantly told not to! It's a chance to build up those strong bonds.

"They had to be prompted to talk about the process they went through [on the production line]. The stories they wanted to tell were the more universal stories about the camaraderie and the friendships."

Project assistant Eloise Stott stresses that the exhibition is very much directed by the workers: their words, their stories.

One of these concerned an attempt to smuggle out some chocolate. Eloise says: "This lady had decided she was going to try and take some chocolate home because she wanted to bake something. She put it down her bra. But it was a hot day. It didn't end well!"

Others talked about the shock of arriving for their first day at work: the smell of chocolate and baking biscuits, the people and the noise.

Even Carlisle residents who have never worked at the factory will know its delicious aroma. And they are likely to know people who have worked there.

Claire says: "It's one of the biggest employers in the city. They say if you've lived in Carlisle for any length of time you will know at least one person who has worked there. It permeates every nook and cranny of the city."

And far beyond. The factory continues to produce some of Britain's favourite biscuits.

It currently makes Carr’s Table Water biscuits, McVitie’s Ginger Nuts, McVitie’s Boasters, McVitie’s Gold bars and McVitie’s Fruit Shortcake.

Jonathan Dodgson Carr wanted to sell biscuits around the world and he succeeded. One worker describes going to Malaysia and seeing Carr's Table Water biscuits in a supermarket.

Carr also invented a mechanisation process for biscuits, inspired by printing presses. "He thought 'We can rejig this to make biscuits'," says Claire.

Exhibits include an employee's long-service certificate, a Lilliput Lane model of the factory and copies of Carr's staff newspaper: The Topper Off . A topper off was the final inspector of the biscuits.

Tins which once contained Carr's biscuits are also displayed. Most are from Eric and Elsie Martlew's personal collection. The idea of a statue to commemorate Carr's workers came from Elsie, a former deputy leader of Carlisle City Council, in 2014.

Claire says: "They're being commemorated in this statue, but why? This gives a bit of background. We've done that by getting their stories. It's not really a story about Carr's. It's a story about those women. Carr's is just the backdrop."

* The Spirit of the Cracker Packers: In Our Own Words is at Tullie House until Sunday April 15. It will then go on tour around various venues. These will include Carlisle Library and Carlisle Archive Centre.

The exhibition is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in a partnership between Carlisle City Council and Tullie House.

Admission is via a Tullie House annual ticket which costs £6.50 and covers entry to all exhibitions for a year.