- Think you know everything about your favourite confection? Think again...
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Wine gums Legend has it that when Charles Gordon Maynard pitched his idea for gelatin sweets he would call wine gums, his father, a strict teetotaller and Methodist, nearly fired him on the spot. This gummy troublemaker was to be the subject of similar confusion exactly 100 years later, when a sales assistant in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, refused to serve a 15 year old schoolboy with what he thought was a product containing alcohol. It’s reported that the boy was chased down the street before the sweets were confiscated and a refund issued.
Jelly babies Dr Who’s favourite confection, the jelly baby, are said to have been invented in 1864 by an Austrian working at Fryers of Lancashire. The confections got off to an unpromising start, because of their original name, Unwanted Babies. In 1918, while being manufactured by Bassets of Sheffield, these soft and colourful sweets were renamed Peace Babies, in celebration of the ending of the First World War. Peace Babies was a name they kept until production was suspended with the outbreak of World War Two. When production resumed in1953, the now iconic confection was mopre successfully rebranded.
Cola bottles Also perennial favourites for lovers of gummy sweets are Cola Bottles, but these are just one of a whole host of shapes which have sold the gummy format to the world. Red frogs and teeth are preferred shapes of Australians. Other shapes popular in various parts of the world are soldiers, snakes, sharks, rings, hamburgers, human hearts, faces, and, until the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made its feelings plain, road-killed squirrels, snakes and chickens.
Sherbet lemons The boiled sweets with the surprise-you-once sherbet centre appear in Harry Potter, where they are described as a ‘Muggle sweet’ by Professor Dumbledore. The flavour range of these sour-sweet confections has much expanded and it’s now possible to source sherbet fruits, sherbet limes, sherbet strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and sherbet orange flavoured confections.
Barley sugar was often made in the shape of spiral sticks, and gave its name to the barley sugar twist style of chair and table legs. The earliest examples (17th century) were made by boiling down refined cane sugar with barley water to a recipe created by Benedictine monks at Monet-sur-Loing in France, site of the present Barley Sugar Museum.
Gobstoppers Known in the US as ‘jawbreakers,’ these hard, layered spherical sweets were a great favourite of schoolboys between the wars. Designed to be sucked or licked, larger gobstoppers can take days to completely dissolve.
Humbugs Usually peppermint-flavoured and black and white striped, the traditional pillow-shaped mint humbugs, which featured in the TV series Blackadder, have been produced since at least the 1820s. Similar to humbugs are Bulls-eyes, which are also black and whiter striped, but ball-shaped. Black and white striping is also found on the Everton Mint, which was first made as a sustaining snack for team members of Everton FC when they played away.
Pear drops In a survey of 2009, the pink and yellow pear drop was voted the nation’s 14th favourite sweet. The world’s biggest pear drop weighs half a tonne and is on permanent exhibition at Stockleys Sweets in Oswaldtwistle Mill, Lancashire.
lllustration by Louise Abbott