At 11:00 in Pateley Bridge, on a moist, smooth-centered Yorkshire day, The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, as rated by Guinness World Records, was already amid its ordinary midmorning rush. At the counter, all grins and punchy one-liners, proprietor Keith Tordoff turned into measuring region-pound bags of goodies from 2 hundred-strange glass confectioners’ jars stacked high on the wall behind him.
His wife Gloria started to help with the call, snapping lids closed with urgency; simultaneously, his son Alexander refilled the jars for traffic from America, Japan, Germany, Australia, and the UK. Barley sugars modified hands; so did sours, sugar-dusted bonbons, rainbow jelly beans, and perennial favorites Rosie apples, rhubarb, and custards (each unfashionable boiled goodies).
Mornings had been this manner for almost centuries, and nothing modified the confectioner; however, the day of the week. And but a closer look at the antique timber counter, beyond the oil lamps, okay beats. The century-vintage coins register discovered that many clients have been queuing to shop for the very identical aspect: a bag of curious, treacle-colored coins, higher referred to as Pontefract Cakes, and a candy that local legend claims are a number of the oldest inside the international.
“Everyone loves them, such as me,” stated Tordoff, who admits to eating around 450g (1lb) of candies daily. “This building started lifestyles as an apothecary in the early 1600s, and that’s where the story of Yorkshire licorice – and the Pontefract Cake – honestly starts.”
My curiosity about this surprising Yorkshire candy had been piqued some weeks earlier. As I started reading about its storied history, I determined a tale that moved from the Norman conquest in 1066 to The Wars of the Roses within the 15th Century to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). They changed into even point-out of fortress sieges in the mid-17th Century. As I studied, it was regarded as if the licorice had become synonymous with Yorkshire.
Indeed, hidden inside the pages of history, licorice’s arrival was around the 11th Century. At the same time, monks or Crusaders first introduced the medicinal Mediterranean root to the country, depending on who you ask. I became intrigued by listing attractions related to the history of licorice: a fairytale castle, a pageant, a farm, a museum, and candy shops. One area name saved cropping up: Pontefract, a city with licorice sprouting between the cracks, which is placed just one hour to the southeast of Pateley Bridge. I became eager to discover extra.
A visit to the ruined Pontefract Castle gave me some clues. Built from the 1070s onwards, and at the tail cease of a £three.5m refurbishment, the medieval hold changed into the website of a couple of royal seizures and many civil wars. It became a stomping ground for historical figures, including the Grand Old Duke of York, who was defeated at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. King Richard II was supposedly imprisoned and starved to loss of life for treason at the site. Catherine Howard, the fifth spouse of Henry VIII, pops up inside the tale, having had an affair on the citadel in 1541.
But possibly the most surprising part of the tale is that by the early 18th Century, Yorkshire’s enforcing fortress had an entirely extraordinary cause. By 1720, as demand formed the neighborhood economic system for medicinal licorice (at the time, physicians used it as an interest in the whole thing from stomach ulcers and heartburn to colic, bronchitis, and tuberculosis), the fort turned into rented out. Roots have been stored within the castle dungeons instead of guns, gunpowder, and prisoners.
“You’re status on what become once a big licorice field,” stated Dave Evans, curator of Wakefield Museums and Castles, as he showed me across the citadel remains. “You need deep trenches to develop licorice well – as much as 6ft extensive – that is why the fort hillock and its increased grounds have been an appropriate environment. Beneath you are what became once gigantic licorice save.” While England was rarely brief of enforcing castles, one overriding aspect prevailed: Yorkshire’s weather and geography applicable the licorice’s temperament far better than it did the warmongers’.
Around this factor within the timeline, in 1760, the most important dramatis personae in the story make his front. George Dunhill becomes an apothecary chemist inside the family alternate in Pontefract. By including sugar in licorice (then a dissolvable, medicinal pastel), he created a chewable non-medicinal lozenge, inventing the sweet as we know it today.