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 in the midst of its ordinary midmorning rush. At the counter, all grins and punchy one-liners, proprietor Keith Tordoff turned into measuring out region-pound bags of goodies from 2 hundred-strange glass confectioner’s jars stacked high on the wall in the back of him.
His wife Gloria regarded to help with the call for, snapping lids closed with urgency, at the same time as his son Alexander made mild work of refilling the jars for traffic from America, Japan, Germany, Australia and all parts of the UK. Barley sugars modified hands; so too did sours, sugar-dusted bonbons, rainbow jelly beans, and perennial favorites Rosie apples and rhubarb and custards (each unfashionable boiled goodies).
Mornings had been this manner for almost centuries, and nothing modifications on the confectioner;, however, the day of the week. And but a closer look at the antique timber counter, beyond the oil lamps, okay beats and the century-vintage coins register, discovered that many clients have been queuing to shop for the very identical aspect: a bag of curious, treacle-coloured 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 each day. “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 to begin with been piqued some weeks earlier. As I began 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). There changed into even point out of fortress sieges in the mid-17th Century. As I study on, it regarded as if the licorice had ended up synonymous with Yorkshire itself.
Indeed, hidden inside the pages of history, it turned out licorice’s arrival dated to around the 11th Century, while monks or Crusaders first introduced the medicinal Mediterranean root to the county, relying on who you ask. I became intrigued through the listing of attractions related to the history of licorice: a fairytale castle, a pageant, a farm, a museum and candy shops. In unique, one area name saved cropping up: Pontefract, a city with licorice sprouting between the cracks, which turned into placed just one hour to the south-east of Pateley Bridge. I become 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 as many civil wars. It becomes a stomping ground for historic figures including the Grand Old Duke of York, defeated at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and King Richard II, who became 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, too, having had an affair on the citadel in 1541.
But possibly the maximum 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 liquorice (at the time physicians used it as a remedy-interested by the whole thing from stomach ulcers and heartburn to colic, bronchitis and tuberculosis), the fort turned into rented out and roots have been stored within the castle dungeons as opposed to 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 a 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’.
It is round this factor within the timeline, in 1760, that the maximum important dramatis personae in the story makes his front. George Dunhill becomes an apothecary chemist inside the family alternate in Pontefract, and by including sugar to licorice (then a dissolvable, medicinal pastel) he created a chewable non-medicinal lozenge, inventing the sweet as we know it today.