Four modern-day confectioners use original recipes to recreate a Victorian sweet shop. The sweet makers are in their own workshop in Blists Hill, Shropshire.
Browse content similar to A Victorian Treat. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
they're our guilty pleasure.
Today, British confectionery is a £6 billion industry.
But where did it all begin?
We've asked four modern confectioners to go back in time...
to work their way through three eras that revolutionised their trade.
From the birth of their profession four centuries ago,
where they'll craft luxuries for Tudor aristocrats...
It's cracking, Cynth. It's getting worse, look.
..to Georgian entrepreneurs storming the high street
and tempting the fashionable middle classes.
And finally, they'll work on the production line
of the 20th century factory, making affordable goodies for the masses.
You're a cog in a wheel.
I'm a chocolate dipper.
Our 21st-century confectioners will be learning to make
the sweet treats of the past.
They'll be using the ingredients, recipes and equipment of the time.
It looks like a tape worm.
This is bum clenching stuff.
They'll experience first-hand the triumphs...
..and the trials of their profession.
-Hot, hot, hot!
And they'll be creating sugary masterpieces,
which haven't been tasted for hundreds of years.
Oh, my God, that is amazing!
But as well as making the treats of the past,
our confectioners will be exploring the bittersweet story of sugar -
an ingredient that transformed Britain, shaping our Empire,
bankrolling our cities, igniting our slave trade...
The cruelty's just terrible.
..and changing the way we eat forever.
They've already been high-status servants to the Tudor aristocracy,
and run their own luxurious shop, catering to the Georgians.
Now, in the Victorian era,
confectionery finally becomes available to all,
with the dawn of mass production.
It's 1875 and our confectioners Cynthia Stroud, Paul A Young,
Andy Baxendale and Diana Short are in Blists Hill in Shropshire.
By the middle of Queen Victoria's reign,
the Industrial Revolution had transformed manufacturing,
and, with it, the confectionery trade.
I'm Emma Dabiri, a social historian,
and together with food historian Dr Annie Gray,
I'll be introducing our team to the world of the Victorian confectioner.
-Well, look who's here.
-Good to see you.
Welcome to 1875.
Lots of changes afoot.
Over half the population now live in towns,
so many, many people have swapped the rural existence for urban life.
Wages are going up, and the price of food is going down,
you'll be glad to hear.
Now normal people, everyday people have the opportunity
to spend some of their wages
on things just beyond the bare essentials.
Which is what you're taking advantage of, of course.
So now you can see sugar and nice things spreading out
to more than just the upper and indeed upper middle classes.
You are now sweet shop owners.
This is your confectioners.
You need to stock your shop.
Some confectioners had workshops behind their shops,
but others took advantage of the fact
that there were perhaps more insalubrious areas
where rents were cheaper, and had bigger workshops elsewhere.
So you are going to be of this new breed of confectioners.
Let's go and have a look.
Now that everyone, rich and poor, has access to sweets,
the confectioners' success
depends on making as many products as possible
and selling them at the lowest price.
And these are no longer just treats for adults,
they have a brand-new market - children.
Look at all the equipment! Oh, it's very industrial, isn't it?
-Are we making motorbikes?
I was not expecting this at all.
This does not feel like a kitchen.
New mechanised equipment and technology
has transformed the confectioners' workplace and their craft.
We've got a thermometer!
-We don't need to put our fingers in any more.
Victorian confectioners no longer had to be highly skilled artisans.
As little as £5, £500 in today's money,
would buy sweet makers enough sugar boiling equipment and ingredients
to set up shop.
-Ooh, and flavours!
Look, it's just like what you'd get now.
They're lovely, aren't they?
I think this is the first time we've seen
artificial colours and flavours.
Oh, my God, that smells amazing.
I can't believe that's Victorian.
That is such a... That is such a modern essence.
-What flavours have we got?
Go on, let's have a sniff.
Ooh, that reminds me of my grandma.
I mean, I think this is definitely Andy's bag, all this stuff.
As the only confectioner who works in boiled sweet factories,
Andy will find a lot of equipment that's familiar
in their Victorian workshop.
It looks like I'm in charge again.
This is almost a factory.
It's not all singing, all dancing,
you haven't got steam pipes pumping out smoke and all the rest of it,
but you will be producing a lot of sweets.
And, as ever, you will be using a lot of this.
-Nice and white.
But it has a new origin, I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear.
-Oh, my goodness!
Coming from this guy.
-Oh, my gosh.
-The sugar beet.
Sugar from beets tasted identical to cane sugar.
By the end of the 19th century,
it would make up two thirds of the British supply.
The Caribbean is still producing cane sugar,
but with the end of Britain's involvement in the slave trade,
it's not as accessible and it's not as cheaply available
to British suppliers.
So British suppliers now have a source that is far closer to home,
and these are the fields of France, Germany and Austria-Hungary,
where the sugar beet is grown.
The influx of this new crop,
combined with the end of import taxes,
saw its price drop by 50% between 1872-1884.
But there was still money to be made.
So vast was Henry Tate's fortune from his lucrative refineries
that he was able to fund what's now the Tate Britain Art Gallery -
a lasting testament to the sugar money that built Britain.
The first thing you're going to be producing,
which you may possibly have guessed,
is going to be that staple of the marketplace, boiled sweets.
Obviously some of your market will be youngsters,
and, like flies to treacle,
you want to bring them in with your brightly coloured,
A little bit of magic in their lives.
-But you have not yet met your guide for this week.
-So, meet Mr Skuse.
This is one of the most important books published for confectionery,
It comes out in the late Victorian period
and is in print until 1957.
The book's particularly brilliant
because in amongst all of the advice on how to manage your colourings
and how to set up your business,
he also has lots and lots of recipes,
and illustrations of the latest machinery, so top-notch.
He does have some extra advice for you, in terms of quantity.
He suggests that you can make two hundredweights of sweets a day.
-So, by the end of today,
we would have expected you to have filled
all 20 of those jars behind me.
-That's a lot.
-A lot of sugar.
Three kilos a jar, you were saying, Andy?
So you've got to be very good to differentiate yourselves.
It's a competitive, cut-throat market out there.
The confectioners have never had to make this many sweets before.
But if they're going to have enough stock for their shop,
they need to hit Skuse's target for the day.
The biggest one of those two?
Yeah, yeah let's see how it looks in there.
Andy and Cynthia are starting
with an original Victorian boiled sweet recipe for Mint Drops.
So this is all a revelation to me
and I feel like I'm learning something completely new here.
And Diana and Paul are making Skuse's recipe for Rose Rock.
Sugar and water had always been the basis for boiled sweets...
-8 lb, wasn't it?
But by the late 19th century,
confectioners were adding a new substance...
Ooh, look at that. It does look beautiful, doesn't it?
..a flavourless starch syrup derived from plants.
Vital ingredient to our boiled sweets.
Look at it go. That's like Play-Doh.
It is like Play-Doh, but clearly spreads.
Stick your finger in it.
It's a cheap way for our confectioners
to bulk out their ingredients.
That's a lot of sweets.
When you look at the size of what we're using,
you know immediately that the game and the plan has changed,
and your target is completely different.
Definitely. A much bigger end point.
Oh, look, it's gone completely soft.
Making boiled sweets depends on getting the temperature
of the sugar syrup to 312 degrees Fahrenheit.
We've got thermometers now.
Thermometer, quite right.
In previous eras, the confectioners were judging the heat by touch,
using their bare hands.
Invented in the 1860s,
sugar thermometers could withstand the high temperatures
without shattering and leaking poisonous mercury.
Paul and Diana are using a cold water table
to quickly cool their syrup and speed up production.
I'll take this over, OK?
Like their Victorian counterparts,
the confectioners are embracing
newly available synthetic colours and flavours...
A little bit of red colour, just into our mix,
is it going to be enough? A little bit more?
-A little bit more, yeah.
Enough to make the whole thing a nice, rosy colour.
I've done what I said don't do earlier. Don't breathe it in.
..Little realising most were derived from coal tar waste,
and often highly toxic.
That smells gorgeous.
Colour to make them appealing to the younger generations.
-Tartaric acid, going in.
This is going to get lots of zingy flavour.
Beautiful. Smells incredible, doesn't it?
It's not just the confectioners' ingredients that have changed,
there are new techniques to master.
It's a lovely, rosy colour.
We're pulling it on the hook,
to incorporate air into it to make it a little lighter.
We get this - a nice, light, creamy colour.
-So we need to make this into a flat sheet.
It's the speed, because as soon as the heat goes,
we'll never get it through the drop roller.
Once the required consistency is reached,
the mixture must be fed through the drop rollers
to mould the individual sweets.
If they're too slow, though, the boiled sugar will set hard.
If we don't start the nobble... It's important to eek in.
I don't know what a nobble is.
But it's going to be fed into here.
-Ooh, ooh, ooh!
Oh, I've lost me end!
That's not looking good, is it?
Oh, can we not just snip it?
This is bum-clenching stuff...
It looks like a tape worm. It doesn't very appetising, does it?
Diane and Paul, watch this and weep.
We're not going to be able to fill 20 jars at this rate.
We're under producing.
While Paul and Diana wrestle with their tapeworm...
..Cynthia and Andy's mint drops are going swimmingly.
They've got a jar of sweets already!
The confectioners' new customers are the urban factory workers,
working ten hours a day, six days a week.
They needed up to 4,500 calories per day to keep going,
and sugar was now the cheapest source of sustenance.
In poor households, men were allocated any costly meat,
while women and children survived and a diet of white bread, jam,
treacle, sugary tea and a treat of boiled sweets.
We've made sweets!
-Right, let's crack on. Clean down.
-I think so.
When the sheet is partly set,
cut the whole length of it with scissors into strips one inch wide.
For the next batch,
Paul and Diana are attempting Skuse's recipe for barley twists.
But they're reading it a touch too late.
"To make these goods, the operators must be very quick
"with their movements, the slab on which the sugar
-"is poured must be warm."
Wow, so we've got...
..not to swear... and crack on, crack on.
-It's already setting.
Should we turn it over?
The syrup has cooled and is now too brittle to shape.
-We'll boil it again.
-We'll boil it again.
Get it back in, get it back in.
Do it again, because this is warm now.
-Let's get it back in.
-I'm doing it, I'm doing it.
Let's get it back in.
It's back on the boil for the barley twists,
and all hands on deck as the confectioners try to salvage them.
Hot, hot, hot!
Well, I'm really thinking now about how we get these the same size,
the same width, the same length
so that customers buying them get the same product every time.
-It's really hard, isn't it?
-It's quite hard.
I'm really disappointed that the first time we did it,
we couldn't cut it into twists, and we had to re-melt it.
We've re-melted it, and they've gone from these beautiful,
clear twists to an opaque twist.
We haven't really got an even twist at all.
Victorian sweet makers couldn't afford to produce a shoddy batch.
Profit margins were smaller than they'd ever been before,
and our confectioners don't have time to redo the twists.
I'm really frustrated that we couldn't get the barley twists
clear and beautiful. I'm just annoyed.
I think we should have been able to nail that,
I don't think there should have been a problem with it.
But there was. And I burned my thumb.
We both run our own small businesses,
and if these kind of mistakes happen in our business today,
it's wasted money. It's a wasted time, isn't it?
The frustration is the same.
We get disappointed in ourselves, because we're perfectionists.
In every town and village,
small-scale confectioners created their own versions
of the classic boiled sweet.
-Where's our peppermint?
-Where's the peppermint? There.
Lemon and lime mixed together.
Paul and Diana are turning their back on Skuse
and designing a unique sweet, using a beautiful, Victorian mould.
The other one I feel very interested in is sarsaparilla.
It's nondescript, herbally, botanical, slightly aniseed -
a little bit like Germolene.
I think you and I both have an absolute key favourite thing
-on the shelf.
-I'm drawn to the Devon butter.
Yeah, me too. I think it has to be.
Are we going for Devon butter fish?
Devon butter fish!
-Do you know what? it's delicious.
-I think it needs the...
I think it needs the peppermint with it
to give it that buttermint flavour.
So maybe they can be...
Buttermint Bass sounds fantastic.
That's it. Pour it all.
Cut it in half.
It's a tricky game, this.
-Right, are you ready?
Go on, pull!
Shoal of fish!
Shoal of fish.
My heart is racing.
My heart is like...
Iridescent blue and green.
Oh, my God.
We don't know what it's going to taste like.
-It's just like buttermint.
-It is buttermint, yeah.
We got that right.
That's very nice.
-We have a jar full of fish.
-We do have a jar full of fish.
After nine hours in the workshop,
the confectioners are still four jars short of Skuse's target
of 20 jars in a day.
We can do it.
Time was money for the Victorian confectioner,
and night is falling.
This is our final batch.
Three, two, one...
20 jars in one day.
But these 20 jars of boiled sweets are just a fraction
of what they'll need to produce to stock an entire shop.
They have to keep this pace up every day
if they're going to succeed as Victorian confectioners.
12 hours a day, you're standing on your feet.
The sort of machines we're talking about,
you still need a lot of physical... You know, you need brute force.
This feels industrial now.
It's the end of an exhausting first shift in their Victorian workshop.
-Long day at work?
Life is very tough for confectioners at the end of the Victorian period,
and it's getting steadily tougher.
You're no longer confectioners to the upper classes,
you're peddling mass-market products to people with no money.
Let's look at York, it's got a lot of the small-scale confectioners.
A lot of people like yourselves.
Most of them lived in an area called Walmgate.
There are a few other areas as well.
About 69% of the housing was deemed to be pretty much unfit to live in.
So those are the areas that you would be living in,
as Victorian confectioners.
This is a photograph of Walmgate.
Oh, it's not joyous, is it? Dark.
You wouldn't want to go home, would you?
Golly! That's quite a shock, isn't it?
Grim and foreboding that, isn't it?
There is no safety net at this point for those people who end up failing.
If you fail at your business and cannot get another job,
you will be in the workhouse.
York was once dominated by the confectionery trade.
Curator Faye Pryor, from the Castle Museum,
is an expert on the pressures
facing the smallest sweet makers in the city.
There were so many small confectioners working in York
in this period, and these were family businesses.
There was, firstly,
quite a struggle for them to make money on a local basis.
But then they're competing against more established families,
who've had a lot longer to develop their businesses,
who are now becoming national brands.
The big three in the country at this point are Cadbury's,
Fry's and Rowntree's.
And by the 1870s, these are all national brands.
They're absolutely massive.
In the 1870s, Rowntree's have 100 employees,
Cadbury's have 200 employees.
By the 1890s, Rowntree's have over 800 employees.
Interestingly, what unites them all
is that they were all founded by and run by Quaker families.
The Quakers weren't allowed to go into certain areas -
military, politics, law - in this period.
And so they tended to go into trade instead.
Banking, insurance, for example -
but confectionery was a really big one.
Quaker companies tended to do a lot of business with each other,
because the knew they could trust each other.
That sounds like something of a paradox, though,
because they're supporting each other,
but they're also competing with each other.
You know, they're running businesses on a national scale,
especially Cadbury's, Fry's and Rowntree's,
where they are trying to sell the same kind of products
to the same customer base,
and trying to make sure their product
is the one going to be bought, instead of their competitors'.
So it's quite a complicated relationship that they have.
The rivalry could be fierce, but in 1879,
the Quaker firm Rowntree's were handed a secret French weapon.
A new type of sweet that no company in England
had yet been able to produce.
What we're going to be doing today is quite a specific thing.
There is a particular branch of high-end confectionery
that still sells mainly to the rich and has not yet reached the masses,
and they are French-imported pastilles.
This is something very beautiful, but the story is about to change.
In 1879, a Frenchman called August Claude Gaget
approaches a manufacturer in York called Rowntree's
and suggests to him that he has developed a process
for making fruit pastilles,
which will make them the kings of confectionery.
And so Rowntree's employ him
and put him in charge of the French confectionery department.
Gaget took three long years to develop the top-secret recipe
for a British pastilles, or fruit pastille,
that was high-quality, but also cheap enough for the market.
That's gum arabic.
It's rock-hard, isn't it?
That rock-hard thing is going to make our gums chewy?
-Are we nearly there?
-There we go.
-There we go. God, it's a lot.
The confectioners are working from a pastille recipe
from 1890 edition of Edward Skuse's Handbook,
as the original has remained closely guarded.
We're going to need quite a lot of starch, aren't we?
Well, we are making a lot of sweets.
They only need to be about an inch thick, I think.
Oh, I'd overfill it and scrape off the rest.
One of the innovations Gaget introduced to Rowntree's
was the use of starch trays,
which rapidly dry the outer layer of the sweet,
but leaves the centre chewy.
How much space do we leave, do you think?
I'd leave as much as you can, just in case you move...
In previous eras, our confectioners have the satisfaction
of making each sugary dish from start to finish.
Now, sweet making was broken down into a series of simple tasks,
and often divided along gender lines.
I'm sure that women working in the starch rooms had targets to meet.
They'd have an aim, wouldn't they, for the day? For sure.
Like female workers in the Victorian confectionery trade,
Diana and Cynthia have been allocated a job
requiring manual dexterity -
making precise indentations in the starch.
There is an art to it, because it's not quite as easy as it looks.
Obviously, this misbehaves if you put
just the wrong amount of pressure.
You can see where the lightness of touch comes in.
Men were assigned the boiling jobs.
So Paul and Andy are making the fruit syrup
with gum arabic, sugar, water, colours and flavours.
We need some lime flavouring and some saffron colour.
-Not very strong.
-It's not citrusy.
We'll have to use quite a bit of that.
-Especially with this, because this'll hold the flavour.
OK. Let's light the fire, get this on.
Imported fruit was still an expensive luxury.
Sweets like these meant that even those on the most meagre budget
could enjoy the exotic taste of lime and lemons all year round.
-Are we ready?
As we'll ever be.
Ooh, it's heavy.
The confectioners need to get their rapidly cooling
rose- and lime-flavoured mixture into the starch moulds.
We're going to have to work fast, aren't we? Shall we spoon?
But the skill of their Victorian counterparts is becoming clear.
-I'm frustrated on the first one.
This is not productive.
This is not going to make a single bit of profit.
-This won't come out.
-Mine's stuck now, look.
Yeah, so's mine.
After half an hour, they've only filled one tray.
Looks like balls of snot.
It's stuck to my scissors as well.
It's a bit... I think you're going to need your imagination.
Perhaps they should have heeded Skuse,
who warned that pastilles are "a little tedious".
OK, shall we stack for drying?
Our masterpieces of gum.
There's some interesting shapes up here, Cynthia.
Lovely, thank you.
The division of tasks wasn't the only thing
that had changed Victorian confectionery.
New, steam-powered machinery had transformed the industry.
Ooh, she's noisy, isn't she? OK.
Let's pop them in.
In the Tudor era, confectioners painstakingly applied
layers of sugar by hand to make treats like comfits.
Now, mechanised rotating pans could coat up to three tonnes of sweets
every week - more than 20 times what was possible by hand.
What do you think you'd think, coming in for the first time,
seeing that this had been installed?
Well, I would think, "My job is at risk.
"This is going to deliver significant amounts of product."
But do you not embrace it, thinking,
"Wow, this is going to make my job so much easier"?
I would, but I might lose some of my team well.
This is going to do more than my team can do.
Let's have a try. Ooh!
Sugar makes a difference, actually.
Mmm. The sugar'll bring the flavour out much more.
That reminds me of a Rowntree's Fruit Pastille.
The confectioners have only managed to make six jars of fruit pastilles.
Following their launch in 1881,
Rowntree's were churning out four tonnes of pastilles and gums
every week to keep up with demand.
As the bigger Quaker companies invested in machinery,
smaller firms found it increasingly hard to compete.
By the end of the Victorian period,
small-scale confectioners like yourselves are struggling.
The big boys are getting ever bigger, and, I'm afraid to say,
we really are in a situation of innovate or die.
One of the products that really does change the market at this point
is toffee. You've heard of Mackintosh's of Halifax?
Well, John and Violet Mackintosh, they became Mackintosh's of Halifax,
they were a couple. He worked in a mill, she had a small-scale shop,
and they developed a radically different type of toffee.
It crossed over, really,
the divide between American, caramel-style toffees
and British, very brittle, hard toffee.
Now, we don't know what was in the recipe,
it was always kept a secret.
But one of the products that we do know
that was revolutionising the confectionery industry at the time
-was condensed milk.
And it ends up being used in an wide variety of products,
of which toffees are one.
So, you're going to go away, Andy and Cynthia,
and work on a toffee recipe to turn around your business.
The condensed milk has been added to sugar, butter and water.
-Ah, smells so good!
And the flavouring isn't even in yet.
It actually smells really buttery.
That'll go darker as we go along.
I'm afraid to say, however, you have a slightly more challenging role,
which is try and cheapen your existing product
so you can make more profit.
I have fear and trepidation in my soul.
This just feels like something I don't want to do already.
This is plaster of Paris.
Paraffin wax, so similar to what you put into oil lamps.
And this one is limestone.
These are adulterants that we know people were using in sweets.
Although that had been various acts passed, anti-adulteration acts,
and the worst excesses have largely stopped,
that doesn't mean people aren't still doing it.
The Adulteration Of Food And Drink Act had been passed in 1860,
partly prompted by an accidental mass poisoning in Bradford,
when a confectioner's arsenic-laced lozenges killed 20 people,
including young children.
But it wasn't the last time arsenic turned up in sweet shops.
Here is an article from the Saint James's Gazette, 1904.
"Sweets or poison?
"One reason why children are deteriorating."
-Oh, my goodness.
And look, here again, over and over again,
"Cheap glucose contains arsenic."
"It is a terrible evil.
"The children, of course, buy where they can get the most
"for their money, and get these goods, every line of which -
"it's not saying too much -
"is poisonous or dangerous and injurious to health."
It feels a little bit like the Child Catcher, you know?
You have these beautiful, glistening, colourful sweets
in the window. "Come, taste my wares."
-Well, this is what you're going to do,
because you need to turn out a product that will pass muster.
Because, at the end of the day, you won't be able to sell these things
to customers if they don't taste and feel good.
While Cynthia and Andy are pouring their quality toffee out to set...
..Paul and Diana are making a cheaper version,
adulterated with paraffin wax.
Paul, what do you think, does this look quite a lot?
Let's have a look.
No, it doesn't, actually.
There's a lot of butter there. We could take that bit off.
Let's be brave, we need to make some money.
That will go into our next batch.
No-one will know, because we'll put lots of nice flavour in there.
And they just say 7% will kill a child.
Oh, my God!
It's brutal, isn't it?
-It's in, it's in.
-That's so much!
Well, look, you can't see it,
I don't think you'll be able to taste it. I wonder how far we go?
-This is just the beginning...
-Slippery slope, isn't it?
It's in there. The liquid looks great, exactly like toffee.
There's a kind of an almost waxy texture to it.
There we go.
The Mackintoshes understood the power of packaging.
Every one of their toffees was individually wrapped
and sold in beautiful tins, embellished with their name.
Distinctive packaging helped differentiate their quality products
from the less wholesome alternatives
being produced by some small confectioners.
I mean, just looking at them now,
I want to put my hand in and unwrap them,
so hopefully this will be the money-maker as well for us.
Rainbow of toffee.
But how does Paul and Diana's paraffin-wax-loaded toffee compare?
Could they sell this and get away with it?
Try a bit of ours.
Smell, smells good.
-Mmm. Just a little piece.
-There's a little piece, yeah.
-It's got a hardness to it, hasn't it?
-You wouldn't know.
-You wouldn't know there's wax in this.
It doesn't taste a lot different, does it?
The texture is different.
But only if you eat these two side-by-side.
The truth is, you probably wouldn't in a shop, would you?
With the sugar, you can almost get away with anything,
because you've got that sweetness.
But we both did it with a sadness.
Kind of horrified, really, that it's possible.
It's a finished, lovely tasting product.
-With more yields, higher yields and higher profit.
But, right now, would I do this at work?
Even if I was at the breaking point, no.
Smaller confectioners struggled as the big Quaker firms
became trusted household brands, making reliable, safe products.
And they had a captive market of sugar addicts.
By 1900, every person in Britain was eating the equivalent
of 33 bags of sugar a year.
More than 60,000 people were working in confectionery.
And the Quakers were even building pretty model villages
to keep their staff content.
Cadbury's had already established Bournville outside Birmingham,
and Rowntree's soon followed suit with New Earswick near York.
These workers were needed to meet the explosion in demand
for a new type of confectionery
that would transform the trade in the 20th century.
Look what she's got!
My favourite thing in the world.
Right up your street.
-I almost don't have to say anything.
By the early 20th century,
a revolution has taken place in chocolate.
Up to this point, really, most chocolate still consumed as a drink.
But partly because, quite frankly,
the eating chocolate that was on the market in the 19th century
wasn't very good.
It was still quite grainy, it didn't have that beautiful,
smooth texture that we want from our chocolate.
In the late 19th century, various technological developments happen
and, as a result, we start to see the first types
of beautiful eating chocolate.
And one of the key types is milk chocolate.
The first chocolate bar was invented by Fry's in 1847,
who added cocoa butter.
But it was Swiss confectioners who made the crucial addition
of dried milk to develop milk chocolate.
Rodolphe Lindt then invented a process called conching,
that repeatedly kneads the chocolate to create a super-fine texture
and melt-in-the-mouth taste.
Let's have a good look.
Finally then, finally we're working with...
Unlike the Tudor one, it is actually sweet.
It is very, very sweet. So...
Smaller confectioners bought in slabs of pre-prepared chocolate
from the big factories.
I got that in my hair!
Chocolate was still an expensive luxury
at the beginning of the 20th century,
and fancy boxes, the Victorian equivalent of the selection box,
were a lucrative product.
They normally included a range of chocolate-covered fondants.
How do I get some more flavour into this?
So the confectioners were experimenting
with some fashionable flavours.
Go gently with it.
Ooh la la. It's tutti-frutti in it.
-I quite like that.
Oh, it reminds me of Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
Exactly, it reminds me of my childhood.
-It's very, very strong.
To make enough fancy boxes will require our confectioners
to work as a tight team, and break down each stage
into tasks to speed up production.
Andy, if you're doing centres...
Prepare the centres, OK.
I'll temper the chocolate.
Diana, we need our boxes, we need to have them looking beautiful,
-Packed and made to look gorgeous.
-We've got a lot of boxes to fill, haven't we?
They look absolutely gorgeous.
They smell strong, don't they, still?
Cynthia, I won't start tempering
-until you've got your fillings just about ready.
So I've got about 15 minutes.
-To get this tempered for you.
-We'll give you ten.
-I'll give you five to get enough.
Chocolatier Paul is a master of tempering,
as it's still an important part of his modern job.
Moving the chocolate around subtly controls the temperature
as it cools, to produce silky smooth, glossy chocolate
which snaps when you bite it.
Do you see it crystallising on the surface?
-When I push it, it wrinkles.
-See all the crystals?
-It's not there yet, then?
That's when it absolutely has to come off the slab.
There we go.
Cynthia, you ready?
-Are you ready to go?
Alongside their tutti-frutti diamonds,
the confectioners have made a range of chocolates,
including orange and rose fondants,
coconut pralines and caramels for their fancy boxes.
Do you mind if I come and dip with you, Cynthia?
-Go for it.
-Shall I start on these ones?
I think this is a more efficient way of doing things, don't you?
Rather than us all doing one task?
It is nice to know that things are going step, step, step, step.
Once you get into your stride, it's very efficient.
Imagine if you had ten times the amount of people doing this.
-We'd fly through product, wouldn't we?
There's not enough satisfaction or creativity in doing this.
You're a cog in a wheel. I'm a chocolate dipper.
That's my job, you know?
Certainly my productivity has gone up,
but my creativity has gone right down.
I love the fact that these chocolates are being prettied up
and dressed in a beautiful box.
You know, this feeling that they are something special,
they're not just to be sort of scoffed.
My philosophy has always been that chocolate should be a treat.
The sort of modern-day demonisation of sugar,
and chocolate in particular, is misplaced,
because chocolate was never meant to be something
you ate every single day.
Fancy boxes were items to be saved up for,
with gifts such as cigarette cases and watches
nestled between the handmade chocolates.
No eating the sweets on the job, either.
In 1904, the cost of a top range box was 21 shillings,
equivalent to the weekly average food budget for a working family.
We have some lovely coconut pralines down here as well, girls.
Cadbury's now made over 450 different fancy boxes,
with wonderfully romantic names such as Peach Oh Mine and Dorothy.
This would have been hard work, though, wouldn't it?
You know, it's quite backbreaking.
-It's constant, isn't it?
It doesn't end, doesn't stop.
But the booming confectionery industry was thrown into chaos
when Europe erupted into war in 1914.
As the conflict spread,
the continent's beet fields and refineries were destroyed...
..and Britain's supply of sugar was drastically reduced.
Tate's business lost 80% of their imports.
As the shortages kicked in,
companies slashed their product ranges,
and chocolate became more precious than ever.
So, Christmas of 1914, the Sheriff of York and the mayor
sent thousands of chocolate boxes to the young men on the front line,
to just kind of try and boost their morale
and just send them a little something from home.
The young men are really touched by this.
Paul, perhaps you could read this one.
"Dear sirs, undoubtedly you will be more than surprised
"at receiving a few lines from me,
"but I feel that I ought to send my very best thanks
"for the nice box of chocolates
"which I received so unexpectedly yesterday morning."
And what a box of chocolates has done...
For people to write back in those circumstances is...
-touching, isn't it?
"I should have liked to have spent Christmas at home with my parents."
"But duty before pleasure.
"I shall prize the box etc as long as God spares me.
"One never knows what a day brings forth.
"I'm proud to be able to say that I'm a York lad
"and I'm looking forward to a speedy termination of this cruel war."
"Your humble servant, Henry Bailey."
Do you know that letter,
it speaks of a young man who doesn't actually think he's coming home.
-He sounds really young.
He sounds like he's seen some horrific...
We know that he died shortly after this.
He was killed in active duty, so he never made it back to York.
By the end of the war,
over half the men working for Cadbury's at Bournville
had been called up,
and many of the companies' factories requisitioned for war work.
But with peace came a gradual return to normality.
By the 1920s, beet sugar was now being produced in Britain
and demand for confectionery was growing again.
The big brands increasingly turned to a new form of advertising
to give them the edge.
ADVERT: You can always fill the gap with tuppeny bars of York Milk.
What an escape!
-It's so bizarre, isn't it?
The advert that we've just watched is significant for many reasons,
not least of all the fact that this is the first animated advert
with sound ever made.
That's quite extraordinary, when you think it's for a chocolate bar.
So this was Rowntree's attempt at competing with Cadbury's,
who were their biggest rivals at the time.
Did you notice when they present the bar
and they use it as a bridge and they're saying it fills the gap?
Yeah, so they're introducing that idea of using the bar
for elevenses or even to replace a meal.
There's an introduction of, you know,
it is OK to eat again before lunch.
-And it's OK to eat chocolate.
-Have a snack and a treat.
-Before lunch, you know?
The more chocolate you eat, the more you want it.
Sugar's such a powerful, addictive substance,
you've just created a whole industry for yourself, and it's brilliant.
You're smiling all the way to the bank.
British spending on confectionery doubled in this period.
Crucial to chocolate's success was the development
of cheaper treats and memorable brands for the mass market.
Oooh, ice cream?
Stop me and buy one.
We're now in the 1930s -
boom time for chocolate confectionery -
and a lot of the household names that we know and love
in the 21st century are introduced.
-What do you reckon?
Aero, I love a bit of Aero!
Is that right, it was that early, Flake?
One of the really lovely things about this period
is the level of innovation,
and it's innovation from the big manufacturers.
They work out that you can sell a new type of bar,
a bar called a combination bar.
Now, combination bars are exactly what you think they are.
So there's a combination of nougat or toffee or biscuit,
whatever it is, with chocolate.
The secret bit is that the stuff inside is cheaper
-than what's outside.
-Cheaper than chocolate, right.
So, of course, you can sell them for a lot less money.
These bars opened up a whole new market
for the big confectionery firms.
A Kit Kat introduced in 1937 sold for tuppence,
half the price of a Dairy Milk.
By the end of the 1930s,
Britons were eating the equivalent
of three small bars of chocolate every week.
Everyone can have chocolate.
The child on the street, the worker in the factory,
the domestic servant who's on a day off.
This is really the democratisation of chocolate.
So is this going to hit our sweetie sales, then?
As factories get bigger and bigger and bigger,
and the technology increases,
you're really looking at something that you just, in terms of scale,
sheer scale, thousands, millions of bars being produced,
and from your point of view, well...
-No way, no way could keep up with that.
The ability of the big confectionery firms to innovate,
to mass-produce cheap chocolate and to advertise it everywhere
made them impossible to compete with.
Increasingly, small confectioners' shelves
were filled with products made by others.
But, at certain times of the year,
there was still real demand for beautiful handmade treats.
-Oh, big boy!
-Look at the size of my egg!
-How fantastic is that?
That's like a bomb.
Shall we unclip it and see the inside?
-And see, yeah.
-In the window, this kind of just sets us apart from
everybody else, doesn't it?
I tell you what? I hold one side, if you kind of unclip.
Oh, it'll lift off. Oooh.
Gives us a nice big canvas to work on, doesn't it?
Yeah, we can do all sorts on the outside, can't we?
Decorated eggs at Easter are a centuries-old tradition,
linked to the Christian Church.
They were painted and turned into beautiful gifts for children
after the privations of Lent.
I like that...
Look at that!
OK, you start swirling right to the edge.
It's a big responsibility for a little shop,
in terms of raw materials, time...
-Look at the size of it.
-This is our draw.
The first chocolate eggs appeared in 1873,
designed by Fry's,
and by the 1930s, all of the big Quaker firms had their own ranges -
from fancy eggs which were cardboard with treats inside,
to hollow milk and dark chocolate versions,
elaborately iced and often coming with a novelty gift.
And they didn't stop at eggs.
-This fills my heart with joy.
That is an epic and very, very grand elephant, isn't it?
These are very different, aren't they? An elephant, for Easter?
Yeah, yeah. Although we do see chocolate fish,
we don't see them at Easter time, do we?
-I'm not sure about an Eastery bear.
-An Easter bear...
This is really scary - frightening baby.
It's a little bit Chucky.
Do you know what's even worse, when you see it in 3D, look at that.
-She's beautifully made, but...
It's like a traditional doll, dolly, isn't it?
The big Quaker companies made chocolate synonymous with Easter,
so our confectioners are working
on their own spectacular window display
to draw customers into their shop.
I've never worked with metal moulds before,
I've only worked with polycarbonate moulds,
so it will be interesting to see what a difference it makes,
if any, to the way things turn out.
We're going to take it up to the top.
I'm just going to move it around, so that the chocolate...
It takes some highly skilled jiggling of the mould to completely cover it
in chocolate, or their perfect centrepiece will be ruined.
This will keep us fit.
-You're very welcome.
It certainly is a beast.
I wouldn't like to meet the bird that laid this!
This has to work, it has to.
This is the thing I have butterflies in my tummy about.
I'm not going to sleep tonight.
I'm really nervous about tomorrow.
It's their final day as Victorian confectioners,
and the enormous Easter egg centrepiece for their shop window
has been drying overnight.
-It's the big reveal.
-I'm actually quite nervous.
Let's lift her forward.
Do you think we should give her a little tap?
Give her a little tap.
-Shall we unclip?
OK. Ooh, it moved, without...
Pop a knife in.
Shall we do it?
Ooh, it's a bit scuffy.
That's just some scratches on the mould itself, isn't it?
-But, it's not cracked, it's shiny.
We can hear a pin drop.
-Let's do half and half, towards us.
-Can you feel the static?
But will the more unusual chocolate shapes come out of the moulds?
If this elephant comes out in one piece, I'll be made up.
No. Andy will be distraught.
Come on, please work, please work, come on.
-Yes, yes, yes.
-Oh, my God, wow.
-Look at that.
-Brilliant. Look at that.
That's my favourite piece so far.
-Oh, my goodness.
I've never piped with chocolate, and it behaves completely differently.
You don't have time, that's the thing with piping chocolate,
you don't have time. Just when you're getting into your flow,
it sets up and you have to start again.
Good job, team.
Good. Are you sure?
After four days of backbreaking work,
it's time to finally stock their shop.
This has been the most productive period.
It's been the busiest, in terms of volume,
how much product we have to get out of every single batch.
We haven't had two minutes to sit down.
The fish are great, aren't they?
What about that?
There's your lovely bear.
How's it looking, Cynthia?
Is it going to lie on its back in the straw?
Doesn't it look amazing?
You can imagine that once we open those doors,
people are going to come in and want to peer around.
-You did make a lot.
-Look at all these delights, you've been busy.
That's really yummy.
Ooh, I like the texture.
-Very chewy, isn't it?
-So intense, as well.
Let's get this big egg in the window.
If you grab the base for me, Annie, pop that in the window,
and we'll position it facing out.
That's spectacular, isn't it? It's such a statement there.
-That will draw people in.
Mass production dramatically reduced the cost of confectionery.
By 1935, 96% of the population could now afford
to treat themselves to sweets.
Well, it looks as though your Easter customers have arrived,
so we shall leave you to it.
Hello, come on in!
Hope you've brought lots of money.
We have some lovely sweets here.
Diana, can we have a little bag of lemony sweets please?
Who else has money to spend?
Two shillings. There you go.
Could we have another bag of strawberry sweets please, Diana?
-Who loves chocolate?
Oh, we've got a shop full of chocolate lovers.
Does anybody want any Easter eggs?
We have small eggs, look.
Yellow, green, red...
Guys, there's an Easter egg hunt!
Our confectioners have experienced a revolution in their trade,
from highly skilled servants in the Tudor kitchen,
to production line workers of the 20th century.
Went through a high, you were a celebrity chef, really,
in the Georgian period, and now at the end of this stage,
we are at the bottom. That's quite humbling.
It's quite shocking.
I think it's reenergised me, doing all that chocolate work,
and making all those hard-boiled candies.
Actually getting your hands dirty and getting down to it again,
it was brilliant, I really enjoyed it.
You followed, you know, the life of a confectioner through every stage,
and I have a lot of empathy for them, and a lot of admiration.
I feel really privileged to do the job I do.
Today, our modern confectioners are part of a renaissance
in beautiful handmade confectionery,
an echo of the early history of their trade.
There is still a place for mass-produced confectionery
and there is still a place for the artisan,
so in a lot of ways, we've come together.
Everybody has the choice, though, and that's the difference.
The mass confectionery of this period,
it gave everybody the chance to try the things
that were once the preserve of the rich.
Four modern-day confectioners use original recipes to recreate a Victorian sweet shop and discover how the quest to satisfy the national sweet tooth transformed Britain. They come under pressure as small-time players trying to compete in a tough new world completely altered by the industrial revolution and the dawn of mass production. Guided by food historian Dr Annie Gray and social historian Emma Dabiri, the 21st-century sweet makers are in their own workshop in Blists Hill, Shropshire, to experience first-hand the life of confectioners in late 19th- and early 20th-century England - a time when children finally got their hands on chocolate and the brands that we still know and love today were dreamt up. Cheap sugar meant sweets for every class in society for the first time, so everything the team make across four days in the kitchen forms part of the stock for their shop.
The confectioners use period equipment, original recipes and authentic ingredients. They are Paul A Young, who runs two boutique chocolate shops in London, Cynthia Stroud, a bespoke wedding cake decorator, Diana Short, who owns her own chocolate company, and sweet consultant Andy Baxendale, whose first job in the industry was in the Chewits factory. They each bring a unique set of skills and experience to the job - but they will quickly come to appreciate the immense skill of their confectionery predecessors.
Wrestling with unfamiliar equipment - from drop rollers for moulding boiled sweets, the first rotating pans, fiddly starch trays to some extraordinary Easter animal moulds - tests the confectioners' skills and ingenuity to the limit. They discover how the sugar they worked with changed from slave-produced cane sugar to the European sugar beet and the huge impact of eating chocolate. And they see their own status change and decline from earlier time periods as the pressure now is about producing cheap treats in bulk, not crafting artistic delights by hand.
Dr Annie Gray is their guide to the unfamiliar recipes and ingredients - everything from the original fruit pastilles recipes to adulterated paraffin wax toffees and beautiful fancy boxes which cost more than the average weekly food budget of a working family. Emma Dabiri helps the confectioners understand the harsh competition smaller companies faced with the establishment of the huge Quaker brands such as Rowntrees, Frys and Cadburys and the boom in confectionery factories. Chocolatier Paul is visibly moved by the letters from the First World War trenches, a stark reminder of how precious chocolate was to soldiers who were far from home, and they are staggered to discover that the first animated advert was for a Rowntrees bar.
Their new urban customers were sugar addicts who burnt thousands of calories in the factories. They wanted a range of cheap and delicious treats, so the team have to produce more than they have ever done before, working longer hours at a time when profit margins are tight. They go all out for their Easter display - making a vast decorated egg, chocolate fish and other animals. Annie and Emma are impressed with the incredible array of sweets they manage to make, from rose rock and lemon drops to barley sugar twists, fruit pastilles and creamy toffees to chocolate fancy boxes and eggs. Their young customers can't eat them quickly enough and an Easter egg hunt tops it off.
They have triumphed in the difficult world of mass production and seen the birth of the big brands that we still recognise today. It has been an extraordinary journey through more than 350 years of the confectionery, and they are the product of the men and women who came before them.