At eleven:00 in Pateley Bridge, on a damp, smooth-centered Yorkshire day, The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, as rated through Guinness World Records, become already in the midst of its normal midmorning rush. At the counter, all grins and punchy one-liners, owner Keith Tordoff became measuring out zone-pound bags of sweets from 2 hundred-bizarre glass confectioner’s jars stacked excessively on the wall in the back of him.
His spouse Gloria appeared to assist with the call for, snapping lids closed with urgency, even as his son Alexander made mild work of refilling the jars for visitors from America, Japan, Germany, Australia, and all parts of the UK. Barley sugars changed fingers; so too did sours, sugar-dusted bonbons, rainbow jelly beans, and perennial favorites Rosie apples and rhubarb and custards (each retro boiled sweets).
Mornings had been this manner for almost centuries, and not anything modifications at the confectioner but the day of the week. And but a better take a look at the antique wooden counter, past the oil lamps, very wall beams and the century-vintage coins sign up, found out that many customers were queuing to shop for the very identical factor: a bag of curious, treacle-colored cash, higher known as Pontefract Cakes, and a candy that neighborhood legend claims are among the oldest within the world.
“Everyone loves them, including me,” stated Tordoff, who admits to eating around 450g (1lb) of chocolates each day. “This building started an existence as an apothecary inside the early 1600s, and that’s in which the story of Yorkshire licorice – and the Pontefract Cake – really starts offevolved.”
My interest approximately this strange Yorkshire candy had initially been piqued some weeks earlier. As I started out studying approximately its storied records, I found a tale that moved from the Norman conquest in 1066 to The Wars of the Roses inside the Fifteenth Century to Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603). There became even mention of fort sieges within the mid-seventeenth century. As I read on, it seemed as if the licorice had turned out to be synonymous with Yorkshire itself.
Indeed, hidden within the pages of history, it became our licorice’s arrival dated to across the 11th Century, when clergymen or Crusaders first introduced the medicinal Mediterranean root to the county, relying on who you ask. I was intrigued by using the listing of attractions associated with licorice records: a fairytale castle, a pageant, a farm, a museum, and sweet shops. In precise, one region name stored cropping up: Pontefract, a town with licorice sprouting between the cracks, which changed into located simply one hour to the south-east of Pateley Bridge. I turned into eager to discover more.
A visit to the ruined Pontefract Castle gave me a few clues. Built from the 1070s onwards, and on the tail quit of a £three.5m refurbishment, the medieval maintain turned into the web page of a couple of royal seizures and as many civil wars. It turned into a stomping ground for historical figures along with the Grand Old Duke of York, defeated on the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and King Richard II, who was supposedly imprisoned and starved to death for treason at the web page. The fifth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, pops up in the story, too, having had an affair on the citadel in 1541.
But possibly the maximum surprising part of the story is that with the aid of the early 18th Century, Yorkshire’s enforcing fort had a wholly exceptional purpose. By 1720, as demand formed the neighborhood financial system for medicinal licorice (at the time, physicians used it as a cure-involved in the whole thing from stomach ulcers and heartburn to colic, bronchitis, and tuberculosis), the fort turned into rented out. Roots were stored inside the citadel dungeons in preference to weapons, gunpowder, and prisoners.
“You’re standing on what changed into as soon as a big licorice field,” stated Dave Evans, curator of Wakefield Museums and Castles, as he confirmed me across the citadel remains. “You need deep trenches to grow licorice well – as much as 6ft in depth – which is why the fort hillock and its extended grounds have been the ideal surroundings. Beneath you is what was as soon as a large licorice store.” While England rarely becomes brief of implementing castles, one overriding issue prevailed: Yorkshire’s climate and geography suited the licorice’s temperament a long way higher than it did the warmongers’.
It is around this point in the timeline, in 1760, that the maximum important dramatis personae inside the story make his front. George Dunhill was 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 comprehend it nowadays.