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Florence Cole as a child

Sweet shops (confectioners) in
early 20th century London

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This page is based on childhood recollections of shops in Edmonton, north London in Edwardian times.

Early 1900s sweet shops and shopkeepers

Reconstruction of inside an early 1900s sweet shop

Reconstruction of a Victorian / Edwardian sweet shop in Milestones in Basingstoke. Being a reconstruction, some items may come from the later than the early 1900s and other items that one might expect seem to be missing, for example scales to weigh out the sweets.

Click the photograph for an enlargement of the jars, showing their labels. (It opens in a new window.)

The corner sweet shop was near Silver Street School and sold triangular bags of broken wafer biscuits with a marsh­mallow fish on top.

There was also another corner sweet shop which always had a large tray of home-made toffee on the counter. The shopkeeper would break it up with a small hammer and what looked like a pair of scissors.

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The sweets

Liquorice sticks

Liquorice sticks, photographed in the Apothecary Hall of the National Botanical Garden of Wales

Sweet shops sold all kinds of children's sweets - bull's eyes, pear drops, humbugs, liquorice sticks, etc - many of which can be seen by clicking the above photo for an enlargement.

The sweet shop also sold tiger nuts. We children particularly liked the tiger nuts because they were so sweet, but they often had insects and grit in them. Surprisingly we never minded the insects at the time, but the grit could give teeth a nasty jar.

Tiger nuts

In the 1950s my father suddenly announced that he hadn't seen tiger nuts for ages and as he had liked them so much as a boy, he was going to try to track some down. When he did he came back and told us all how horrible they were and how he couldn't imagine how he had ever liked them.

Pat Cryer webmaster

Early 1900s-style confectioners' scales for weighing out sweets

Early 1900s-style confectioners' scales for weighing out sweets. Photographed in the Cambridge and County Folk Museum.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer

The commercially produced sweets came in large, well labelled jars and were weighed out to customer's requirements. We children normally bought an ounce at a time and occasionally, if we could afford it, 2 ounces. We never bought chocolate. It wasn't around much if at all.

When I was young in the 1940s and 50s, sweet shops had hardly changed, apart of course from rationing.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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