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Food shopping, early 20th century


Sweet shops (confectioners) and sweets early 20th century UK

Based on notes by the webmaster's mother (1906-2002), see sources

Early sweet shops

Reconstruction of inside an early 1900s sweet shop

Reconstruction of a Victorian / Edwardian sweet shop*

Tap/click for an enlargement of the jars showing their labels and thus the type of sweet on sale. Being a reconstruction, some jars may come from the later than the early 1900s.

Items that one might expect to see in the reconstruction seem to be missing, for example scales to weigh out the sweets. They are in a separate photo below.

The sweet shop which I knew best 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.

Vending machines

Chocolate bar vending machines could be found outside some confectionery stores.

Douglas Adam

The sweets

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.

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

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

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.

Note from the webmaster

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.

The commercially produced sweets came in large, we-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 as wasn't around much if at all.

Liquorice sticks

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

Note from the webmaster

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

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

Text and images are copyright

*Photographed by the webmaster in Milestones Museum in Basingstoke
**Photographed by the webmaster in Cambridge and County Folk Museum

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