Raspberry Drops! – and other 1850s confectioneries

Confectionery in the 1850s

There were a wide range of lollies and sweets being produced during the Victorian era.  When the gold rush began in Ballarat, it wasn’t long before confectioners arrived and established their businesses here.  By 1857 there were a total of 18 people in Ballarat making confectionery.  As was common to the time, around half were also bakers or cooks.

Confectionery was bought both as a sweet treat and for medicinal reasons.  Medicinal confectionery were generally called ‘lozenges’ and made to assist with a range of problems from poor digestion to a persistent cough.  The sweet treat varieties came in a vast range of flavours and forms, including: fruit drops, humbugs, toffee, ju-jubes, spiced nuts, sugar sticks and sherbet (a fizzy drink).

Spencer’s confectionery and Brown’s confectionery manufactory

There is no doubt that one of the most popular parts of Sovereign Hill are Spencer’s Confectionery Shop and Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory, and Raspberry Drops one of our biggest sellers.  Both these sites are based on real businesses from Ballarat, as is the confectionery sold.

C.S. Spencer’s Confectionery was operating as a business in 1859 on Main Road at Bakery Hill.  Charles Spencer was a baker and confectioner who had come to Ballarat from Buckingham, England.

Lithograph of Spencer's Confectionery in Main Street by Francois Cogne (Gold Museum Collection)

Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory originally began operation in the late 1850s in the small town of Dunolly, north of Ballarat.  It wasn’t until the 1890s that the business moved to Ballarat and by that time in was run by the Thomas Brown, the son of the original owner John Brown.  After the business closed in 1974 the Brown family was kind enough to donate much of their equipment to Sovereign Hill.

Find out more about confectionery in the 1850s

When you come to Sovereign Hill you can watch our confectioners in action, making hard boiled lollies in the traditional method.  You can find out about the factory and shop on our animated map.  At Beamish, a similar open-air museum in England, they also have a confectioners and you can see some images from their factory online.

Mrs Beeton’s book of household management, a very popular book in the Victorian era covered everything from laundry to the making of confectionery.

There are some great books about the history of sweet-making, including two by Laura Mason: Sweets and Sweet Shops and Sugar Plums and Sherbet: the prehistory of sweets.  Another good book is Candy: the sweet history by Beth Kimmerle.

A great link to understand the history of food (including confectionery) is the Food Timeline.  It includes a detailed description on the production of Lemon Drops that began around 1827.

This post was written in response to a question from Ruby, a student visiting Sovereign Hill.  If you have a question you’d like us to respond to, please contact us!

8 responses to “Raspberry Drops! – and other 1850s confectioneries

  1. Thanks for the help

  2. I have been there so many times its so wonderful 🙂

  3. Hi Sovereign Hill,
    Love this article, it’s really helpful! I’m using it to help with my family tree, as the Brown’s Confectionery is part of my family 🙂 Just wondering if you have the resources for some further information into Brown’s Confectionery, or John Brown in particular? Thanks ❤

    • Hi Chloe,
      As you probably already know, Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory was established in Dunolly, north of Ballarat, in 1857. The business moved to Ballarat in the late 19th century. In 1974, its traditional sweet-making equipment was transferred to Sovereign Hill, and John Brown (a decedent of the original owner) trained our staff to manufacture dozens of traditional sweet varieties. We have a large file in our archives, but unfortunately none of it is digitised. If you are able to come in to have a look at it we may be able to arrange that- just email me at abarnes@sovereignhill.com.au 🙂

  4. I was there several years ago. Really enjoyed myself. Do you sell and ship t the US Rasberry drop candy. Thank you

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