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.
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.
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.
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!