People often reminisce about the sweets they enjoyed in their youth – they bring back nostalgic memories of happy times in bygone days. For the fortunate residents of one town in Yorkshire, there’s no need to reminisce, as their childhood sweets are still on sale today!
Nestling in the narrow and quaint streets of Pateley Bridge, there is a confectionery shop which has been officially recognised as the oldest in the world. Located on High Street, the shop is called the Oldest Sweet Shop – a befitting moniker considering its status!
© gemphotography / Adobe Stock
Since it has been selling confectionery since 1827, it has been officially recognised by the Guinness World Records Book as the oldest sweet shop on the planet. You can find it in one of the oldest buildings in the historic market town near Harrogate, in premises that date back to 1661.
Packed full of traditional sweets (those that existed before the supermarket multipacks took over), the best-sellers include assorted boiled sweets in different flavours known as Yorkshire Mixture, toffee bon-bons, aniseed balls and liquorice.
Many of the sweets that line the shelves today are manufactured in the traditional 19th century way. First the sugar is boiled in copper pans and the liquid is then poured into confectionery moulds to set. To retain the traditional shape of the sweets, many of the moulds are more than a century old.
The shop stocks a huge array of traditional confectionery, made by many quality manufacturers who date back more than a century themselves. The shop also has some low prices, selling sweets priced from one penny upwards… wow, the Penny Sweet still exists!
Alongside the traditional old-fashioned sweets such as humbugs, aniseed balls, Murray mints, liquorice whirls, pear drops and jelly babies, there’s also a selection of more recent “retro sweets”, including popping candy, cola bottles and kola cubes.
The shop’s interior is like an Aladdin’s cave, with colourful sweets in traditional tall glass jars on wooden shelves stretching to the ceiling. It attracts sweets fans of all ages from across the UK and also has a booming online service through its website – a strangely modern twist for a shop that first opened in 1827!
Tourists from across the world pay the shop a visit when they are in Yorkshire for a holiday, as it has earned itself quite a reputation.
Records show that when the sweet shop first opened, it made and sold spiced and herbal sweets, boiled sweets, toffees and chocolates. Old invoices from 1903 show it as being called “The Old Sweet Shop” in those days, when it was already 76 years old.
In the middle of the 20th century, the name was changed to the Oldest Sweet Shop. In 2013, researchers from the Guinness Book of Records validated that it really was the world’s oldest confectionery shop and a year later, it first appeared in the book.
The proprietors, Keith and Gloria Tordoff, are passionate about sweets and their shop’s heritage. Keith, who has been a big fan of the Guinness Book of Records since he was a child, says he’s excited his shop has received a mention.
It’s far more than just a business to him – he still recalls the sweets his own grandparents gave to him when he was young and says sweets are all about happy memories. He even remembers giving a Loveheart (the sugary sweets containing a romantic message) to a girl whom he liked in his youth. He admits he has a very sweet tooth and likes just about any sweets.
Recognition as the oldest sweet shop in the world has led to Keith and Gloria being featured in the media, both in the UK and abroad.
Keith says the shop still has its original till, which is an antique from way before the days of electronic checkouts. The shop didn’t have the original till when he bought the business, but by an amazing stroke of luck, he managed to find it in an antiques shop, and returned it to its rightful place.
He had loved the shop as a kid and remembered a lady called Janet was the owner when he bought sweets there in his youth. He had once told her that if ever she sold the shop, he wanted to buy it, although he never really imagined that his dream would come true!
Among the customers Keith has met are former evacuees who first went in the shop during World War II and a 97-year-old woman, who had first bought sweets there as a five-year-old! Everyone agreed nothing had changed, except the counter had moved slightly. The colourful jars of sweets brought some wonderful memories flooding back.
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