Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday 25 May 2019

Hooptedoodle #334 - Local Research to Get One's Teeth Into

High-profile local advertising - Barker & Dobson advert on the Liverpool Overhead Railway, mid 1950s. B&D's factory was just a few miles up the hill, in Everton
I was born in Liverpool, as I keep mentioning here (possibly as some form of excuse?), and grew up supporting Liverpool Football Club. The other big club in the city, Everton, also has a long and proud tradition. Since as a kid I spent some years forbidden to travel to away matches, I often used to go with similarly paroled friends to Goodison Park, to watch Everton when Liverpool were playing in far off places.

Nowadays, in the age of hate and trolling, the Liverpool vs Everton thing can be as unpleasant as you might expect - families banned from intermarrying etc - but in my youth things were a bit less frenzied, and I grew up with a soft spot for Everton which I might be well advised to keep quiet about now.

Everton FC - 1909
Everton, as you may or may not know, have been known as "The Toffees" since what my dad's cousin Harold Shaw used to refer to as "time immoral". Like all such traditions that we absorb in early childhood, I never questioned it or wondered about its background.

A bit of cod [personal] history. There were an astonishing number of sweet factories in Liverpool. Now I think about it, this is obviously because, as the headquarters of Tate & Lyle, Liverpool was the place through which most of the cane sugar from the Caribbean arrived in Britain. If it hadn't been for post-war rationing, we'd all have had no teeth.

Another fact which has only dawned on me gradually is that many of the makers of sweets I was familiar with as a kid were Liverpool-based. This is not just because they were local firms who had a grip on the market - a number of them were nationally famous, and they just happened to have their factories in the city.

I got involved over the last couple of weeks in a pleasant exchange of email reminiscences about vintage sweets. I did a bit of gentle research to find out what happened to such-and-such a maker, and mostly I learned that the history of  the UK sweet industry is pretty alarming - a lot of hostile takeovers - and very complicated. I also learned something, at long last, about why Everton FC are the Toffees.

I've always been familiar with Everton Mints, which were a hard, black-and-white, humbug-like boiled sweet with a toffee centre, manufactured by Barker & Dobson, whose factory was in Everton. B&D, founded in 1834, were big and successful - they made chocolates and posh biscuits and all sorts - in fact their gift tins still change hands for decent prices in eBay. It's possible I always assumed that the football club's nickname had something to do with B&D.

B&D factory - Everton, 1960s
The height of sophistication - B&D ad from the 1920s - apparently the lovely lady has a weakness for "Viking" chocolates [made with raw fish?]. As the copy line states, "Nowadays it's Barker & Dobson's chocolate". Don't laugh, somebody probably got a bonus for that one.
...and, of course, since toffee was trendy, they would work to cater for the latest advances in home entertainment. Here we see a tin commemorating how Mr & Mrs Cavity and their children would sit around the steam radio, enjoying light entertainment and chewing ferociously. [A sub-plot of selection boxes of toffee was that I always finished up with the walnut toffee, or the mint one, both of which were grim.]
...and, as time passed, B&D were always there, at the cutting edge. Now we have the Gummy family enjoying TV, slurping away on toffees "and other specialities". Mr Gummy, as you see, smokes his pipe while eating toffee, which is pretty disgusting really.
Anyway, it didn't. A lady named Molly Bushell (1748-1818) started making toffee containing ginger on an open-air stove behind her cottage in Everton, sometime around 1770, and she became quite successful. At this time, Everton village was something of a tourist attraction, with splendid views of the river from the slopes of Everton Hill. As the business grew, Molly was helped by her daughter, and also by a cousin, Sarah Cooper. In later life, she appears to have fallen out with Mrs Cooper, who opened a rival shop in Browside (also Everton). Much later, the remaining interests of these cottage businesses were taken over by the firm of Noblett's, who from 1876 or so took over the manufacture and marketing of Everton Toffee. Everton FC came into being in 1878, and the sale of toffees at the games quickly became a tradition, vendors offering "Mother Noblett's Toffee" inside the ground.

Sarah Cooper's toffee shop in Browside - note Everton reserves training in the sloping field opposite
Mother Noblett's Toffee advert - Liverpool Echo
Noblett's Toffee Shop - they had a shop in London Rd, and this one at 30 Old Haymarket. According to my Gore's Directory for 1900, the shop to the left of "Leonard Noblett, confectioner" is (or had been) John & T Edwards, wholesale grocers; on the other corner of Albion Place is Lipton's, the famous tea importers and blenders. I would guess this photo must be approximately contemporary with the 1909 football team picture. Old Haymarket was pretty much laid waste to make room for the entrance to the new Mersey Road Tunnel, which was started in 1925.
Tavener-Routledge were another famous Liverpool sweet maker - their fruit drops were much loved. They too have disappeared. So - where did they go?

The other lot - Liverpool players Ian Callaghan, Phil Thompson, Terry McDermott and John Toshack check out the lollipops during a state visit to Taverner's factory in Edge Lane - 1970s
Very complicated - a succession of local dinosaurs ate each other until big national dinosaurs came on the scene and ate everybody in sight. Barker & Dobson at various times owned the rights to Vicks (cough sweets?) and Victory V lozenges (which were addictive, since the recipe contained chloroform - no, really - which had to be changed, of course). B&D were subsequently bought by a Blackpool firm named Tangerine (not another football reference?), and later the whole lot was bought out by Bassett's.

When I was at university, I shared digs for a while with a guy who was addicted to these things. He used to get through a pack in an evening, which made him a dangerous man to be near. He lived to become a chemistry professor, but frankly it's a wonder he never exploded.
You can still buy Everton Mints - these days they are branded as Bassett's, but I don't think this is quite the same Bassett's who used to make Liquorice Allsorts and jelly babies in my youth. Bassett's now is just one of a series of long-established brands acquired by the Cadbury group. They are most certainly not in Everton!

Only thing I don't understand now is that there seems to have been a brand of toffee called "Molly Bushell's" marketed in Australia in fairly recent times. If this is nonsense, and something I misunderstood, then apologies - it won't be the first time. 

Just a coincidence? Was Molly transported to Oz for damaging people's teeth? Any ideas?


  1. Always entertaining and informative. I learn a lot just by reading...

    1. Hi Jon - if you are into drivel, this is certainly the place to come!

  2. You could put some academics out of business publishing these articles in the right place!

    The thing that jumps out at me are the young gents in the Everton FC 1909 team photo. One can say that this was back in the innocent days of real amateur sport 110 years ago (it probably wasn't quite so) but it seems clear that lads strutting in tight shirts and puckering up their pecs and biceps for the camera has forever been a Thing! They are lacking only Beckham's tattoos and wife. And then again perhaps not...

    My ancient and long-departed grandfather was learning to row a dory and dreaming of going to fish on the George's Bank when this was taken, apparently in a world far away from modernist Industrial England. Though he did know of all of those sweets.

    1. Hi Jim. The player on the right end of the back row (i.e. 2nd from the right in the photo) is unmistakably Harry Makepeace, one of a select few who played both cricket and football for England - he played 330 games for Everton over a long career.

      It's worth remembering that he also served as a flight sergeant in the RAF during WW1 - most of these lads would have been in that war, I guess.

    2. I don't know of H Makepeace (but what a name), I had made a rapid mental calculation and figured that these fellows were all likely to have seen service in WW1. They look like a confident lot!

  3. Interesting about all those sweets, although I have to say old Mother Noblett looks downright scary in that advert. I think you're right about the relative lack of animosity between the supporters back in the day; I always wanted Everton to do well and my old Dad was an Evertonian (he lived long enough ago to see the famous Dixie Dean grace the Goodison turf once or twice). My last address in Liverpool was at Nimrod Street L4, Goodison was right at the top of the street so I ended up going there at least as often as I went to Anfield just because it was so convenient. That was back in the 1980's when Liverpool and Everton were the top two clubs in the country.

    I'm glad the situation was never comparable to that at Glasgow, say, where sectarian differences meant that the supporters genuinely loathed each other. Given that Liverpool has seen its share of divisive religious sectarianism, and the clubs do seem to have been adopted by the respective religious communities quite early on, I often wondered why the Everton/Liverpool divide never became as bitterly sectarian as the Celtic/Rangers one.

    1. Mother Noblett definitely lives in a gingerbread house, I would say.

      The sectarian bit is interesting. Nothing is quite as awful as Glasgow, but a number of the "derby" situations do seem to have a religious thread if you go back far enough. Edinburgh's Hibernian comes, literally, from Irish Catholic boys' clubs in the Leith area - you would think that the passage of time and an element of growing up (or something) would have calmed that down over the years, but there is still a notional grouping - Hibs and Celtic vs Rangers and Hearts. It can only be religious, though in Scotland that is always tangled up with Campbells and MacDonalds (which is also religious) and the Jacobite thing (which is also religious). I am unaware of any religious edge between Dundee and Dundee Utd, by the way. [which reminds me of a former workmate of mine, who reckoned that after ten years of marriage his wife thought he supported a team called Dundee Nil]

      The Merseyside tie-in seems to have varied from time to time. A few years before Littlewoods finainced the purchase of all those Scotsmen for Everton, there was a time when there was a definite Irish look to the Everton team - Peter Farrell, Tommy Eglington, Jimmy O'Neill, Peter Corr, Tommy Clinton, Don Donovan, George Cummins, Mick Meagan all played regularly over a period of about 8 years - then Bobby Collins arrived and there was a rush of Scots! I don't recall any religious overtones to the songs or anything, but if you go back to boys' clubs (St Domingo's) there would be a church and, possibly, King Billy somewhere in the background.

      I wondered if Gerrard knew what he was getting into with Rangers. To those who haven't seen/heard it at first hand, it takes a bit of believing.

    2. Well quite. Some years ago at BA I was working alongside a contractor who came from Glasgow and was a Celtic supporter. We had one of those Secret Santa arrangements there where we would anonymously buy a colleague a small gift for Christmas, and someone thought it would be funny to buy this chap a pair of Rangers socks. He went absolutely mental when he unwrapped the gift, slamming the socks down on his desk and bellowing profanities about whoever had dared to buy him something so offensive. The rest of us looked on bewildered and uncomprehending.

      Meanwhile my old Mum knew someone who was on the Victory Vs all the time and ended up dying of cancer, so we had it drummed into us that they were carcinogenic and should be avoided at all costs. We would not have been at all reassured by an advertising slogan suggesting that we 'Have a glow'...

    3. The Secret Santa episode was definitely a mistake - I've seen exactly the opposite case apply in the workplace when a Rangers die-hard (from Fife - discuss?) was light-heartedly presented with a Celtic scarf. Cosmic humour failure.

      I understand that more Belfast fans travel to the Rangers-Celtic Old Firm games than watch the main teams in Belfast. Sounds like a fun weekend if you're a berserker.

      Victory V - I guess they were generally pretty unhealthy - especially since customers were encouraged to buy large tins "for cold journeys". I know nothing of carcinogens, but my chemist friend was most certainly afflicted with flatulenza, sostenuta e risonante. When he was revising for his exams you could have powered a city with him.

  4. An enjoyable read Tony, I'm very much into this social history thing myself on the relevant Facebook groups. Football rivalry - I will never quite get my head round the hatred, although I come from a family of Millwall supporters and attended almost every home match as a child. My brother and I learned some excellent songs on the terraces there, I can still recall "Jump down turn around kick him in the boll**ks, jump down turn around kick him in the head". They don't write them like that these days. My eldest daughter used to attend after school football club wearing her Nick Barmby Everton shirt bought for her by her Uncle Steve who was and still is an Everton season ticket holder.

    1. The song you quote was recorded by Lonnie Donegan with rather different lyrics!

      Barmby played for Everton and Liverpool, did he not?

  5. Chap seated far left front row is Jack Sharpe..he of sports goods eventual fame.Guy seated front row seclnd frpm right with unfortunate belt situation is Sandy Young..who eventually murdered his brother in law in Australia..

    1. Thanks for this - you got me fired up, and I did some further reading. I reckon the 1909 players are:

      Back row, L to R - Val Harris, Bob Balmer, Billy Scott, John Maconnachie, Jack Taylor, Harry Makepeace.

      Front, L to R - Jack Sharp, Tim Coleman, Watty White, Bert Freeman, Sandy Young, Robert Turner

      Didn't Jack Sharp play cricket for Lancashire? I remember the shop.

  6. Actually quite fascinating! My mother's father's last name was Dobson; he emigrated from the UK. Wales, I suspect, as I have a Welsh derived middle name. My grandson also has a Welsh derived first name, although I would be shocked if my daughter actually realized that! :-)

    1. Hi Peter - your grandfather is not so long ago, I guess - in our family we were so self-obsessed that we knew all the chapter and verse of everybody's private business going back quite a few generations! Which is one reason I have plenty of claptrap material to serve up here - as with many other families, the internet has brought us the means to fill in some gaps with a bit of deliberate research, but much of the outline was just passed down through family stories and traditions. Of course, the stories and the history diverge a bit as the years pass, but not as much as I would have expected. Hanging onto the family tales was almost an act of defiance with our lot - trying to hang on to something through a relentless sequence of fairly insignificant lives.

  7. Hello .. I am reading this in hopes of filling in gaps in my family tree. My GGM was Jane Dobson who left liverpool for Canada in the late 1800's. I believe one of her sisters was mother to Henry Dobson Jacobson, who was a principal founder. In your local explorations have you found any people connected to the Barker and Dobson company family? Love that I now have a FC to cheer for.go toffies

    1. Afraid I know very little more - you've probably seen this, but there is some B&D history at

      You'd better get cheering for Everton FC - they look quite likely to get relegated to the next division this season - if it happens, this would be the first time they've been out of the top division since they were founded!