This collection contains over 1550 objects from our liquorice collections relating to companies in Pontefract and Castleford.
Find out more about local liquorice companies.
The catalogue is based on the themes of advertising, growing, manufacturing, packaging and people.
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It is not known who brought liquorice to Pontefract, but it was either crusaders returning from their campaigns or more likely Dominican monks in the 14th century who settled at Pontefract Priory close to the Castle.
The plant needs deep soil to grow because the roots can run to 4 feet in length, and the soft loam of Pontefract proved to be perfect.
The sap was extracted from the roots of the plant and used medicinally by the monks along with other herbs for easing coughs and stomach complaints.
By 1614 the Extract of Liquorice was being formed into small lozenges and Sir George Saville applied a small stamp to each round 'cake'. This was an early form of what would become the famous Pontefract Cakes, although they were still used as a medicine.
Large areas of the town and surrounding areas were growing liquorice. Even the castle yard was turned over to its cultivation after the Civil War.
It was not until 1760 that a Pontefract apothecary, Richard Dunhill, hit upon the idea of adding sugar to the recipe and began to produce 'Pomfret Cakes' commercially as a 'sweet'. Within a few years Dunhill's became one of the most well-known English manufacturers of liquorice, and Pontefract (as well as Pomfret) would become inextricably linked with the product.
By the end of the 1800s, the liquorice fields in and around Pontefract could not keep up with demand from the factories. Many factories imported blocks of raw liquorice from Spain, before cheaper supplies came from Turkey, Iran and Iraq. By the 1920s, only four liquorice growers remained in Pontefract; by the 1950s, there were just two. The last liquorice harvest in Pontefract took place sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s and today, there are no commercial Pontefract liquorice growers left in business.
Do you have any items relating to the local liquorice industry that are not in this collection?
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