Boiled sugar and glucose candy, repeatedly worked while semi-set to aerate and so soften it, creating a milky-white appearance. Provided in sticks c1in diameter, 8ins long, usually with mint flavouring, an outer layer of coloured sugar candy, and a motto of coloured sugar letters through the whole rod.
Postcard by Donald McGill, c1950
It is not clear when the lettering craze began, nor why this type of candy is always called 'rock'. It seems to be associated with the North West coast, either Blackpool or Morecambe. There are repeated stories of its origin with an enterprising character known as Dynamite Dick, or with Ben Bullock, ex-miner from Burnley, but Foods of England hasn't been able to trace either. What we have found is repeated advertisements looking for "Sugar boilers, well up in lettered rock" from the sweet company Hadfield's of Rock Ferry near Liverpool from 1894 onwards, suggesting that, by then, lettered rock was sufficiently well-known for there to be unemployed rock letterers around.
Rock stall on Blackpool's Golden Mile, 1959
Image: Neil Clifton
See: Brighton Rock
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