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Confectionery - All About the Lollies

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Sweet pickings for Sovereign Hill visitors


There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down to a bag of sweets, but if you did this in the 1700s you’d risk being thrown in gaol - back then, sugar was classified as a drug. In the early 1800s the authorities declared sugar safe to consume and we’ve been knocking back the lollies ever since.

Sugar was quick to seduce the masses - by 1857 there were 18 people in Ballarat making confectionery but it was still an expensive ingredient so mainly eaten by the rich. As a result, the wealthier you were, the more rotten your teeth were likely to be. In Tudor England, Queen Elizabeth I was said to have loved sugar so much that her teeth were black or missing. She was also petrified of dentists - not an ideal combination. A bishop had one of his own teeth pulled to prove to her that the pain was bearable.

But sugar was more than just an addiction people would risk their freedom (and teeth) for. Sugar served a more practical purpose - it helped preserve fruit and vegetables, while sweets were used to mask unpleasant smells and for medicinal purposes (called ‘lozenges’): aniseed was used as a digestive; peppermint was considered good for dental health; humbugs with peppermint were used to mask bad breath; and barley sugar aided an upset tummy. And the raspberry drops? They were made for pure enjoyment! Fast forward to 2017 and they’re still as popular as ever: Sovereign Hill visitors can’t get enough; by the end of each year, over 3.5 million raspberry drops will be sold.

One of the most popular areas of Sovereign Hill are Spencer’s Confectionery Shop and Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory, which are based on real businesses from Ballarat, as is the confectionery sold.

Take a peek back to 1850s Ballarat with a stop to see Darryl Ware and his team of confectioners. Darryl and his team use original recipes (including the decadent raspberry drops), techniques and equipment that came from Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory, a family run company which operated in Ballarat in 1857. When it closed its doors in 1974, the family donated their equipment to Sovereign Hill.

We use a copper pot, open fire, the original Brown’s Confectionery oven and moulds that feature a shape of a horse’s head,” says Darryl. “You can’t beat a copper pot over heat for a really authentic lolly flavour.” Every day in this old styled manufacturing kitchen, lolly makers are busy concocting 72kg of sugary treats.

When I started at Sovereign Hill, I found the original recipe book hand written by Mr. Brown from Brown’s Confectionery,” says Darryl. “We are still using the same blend of flavours today, so that’s testament to how close to the original we really are.”