Sweet memories of rock factory

STICKS of rock, with the names of seaside towns running through, being made in Ipswich were featured in a recent Kindred Spirits. I asked readers if they could recall this Ipswich company.

David Kindred

STICKS of rock, with the names of seaside towns running through, being made in Ipswich were featured in a recent Kindred Spirits. I asked readers if they could recall this Ipswich company.

Diane Carter (nee Barrett), of Geldof Drive, Blackpool, said “My father, Rex Barrett, is the man featured in Kindred Spirits. He owned Mill Brand Confectionery Co, Kemball Street, Ipswich, where he supplied all the East Anglian coastal resorts with his lettered rock, including Cromer, Sheringham, Hunstanton, Clacton, Felixstowe and Walton.

“He produced approximately one and a half tons of lettered rock in the main season, as well as other numerous items of confectionery, employing two ladies plus occasional help from family and friends.


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“My father made rock for 36 years, serving an apprenticeship as a young man then later on started his own factory. To quote my father 'This was a craft that could not be taken over by machinery'. My father passed away in 1986.”

Yvonne Durrant (nee Storer), of Felixstowe, said: “Our family knew the man in question, Rex Barrett and his family, wife Peggy and daughter Diana. Rex worked for the sweet company Gardner's of Ipswich, in Fore Street.

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“When the company closed Rex opened his own rock factory in Kemball Street, Ipswich. Rex worked with my father, Don Storer, at weekends in the 60s making Felixstowe rock.

“Don had a small sweet factory in Queens Road, Felixstowe, which after his retirement was demolished and a bungalow built on the site.

“When my brother and I were children we used to help in the factory rolling the rock, which was supplied to my father's two homemade sweet shops - called "Ye Olde Candy Shoppe" in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe.”

T Gant, of Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, added: “Mill Brand Confectionery Company traded from premises at 47A Kemball Street, Ipswich, the directors were Rex Barrett and Mr Haste.

“Mr Barrett was the person who supervised and personally handled the manufacture of the confectionery, assisted by a young lady. Mr Haste attended to the admin and accountancy affairs of the business.”

Robert Williamson, of Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, said: “During the late 1960s I worked for Gardiner's the sweet wholesalers in Fore Street, Ipswich, where Star Lane now runs through. I worked as a driver delivering sweets around East Anglia.

“I also collected rock from a factory down a little drift off Kemball Street. I used to make deliveries of this rock to shops in Clacton, Felixstowe and Lowestoft and also to Great Yarmouth pier.”

Herbert Vince wrote: “The company producing rock in Ipswich was G Gardener Ltd. Their factory was near the Fore Street post office.

“The head sugar spoiler in your photograph was Mr Rex Barrett. Mr Barrett senior and Sam Westly were the two van drivers. The rock was sold all over Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.”

Two other readers recall rock and sweet making in St Matthew's Street, Ipswich.

Anita Croucher (nee Boon) said: “There was a rock shop and factory in St Matthew's Street near Hyde Park Corner. Just thinking of it recalls the wonderful smell of hot rock cooking out the back - they made wonderful humbugs too.”

Elizabeth Montgomery added: “I know there used to be a boiled sweet shop in St Matthew's Street in the 1940s and 50s. They made their own sweets and just to walk near the shop would draw you in.

“The smell was wonderful, they made sugar mice too, it was not far from the Rainbow public house. Does anyone remember this business?”

- Do you recall this shop in St Matthew's Street, Ipswich? The building would have been demolished when the road was widened in the mid 1960s. Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk

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