Mexborough and Swinton Times, April 1, 1887
Mr B. J. Clarkson’s Confectionery Establishment at Conisborough.
Within sight and earshot of the grand old castle at Conisborough, a relic of former days which attracts hundreds and thousands of pleasure seekers during the summer months, and whose tower is a landmark for miles around standing as it does on an eminence commanding the whole length of the surrounding valleys, is to be seen a manufacturer which all others would not have been associated with the picturesque old village of Conisborough.
In the hollow to the south of the castle Mr B. J. Clarkson has erected a manufactory not inconsiderable in extent, where are made those toothsome dainties which are generally associated with the appetites of the younger generation, but which, if they would only confess the truth, their elders regard, to say the least, with no great degree of aversion.
In 1888 Mr Clarkson commenced his business in an old bakehouse a little distance away from his present manufactory, and there continued, notwithstanding the confined space and increasing demands for the commodity in which he dealt, until 1884 when his constantly extending orders imperatively demanded a more commodious building.
It was then that Mr Clarkson removed into his present place, which is a large building just behind the “Castle Restaurant,” a calling place for those travellers who come to the castle and its environments and feel the want of a comfortable cup of tea. The “Castle Restaurant” and the accommodation it affords to visitors has made it a very popular place to excursionists, and on special days, such as Good Friday, hundreds of hungry and thirsty souls can be wending their way down the steep declivity leading to Mr Clarkson’s restaurant.
In 1885, the business greatly extended, and the now manufactory got at once into full swing, and in summer, especially, the resources of the establishment are taxed to the uttermost to keep pace with the orders that are continually rolling in.
It may interest our readers to go over the whole of the workshops, and take them in detail, for it is only by that means that any idea can be given of the extensiveness of the premises.
There are two ovens three cool dry cellars; in one the van’s, four in number, which are constantly employed in conveying goods all over the surrounding country, are kept, and though next week there is another cellar wherein are kept the butter and lard which are used in manufacturing.
What strikes the casual observer is the extreme neatness with which everything is arranged all over the place, and the cleanliness which seems to be part and parcel of the firm.
On ascending to the first story there are here three shops. The first is the bakehouse, wherein several hands are continually at work. There are two ovens, capable of each baking a batch of 250 loaves at once, and all round the shop are arranged large rows of bread, just taken out of the oven and awaiting transition by the vans to Mr Clarkson’s customers through the surrounding district. Above the bakehouse is the flour room, which is piled up with bags of flour, all of which are obtained from Mr Parkinson, of Doncaster. Mr Clarkson stated that he gets in at one time 100 bags of flour, but that breadmaking was by no means his staple trade, his attention being mostly directed to the confectionery business, and the making of sweetstuffs.
Having seen all worth seeing in the bakehouse, so familiar to our readers that it needs no description, we then proceed to the warehouse for boiled sweets. Before we get here however, Mr Clarkson draws our attention to a pump, which, he says, supplies the whole premises with water. As the purity of the water is a very considerable factor in the proper making of confectionery and sweets, or rather ought to be – it may be interesting to learn that the supply is obtained from a well in an adjoining field, the water being derived from a sandstone bed. It is then pumped up into a tank in a room above, and from there supplies the wants of the manufactory.
Proceeding to the warehouse we see ranged round the walls and shelves bottles, some filled with sweets, and others waiting their turn is to be filled. In a corner of this room is a cupboard wherein are kept the various flavours which lend such a different taste to the various kinds of sweets.
“This part of the business,” Mr Clarkson explains, “is the most difficult one in the trade, and it takes a long apprenticeship to determine. The exact amount of the flavour which each boiling requires.” He further adds that the flavourer must thoroughly understand his business, that were he to make the slightest mistake a whole boiling might easily be spoiled.
Passing through a door we reach the boiling room, which affords a very interesting study. Fixed in holes over the furnace are some large copper pans, into which the various ingredients are thrown. The furnace which is always kept about the same heat, soon reduces the sugar and other condiments to a melted mass, and then commences the process of boiling.
Different “boilings” require a different heat, and while some are kept in the pan until, perhaps, 820° have been registered, other kinds of sweets require much less. A thermometer is placed in a jar of water over each pan and directly the confection commences to boil it is placed in the pan, and kept in until the heat registered warns the person in charge of the boiling that a proper degree of efficiency has been obtained.
The liquid mass of “toffee” is poured out on a large cool slab in the centre of the shop, and while yet it is warm a large frame of iron, divided into numberless partitions is placed on the top and separates the lot into little squares.
We have been here describing the process of making butterscotch tablets. The acid, butterscotch, and other drops are made by a different method. The liquid “toffee” is allowed to attain a certain consistency on the iron slabs, and then it is removed to the other side of the shop, and having previously been cut up into convenient lengths, passed through a machine, turned by a handle, which as it resolves, moulds from out of the mass the little round drops with which we are all so familiar. There are about 50 machines of different patterns all working on the same principle, and the ease with which countless numbers of these drops are made is calculated to take by surprise the uninitiated.
In this shop the hands are always on the move and constant employment is found. Above the boiling shop there are two or three dry warehouses, wherein are kept those sweets which Mr Clarkson does not manufacture, and which he calls dry goods, and in another room all the sugar that is used is kept, and when wanted shot down a hole in the floor into a bin in the boiling shop beneath.
Then there is the box making shop where there is a man constantly engaged in doing nothing else but making boxes in which to pack sweets. From the timber which is range round the room it is evident that no inconsiderable quantity is used in the course of the year, and Mr Clarkson says that when once the boxes go out of his place he very rarely gets them back again, and that they are a very considerable item in his expenses. With bottles, he says, it is different, and where he does not get them back from his customers they are charged for.
Mr Clarkson then shows us over his stables and tea rooms, the latter very commodious rooms indeed, one of them being used for meetings, and the impression that we carry away with us when we leave the establishment is that our visit has been well repaid.