British seaside rock

miniature stick of rock
© F H Powell 2010

Seaside rock is a peculiarly British seaside confectionery. It is made from pulled sugar and it has pretty much the same raw materials as the boiled sweet (candy). The difference being that during the cooling part of the process it is pulled and worked into increasingly long strands. Invariably the finished article has lettering (usually of the seaside resort it was made for) or a pattern. Even when the rock has been bitten into the name or pattern remains legible all the way through.

The history of seaside rock
The history of the confectionary is somewhat unclear with various sources attributed to its invention. Sugar cane was being harvested as early as 1520 in Brazil and came to Britain in the late 18th century and was extremely expensive making sugar a speciality rather than a treat. By the 19th century sugar had become a commodity item. Earliest rock is thought to be associated with the fair grounds and was known as ‘Fair Rock’.

miniature seaside rock
© F H Powell 2010

Blackpool, the seaside resort on the North West coast of England, was one of the early 19th century playgrounds for the holidaying working classes of the industrial Midlands and North. In 1876 Ben Bullock set up a factory to commercially produce sugar confectionary in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. By chance Ben Bullock took a two-week holiday in Blackpool and conceived the idea of lettered rock. He sent a batch of the first lettered rock to retailers in Blackpool and the seaside-lettered rock was born. (For more details press here)

An alternative suggests a character called Dynamite Dick took the idea of Fair Ground rock to the seaside and lettered it. (For more information press here)

Seaside rock is not limited to the North West coast of England but can also be found in Yarmouth (South East), Brighton (South) and Bridlington (East), to name but a few. Indeed, seaside rock can be found in places where the British have visited over the years and can be found in Sydney and Tasmania.

Getting the letters into the rock

miniature seaside rock
© F H Powell 2010

There is less argument regarding getting the letters in the rock! Letters and other images are moulded or assembled from separate pieces of candy. Once complete the letters or messages are laid in the casing or tube of the rock to form the message. This is done on a cooled table and then the whole piece is rolled and moulded from a huge floppy sugar sasuage of usually 4 to 8-inches (10 to 20 cm) in diameter down to a thickness 0.4-inches (1 cm) to 1-inch (2.4 cm) in diameter for the finished stick.

Other associations with seaside rock.
As part of the early 20th century seaside culture music Hall was very popular. George Formby (1904 – 1961) was a comedian and singing ukulele player. He was born in Wigan Lancashire as George Hoy Booth. He had a talent for writing comic songs with double entendre lyrics. So much so that his 1937 song: “With my little stick of Blackpool Rock” was banned by the BBC.

1/12th scale rock for your dolls house
Our miniature version of 1/12th scale seaside rock is made in the same way as the full size version, although we have limited the lettering to read ‘Rock’ as a full seaside name would not fit. Our rock is available ‘half eaten’ by miniature people and wrapped in cellophane, it is available from our web shop.