Lion Confectionery - A Brief History by The Sweet Scoop
Here at The Sweet Scoop we absolutely adore sweets, especially if they are made less than 15 miles from our shop. Lion Confectionery (now owned by Tangerine) make some of the tastiest* hard gummy sweets known.
*entirely our opinion :)
In a marvellous town, to the South West of Leeds, called Cleckheaton you will possibly find heaven on Earth. Especially if you like sweets as much as we do! Cleckheaton has a rich history as a mill town, however a lot of this industry has now vanished.
Where It All Began...
Since 1903, Lion Confectionery have been making their signature gummy sweets. Frank & Albert Hillard first began making batches of boiled sweets in a row of cottages in their home town, and decided it would be a good idea to set up a production line to make the sweets on a larger scale. To do this they needed money, some of which was kindly loaned to them by a local shopkeeper John Hillard, with the condition that their company name should have the same name as his chain of corner shops, Lion Stores.
What Do They Make?
Makers of the infamous Midget Gems, Liquorice Gums, Wine Gums, Fruit Salad, Football Gums and Poor Bens. There have been other products they have made too which we are often asked for. These are Fruit Pastilles and probably the number 1 request is for Butterscotch Gums. As I am in my 30s, honestly I never remembered these sweets but as I am told they played a crucial role in many of my customers’ lives. Stories of where they would be bought a ¼lb of Liquorice Gums and a ¼lb of Butterscotch Gums and proceed to combine the two, just sounds bliss. Why oh Why did they have to discontinue these in 2015? I would have loved to at least been able to try them!
Where Did the Liquorice Go?
Talking of changing times, Lion and Maynards both became owned by Cadbury and later Lion were sold to current owners Tangerine. During that time however there were changes made to some of Lion’s confectionery lines most notably that the liquorice was removed from the Sports Mixtures and Midget Gems. It is safe to say however that when Tangerine took over, they reintroduced the black liquorice to the two lines. Which is why when people ask us for Midget Gems, we say the “Is it the proper ones or the other ones?”
You can certainly tell the difference now between Lion Confectionery and other brands as they are firmer, have a chewier texture, a shiny appearance and have longer lasting, fuller flavours. Did you know that this is because they are stewed for 168 hours or in other words … a whole week!
Finally a quirky fact… The Spen Valley (where you will find Cleckheaton, among many other towns) has its own Civic Society and The Spen Fame Trail. On this trail, plaque 40 is at the Lion factory. Where you may learn the fun fact why Poor Bens are called as such… well I’m going to tell you now any way.
“After many successful trials they achieved a notable and popular success with Poor Bens, which were named after the man who first sampled them”.
Margaret Nelson nee Bonney
Love to hear from any of my Hardill relatives. I now live in Menston with my I now live in Memston with my little dog Alfie. Unfortunately my husband died when we lived in Shipley. It would be nice to be in touch with my relatives. I visit the cemetery every Christmas time. My Grandmother lived in Park View opposite the park. Happy past times. I still love Lion Sweets though I suppose they are Maynards now.
Hi, long time lover of Lion sweets, something bad has happened, they have changed something catastrophically in the manufacture process of the sweets, they are nothing like they used to be so much so I will not be buying any more, I’m gutted please help restore the sweets back to their original glorious condition. Thanks in advance.
My stepfather from being 3 was the grandson of the late Ronald hardill and son of Christine hardill now Mason she still lives locally to where it all began.
When I was in my teens and very early twenties I and a friend used to meet up with Ian Hardll and drive round the area calling on several pubs.
I bet you’re fed up hearing from old codgers like me who enjoyed Lion gum sweets as a child. My favourite recollection from schooldays is buying 2oz of Midget Gems at lunchtime and furtively sneaking them from pocket to mouth during a double maths lesson in the afternoon. It was an adventure since you had to keep your eye on the teacher so the flavours were a surprise. Two licorice in a row was the hoped-for treat!