Kirkstall exhibition offers timeless touch of sweetness


A collection of classic confectionery has added a timeless touch of sweetness to a new exhibition in Kirkstall.

Vintage Yorkshire sweet jars, chocolates and toffee tins are among the objects on show in Abbey House Museum’s The Power of Persuasion, which explores the stories and strategies behind some of history’s most iconic brands.

Curators and volunteers have been hard at work recreating a vintage sweet shop for the exhibition, showcasing shelves of historic treats enjoyed by children and adults over the past 120 years.

Among the objects which make up the display are tins of traditional Pontefract liquorice, made by Hillaby’s in the 1930s. Founder John Hillaby established the huge steam-powered Lion Liquorice Works in 1850, which grew its own crops and became the largest liquorice producer in the world.

They also made the liquorice boot which was famously eaten by legendary silent film star Charlie Chaplin in the film, Goldrush.

Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history, said: “Sweets and confectionery are among the most enduring and recognisable brands in the world, tapping into a unique sense of nostalgia and the happy memories we have of them as children. “Most people can fondly recall their favourite childhood sweet or treat as well as the places and people they associate with them, and that’s always been a key part of the products which have stood the test of time.

“In many ways, those brands encapsulate the power of advertising and we can see in them examples of the ingenious tactics different companies have used to appeal to their customers over the decades.”

As well as sweets and confectionery The Power of Persuasion also features other objects which look back at hundreds of years of tried and trusted brands from across Yorkshire and beyond.

Examples include vintage signs which once adorned the streets of Leeds such as a giant pair of spectacles which once hung outside the famous Dyons jewellers and which were rescued from a skip when the shop was renovated. Also on display is an eye-catching golden Tetley’s brewery sign and a huge wooden arm and hammer which once advertised a Victorian gold beater’s shop in Leeds.

The Power of Persuasion is open now at Abbey House Museum on January 20, 2024. More details are available here.

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