Berwick Cockles began production in 1801, a boiled sweet recognisable for its vibrant red stripes and peppermint flavour. The sweets were invented and sold by William Cowe. The Cowe family made and sold their sweets from the Berwick Cockle Shop in Bridge Street. The store was made famous in a painting by L S Lowry which depicted the corner of the Cowe’s store, Bridge End 1938.
During the stores heyday manufacture was at its peak. Berwick Cockles were being sent to the Front during the First World War and by the 1960’s the casing for the sweets were even produced in Germany. It was during the 1960’s when these sweet tins at Berwick Museum were created.
In celebration of Easter, these tins were developed to encase the boiled sweets and to be sold at the famous Pollocks Toy Museum in London.
Benjamin Pollock opened his store in 1856 in Hoxton London, selling theatrical sheets and toy theatres. The toy shops clientele varied from children to actors such as Charlie Chaplin. The shop thrived and was immortalised in an essay by author Robert Louis Stevenson who was so delighted with the shop he said, ‘If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s.’ After Mr Pollocks death in 1937 the shop continued, ran by Benjamin’s daughters. They collaborated with actors and artists to create miniature toy theatres to sell.
The 1960’s saw the Pollock shop move to Covent Garden where a customer Marguerite Fawdry, fell in love with the store leading her to purchase the whole business and open a museum above the shop. Fawdry’s interest in dolls and toys grew too large for the shop so they moved to the museums current location in Fitzrovia.
Pollocks Toy Museum is connected by its shared history with Benjamin Pollocks Toy Shop. They parted ways in 1988 and the museum now runs as a separate body and charity. The museum commissioned these sweets after their move from above the original toy shop to number 1 Scala Street as a museum. The museum’s collection includes Victorian toys, doll houses, toy soldiers and even teddy bears.
Wm Cowe & Sons sadly closed in 2010 after 200 years of trading although, Berwick Cockle sweets are still sold and described as a crumbly mint instead of the original Cowe hard mint version.
This article was written by Louise Brooke (Collections Volunteer)
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