New exhibition gives taste of Pontefract’s links to liquorice trade

BLACK DAYS: From left, Ian Downes (curator of Pontefract Castle) and Couns Clive Tennant and David Dagge.
BLACK DAYS: From left, Ian Downes (curator of Pontefract Castle) and Couns Clive Tennant and David Dagge.
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Pontefract’s historical links to liquorice are under the spotlight at a mini exhibition which has got underway.

Displays of liquorice memorabilia have gone on show at Pontefract Castle Visitors’ Centre.

The display – which includes several examples of packaging and products – acknowledges the town and the castle’s long connection to liquorice, which has been grown in Pontefract from the Middle Ages and in the castle grounds from the 1660s.

Coun David Dagger of Wakefield Council, said: “Pontefract is one of the hidden gems of the district, and liquorice and Pontefract Cakes are at its heart. It is important that we promote this historic link between the castle and the small black sweets that the town gave its name to.”

Visitors to the castle can still see liquorice growing in the herb garden in the castle grounds.

A Wakefield Council spokeswoman said: “It is not known how liquorice arrived from the Middle East. It may have been brought to Pontefract from the Crusades by a member of the De Lacy family who built Pontefract Castle, or perhaps by the Benedictine monks that came to town in 1090. However, its initial importance was as a medicine whose benefits had been known for thousands of years. It is only in the last few hundred years that it was turned into a sweet and it was the famous Pomfret Cake or Yorkshire Penny that marked the cross over from medicine to sweet.”

In 1885, there were ten companies in the UK producing liquorice sticks and growers could not meet the demand. Farmers were forced out of the market after imports flooded in.

Today there are only two factories in the country – Tangerine Confectionary – part of Cadbury Trevor Bassett which manufactures Liquorice Allsorts, and Haribo. Both are based in Pontefract.

The factories both use liquorice mostly grown in Turkey, Italy and Spain.

Pontefract town centre is transformed in to a sweet lover’s paradise for the annual Liquorice Festival one weekend every summer.

Last July, more than 36,000 people descended on the town to taste the delights on offer at the annual Wakefield Council organised event.

Pontefract Castle’s visitor centre is open from 11am to 3pm Wednesdays to Sundays.