Meet the Leeds man who invented Jelly Tots by accident

The Leeds man who invented Jelly Tots by accident is to be celebrated as part of a new exhibition about the city's great innovators.

By Joe Cooper
Monday, 23rd September 2019, 11:46 am
Brian Boffey invented Jelly Tots by accident.
Brian Boffey invented Jelly Tots by accident.

Leeds to Innovation, which will open at Leeds Industrial Museum on Saturday October 26, will rediscover the achievements of some of the scientists, engineers and inventors who helped put the city on the map.

Other big names to feature will include John Smeaton, the 'Father of Civil Engineering' and Kirstall Forge founder Betty Beecroft.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Brian Boffey invented Jelly Tots by accident.

Brian Boffey, from Horsforth, was working as a young research scientist at Rowntrees at York when he invented jelly tots during the 1960s.

At the time he was trying to come up with a way to produce a powdered jelly that set instantly when it was added to cold water.

He thought that the droplets were just waste but within weeks the novel sweet was being sold in shops across the country.

The exhibition, which spans 300 years of history, will also tell the story of Elizabeth Beecroft, one of the world's oldest smithies.

Betty Beecroft. manager of Kirkstall Forge (Photo: Leeds Museums).

The farmer's wife persuaded her husband George to buy the forge in 1778 despite the workshop's dilapidated condition.

Selling finished products including buckets, shovels and screws saw profits rocket from £172 in 1780 to £952 in 1784.

In her diary, Betty wrote: "I took in large quantities of metal and scraps at Leeds besides taking care of my own business. Now we fully applied ourselves to our business my husband undertook the care of the farm and works and I undertook the care of the trade the books with the buying and selling also the Engagements of the Men."

An aerial view of Kirkstall Forge in the 1960s (Photo: Leeds Museums).

After six years of hard work, which saw extensive improvements to the forge, Betty decided to step down, leaving behind a successful business which went on to become a cornerstone of the early industrialisation of Leeds, supplying the iron used for boiler, engine and machine making.

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries' curator of industrial history, said: "From her diary and records of the age, it's clear that Betty Beecroft was a remarkable person, whose keen mind for business and eye for an opportunity were in many ways ahead of their time.

"Her vision and determination also laid the foundation for centuries of production at the forge, which in turn played a crucial role in some of the city's biggest industrial success stories.

"For hundreds of years, Leeds has been a crucible of ideas and experimentation and a home to innovators whose creations and endeavours changed the city and the world we know today in ways both big and small.

"By rediscovering some of their stories, we can learn more about how they came to be at the cutting edge of their fields, what inspired them and what drove them to succeed."