Trebor’s Opportunity of a Lifetime

John Bell has sent us a wonderful account of how Trebor led his family from Essex to Canada in 1950.

Trebor Crest 1950

I was born in Essex, England in 1946. A year earlier, my father had returned from the war not sure of what he was going to do with his life. He toiled at a number of blue collar jobs, including house painting, but Richard ‘Dick’ Bell remained out-of-sorts until 1949, when my uncle presented “an opportunity of a lifetime.” Those were my Uncle Harold’s words.

Harold Dolphin was a handsome, charming man, with lofty dreams and ambitions. One of those dreams was relocating to the new world. His employer Trebor Confections would be the means to that end. Harold convinced Trebor of a burgeoning market for British sweets in Canada. The country was courting the British Empire for aspiring immigrants. At the time, Canada’s population was 14 million, and half its 2 million immigrants were born in the UK. Presumably, the transplanted Brits would delight in the availability of Trebor candies in Canadian shops.

Harold Dolphin, general manager.

Harold Dolphin, general manager.

Dick Bell, warehouse manager

Dick Bell, warehouse manager

My uncle’s mandate was to set up an overseas operation and serve as the company’s General Manager. Harold said he would need a reliable right-hand Englishman to help out. So, when Trebor offered to pay the travel expenses for the Bell family, all that was left for my father to do was convince my mother that this was a good idea. Dick resorted to his brother-in-law’s words of inspiration. He told my mother that Canada would present “an opportunity of a lifetime” for their young son, John.

Travelling several months ahead of the two families, Harold and Dick arrived in Toronto on one of the coldest days of the year, 25°C below zero. They soon signed a lease for an icicled warehouse and office in the east end of the city. Harold hired a small staff that included Trebor Canada’s first and only salesman, a Canadian-born Scotsman, William J. McLeod. Bill, his wife Grace and daughter Elaine, would become family friends for life.

Toronto warehouse 1950

Toronto warehouse 1950

Bill McLeod in 1980

Bill McLeod in 1980

On May 2, 1950, a month before my 4th birthday, the Empress of France pulled into the docks of Quebec City where I was declared a landed immigrant by the Canadian authorities. By train, we journeyed to our new home in Toronto.

Trebor made a big splash as an exhibitor at the Canadian National Exhibition. Brits lined up to buy Barley Sugar sticks and an assortment of other wrapped sweets.

1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Harold at the back. Dick up front serving customers.

1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Harold at the back. Dick up front serving customers.


1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Bill McLeod's the balding man with glasses to the left.

1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Bill McLeod’s the balding man with glasses to the left.

CNE Pass Dick Bell

But making money for the mother ship proved challenging. Importation put Trebor at a cost disadvantage. Other British competitors such as Cadbury and Rowntree Mackintosh were already producing in Canada. After 3 years, it was all over. Trebor terminated the overseas venture. They made a generous offer to bring the two families back to Britain but it was not to be. The Dolphin’s moved to the USA where Harold became a car salesman. That venture was also not to be. Harold’s marriage ended in 1962, and he returned to England where he spent the rest of his days.

My father remained in Toronto and worked in the industrial wire and cable industry in a materials management capacity. He retired from Canada Wire and Cable at 62 and died in 1990 at the age of 70.

The decision by Dick Bell to immigrate to Canada ultimately became my “opportunity of a lifetime.” It afford me a university education, and a successful career that led me back to confectionery industry.

In 1968, I began my business career in marketing and sales in the consumer packaged goods business. After stints at Bristol Myers, Beecham, and Leo Burnett Advertising, I moved to Vancouver and eventually became CEO of Jacobs Suchard’s North American coffee and confectionery operation. At one time, Suchard’s portfolio included a US company known as Brach’s whose specialty was hard candy. Eventually, Brach’s and Suchard was sold and I became a strategy consultant. Now 69 years old, I spend my time writing books and blogs, playing tennis, and enjoying my life with my wife of 45 years, my children and grandchildren. In 2015, my business book, “Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World” was published by Palgrave Macmillan USA.

Thank you Trebor, for that opportunity of a lifetime.

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All about Black Jacks

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The Black Jack site is up and running. Yes – a website dedicated entirely to the aniseed, mouth-staining, divide-people-like-marmite wonder that is the Black Jack.

BJ aficionado Lee Dalloway has lovingly gathered a lot of information, pictures and stories about this humble sweet. Talking of her childhood, a Lydia confesses, “I liked Black Jacks because many of the other kids didn’t like them, so I used to buy them so I didn’t have to share. I know it sounds bad, but I’d still do the same now…”

You’ll discover some recipes such as Black Jack Vodka, whose ingredients simply comprise 10 bars of Black Jacks and a bottle of vodka. (If that’s too much for you, you can now buy ready-made Black Jack Vodka.) Watch out for a large photo of Black Jack cupcakes, with some Fruit Salad cupcakes in the background.

Indeed the clash between Fruit Salad V Black Jack pops up on the Homepage with an invitation to vote for which you prefer. Now, who out there wants to create a website just about Fruit Salad?

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The life of a Forest Gate Driver

John Witherington has been in touch to share his memories of delivering sweets from Forest Gate. He writes:

I started work for Trebor in February 1960 as a van boy at Forest Gate with Tommy Lawley as my driver. Mr Braithwaite was the transport manager. I went on to become a driver and actually drove the van in your picture with the lollypopman outside the factory (see below). I left the company in 1964 but still have many fond memories of my time working there. I visited many of the factories under the Trebor umbrella – such as Sharps, Clarnico, Jamesons Chocolates and of course Woodford – but alas the van boys were never allowed to go to Chesterfield with the drivers, which I deeply regret.

John Witherington

Here’s a picture of me as a van boy from around 1961. I’m standing in front of our then new van, while delivering to the back entrance of a shop in Hastings.

Rob Forest Gate 2 Reduced

Rob-Forest-Gate-Lollipop-Man-croppedThese two other photos (which appear on the website as part of /pictures/factory life/Forest Gate in the 60s) are from a year or so later. Both vans are backed onto a portable conveyer belt which we used to unload the crates of empty jars, which fed down through a hole in the wall into the jar wash in the basement. The smaller van (of which we had two) was one I later drove. Van boys who became drivers could only drive these two vans until they reached 21.

The other van is an ex Sharps van with the trailer repainted in the new Trebor colours and was mainly used for running goods between Forest Gate and Woodford. Opposite the factory, on the other side of the road, the vans were washed, refueled and parked ready for the next day’s deliveries. The two end loading bays (which you can just see in front of a van) were the export bays, where sweets going to Chesterfield and exports for Woodford were loaded and goods coming from Chesterfield and Woodford were unloaded.

During my time as a van boy our area was mainly the south coast, from Hastings through to Portsmouth, which usually involved a couple of nights away from home each week. We went out on the Monday with around 20 plus drops, back Tuesday, then a day run on Wednesday to a wholesaler in Southwick by the name of J Tollhurst, then another two day run Thursday and Friday.

I remember many social events. There was the annual Directors’ dance where they hired the Ilford Palais and the whole factory was invited with a guest to let their hair down for the evening. I very much remember Mr Kenyon, who is mentioned in your book, as being the life and soul of the party; he was a well respected man while I was there.  Other events included car rallies, socials in the canteen and one where they took all the van boys and young lads in the factory for a weekend in Yorkshire.

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Did you make Black Jacks?

Lee Dalloway is setting up a website all about Black Jacks. Just Black Jacks. And he’d love to hear from anyone who used to make them. Here’s what he says:

I’m currently in the process of setting up a new website dedicated to all things Black Jacks related. Those delicious black, aniseedy penny chews we used to buy from the corner shop as kids, and initially made by Trebor.

I’m ideally looking for someone who worked at the factory that produced these sweets and would be willing to answer a few questions on the production process of Black Jacks, or anyone with childhood memories/anecdotes on these delicious treats.

If you think you can help, please do get in touch via

Many thanks

Lee Dalloway


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Does anyone remember Scooples? They were an unusual product developed by Trebor in 1988 – a crispy wholegrain snack, shaped to scoop up a variety of fillings, to be eaten hot or cold. Aimed at the UK crispbread market, they were made by Trebor subsidiary The Lambourn Food Company in Newbury.

Here’s an article about them in The Grocer of April 1988. Does anyone know anything more about Scooples? How were they made? How successful were they? Do you have any pictures?Grocer 16 April 1988 - Trebor Scooples Cropped

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Trebor in America

Several months ago Ivan Gibson got in touch with memories of Trebor’s involvement in the United States. Ivan left for the US in January 1966 as the firm’s first overseas placement. Previously he’d worked as a territory salesman for Sharps. Now he was to spend a year with Broadway Confections, Trebor’s partner in the country.

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Prior to this, Trebor had enjoyed phenomenal success in America with Regal Crowns. Ian Marks remembered Chesterfield factory creaking under the pressure of making over a hundred tons a week of Regal Crown Sour Lemons for the US; more than 3,000 tons of this popular candy sold there altogether. This achievement was instrumental in Trebor winning in 1966 the Queen’s Award to Industry for exports.

IntPromUSSirREgalCrown1963Chicago Reduced

Here’s a picture from a Chicago Trade Show in 1963. The Regal Crown promotion features an archetypal English gent – with bowler hat, pipe and umbrella – rowing a boat full of product. The caption above reads ‘Frightfully sorry we can’t meet the demand for Regal Crown Sour Fruits. We’re getting them here as fast as we can!’ Such promotions clearly worked. The success of Regal Crowns was instrumental in Trebor winning in 1966 the Queen’s Award to Industry for exports.

Ivan Gibson Broadway Confections

Later in 1966 we can see Ivan at Broadway Confections. He’s on the left beside Ben Schnapp, proprietor of Broadway Confections. On the right sits Martin Schnapp, Ben’s nephew who was the firm’s sales director.

Along with Ivan arrived new product from Britain. ‘The idea,’ says Ivan ‘was to introduce four Trebor 10 cent rolls on the back of the success achieved with Regal Crown.’ Here’s the arrival of the first two 20′ containers holding 65,000lbs of 10 cent rolls: the first sweets to arrive in the US in this way.


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Chesterfield retirement pictures

Darren Taylor’s got back in touch with some more retirement pictures from Chesterfield. His mum Doreen Taylor (nee Saxton) has filled in as many names as she can. Can you add any?

First up is the retirement of Ann Powell in the early to mid 1970s.

Retirement An nPowell reduced Front row from left: June Chapman, Marie ?, Brenda Bramley, June East, unknown, unknown, Bill Reid, Ann Powell, unknown, Doreen Taylor, Marion Straw, Jack Straw, Val Wilbraham, Gwen Horton, unknown.

Back row: Pat ?, Margaret Furness, unknown, unknown, Chris Nuttall, Margaret ?, Marion ?, Pat Harrison, unknown.

Next is when Doreen’s best friend Shirley Johnson retired in 1994.

Shirley Johnston retirement reducedWomen from left: Diane?, Mandy?, Jill Gascoyne, Denise Fletcher, Ann Slater, Diane?, Shirley Johnson, Jannete Scattergood, Mona Freeman, Doreen Taylor, Pat Harrison, June Chapman, Rita Armstrong, Vicky Weston and Rita Soar.

Men from left: Mike Parkin, Andrew Cummings, Richard Tudsbury, unknown, Steve Collins, Norman ?, John Dicker, unknown.

Doreen also found an old Working Together from November 1960 – the year she started her 45 year career with the company. It included this retirement notice of Cave Gladwin, who joined Trebor when the Chesterfield factory was set up in 1942 during the war.

Cave retires reduced

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Sweets during World War One – this Saturday

If you live near London and your young ‘uns might be interested in finding out about the book Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo – and life in London during World War 1 – then come along to the Museum of London Docklands this Saturday 5th April.

The Cityread Family Day features screenings of a film about the book as well as lots of fun things to do, such as creating comics, watching Punch and Judy, singing Music Hall, writing letters from the trenches, farmyard fun and….

… me talking about sweets during World War One. I’m part of an event there called Humbugs and Peace Babies, where children can colour sweet bags then visit a pop-up vintage sweet shop and order a quarter of free sweets. And if free sweets aren’t an incentive, I don’t know what could be.

If you’ve not visited this lovely museum, which is near Canary Wharf, then this is a good reason to come along. You’ll find more details of the event at the Museum of London Docklands website, at

Do come along.

Trebor Army & Navy Tablets 1917


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Christmas at Chesterfield

Darren Taylor’s got in touch with some great Christmas party photos from Chesterfield. He knows some of the names, but do let us know if you recognise anyone else – or even yourself.

Chesterfield Xmas Lunch c1956

Chesterfield Xmas Lunch c1956

The first picture features the party in, he thinks, 1956. In the back line of women on the left, five women up from the left, sits his auntie Dot Foukes with her chin in her hand. The far woman in that row, next to a chap, is his auntie Beryl Robinson (nee Saxton).

Other people there include Joe Kersey, Bernard Cousins, Ralph Hodgekins?, Ted Wainwright, Dennis Makepeace, Mary Unwin, Kath Oxley, Beryl Saxton, Dorothy Saxton, Ila Styles, Gwen Barton, Maureen Longdon, Val Garner, Muriel Palmer, Margaret Jenkins, Shirley Pointon, Kath? and Wendy?

Chesterfield Xmas Dinner Early 1960s

Chesterfield Xmas Dinner Early 1960s

Next up is the Christmas party around 1962. The first woman on the right, with black hair and leaning forward smiling, is his mum Doreen Taylor (nee Saxton). Other people include Jack Hollindale, Nora Hayes, Margaret Harrison, Maureen Greaves, Thelma Pollard and Margaret Broadbent.

Chesterfield Xmas Dinner 1980s

Chesterfield Xmas Dinner 1980s

Finally, here’s Chesterfield Christmas from the early 1980s. From left to right you can see Ellen Varley, Marion Straw (in glasses), his mum Doreen Taylor, Shirley Johnson, Diane Trowel, Margaret Jenkins, Pat? and June Chapman.

Thanks so much for sending us these pictures, Darren and Doreen. We’re always happy to share such memories, so if you’ve got pictures of your own, do send them in.




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Clarnico history

Shirley Jennings got in touch from New Zealand to say her mother Elizabeth Sowervold worked for Clarnico before emigrating to New Zealand in 1921. Her mother was born in Stratford in 1901.

It’s unlikely, perhaps impossible, that anyone still alive will have worked alongside Elizabeth at Clarnico during that period after the first world war. But we’re always interested to hear more about that Hackney Wick firm. Last spring we were contacted by Geoff Nickolls, also from West Ham, who thought he might be related to the Nickolls who co-founded Clarnico and provided half its name. It transpired he wasn’t, but he found there is a large Clarnico archive at the London Metropolitan Archives.

If only there was time to write a history of Clarnico. Whenever I take the London Overground train from Gospel Oak, where I live, over to Stratford, I pass within yards of the old Clarnico site by the River Lee Navigation at Hackney Wick. Now it’s largely buried by the residue of the Olympic Park, but there’s still one old building which I fancy must have formed part of the old Clarnico empire. (See picture at the bottom)

Back in 1893, over 1,500 people worked for Clarnico, of whom 1,300 were women. It was a major corporation long before the Trebor founders started peddling their boilings round Forest Gate in 1907.

Clarnico's many employees seen leaving work in 1908.

Clarnico’s many employees seen leaving work in 1908.

In 1900 the Daily Telegraph reported on The Jam Girl (a typical Clarnico worker) who loved liberty and would rather live and eat simply, albeit precariously, rather than go into domestic service with its abundant food and comfortable lodgings – but servitude.

By 1903 Clarnico boasted a 100-strong choral society, a fire brigade and a 70-strong brass band which toured France and Italy. There was also a boys’ bugle, drum and fife band, and an ambulance team. Those were the days when your work provided much of your social life. For all the hardship, there must have been a lot of fun.

Later the firm went into decline, not helped by being bombed out during the war and then building a new factory in 1951 that became obsolete soon after it was finished. Trebor bought the firm in 1969 for £900,000. Today Hackney Wick has become a fashionable enclave, an island of designers and artists and water-side apartments with rapidly rising rents.

As I say, it would be lovely to write a history of Clarnico – to explore the life of those free-spirited Jam Girls of 1900. Sadly such work would never pay, and I’ve spent my time on Trebor. But if anyone else is interested in the task, I’d be delighted to help as I can.

Clarnico 1921 from above Reduced

Here’s a 1921 overhead picture of the Clarnico site. To the left is Hackney Wick. The railway runs across the middle of those three bridges in the centre. Carpenter’s Road ran over the nearer roadbridge. The road’s since disappeared as part of the Olympic Park which now covers the land to the right of the river. But the bridge is still there and so is the Clarnico-marked building beside it on the right, eastern bank between the railway and road. It’s now offices – and the only remains of that once great confectionery empire.




Posted in Clarnico, Main, Memories | 3 Comments