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The Sweet Smell of Nostalgia

June 6, 2013

Toffee Factory are rather fond of their building, now home to numerous creative and digital companies, it is an award-winning redevelopment in the heart of the Ouseburn Valley. But this flagship construction is only the latest chapter in a fascinating catalogue of incarnations. The site has taken on many guises spanning over three centuries and, as the name would suggest, it was best known for being the Maynards sweet factory, Toffee Works.

Thanks to research undertaken by local historian Silvie Fisch, ‘Toffee Factory: A Little History’ was born. The work was originally part of Ouseburn Trust’s ‘Living Archives’ project and has now been published by Creative Space, Toffee Factory’s management team with support from the European Regional Development Fund. To celebrate the production of this illuminating booklet, previous employees were welcomed back for a vintage tea party, allowing them to revisit a site now barely recognisable as the factory they frequented many decades ago.

 Silvie Fisch and M. A. Fisher

 Things have changed a bit since the late 1940s when Marie Antoinette Fisher worked on the production line for Maynards:

 “When it was sunny, we used to sit by the river Ouse on our lunch break. We would dip our feet in the water and it was so dirty that, once submerged, we couldn’t even see our toes! I do remember it was a happy place to work, there was a lot of laughter.”

In an era where so many people are now connected via email and social networking sites, tracking down Maynards employees from an entirely different generation was a challenge that author Silvie Fisch was delighted to undertake:

 “Thanks to the local press we managed to find several former workers. I am so pleased that we got their memories recorded and published. They stretch back to the 1920s, when our oldest interviewee, Emily Darby, got her first job at the sweet factory (as they used to call it), and gave fascinating insights into the lives of people who played important roles in its history.”

 Bringing together current and former employees highlights the importance of acknowledging and remembering the heritage and history of a landscape. Mary Hitt, Great-granddaughter of John Vose, the first to build a confectionary business on the site, said

 “It is actually quite appropriate that it is home to creative businesses as my Great-grandfather was a real entrepreneur…”

That is a sentiment you can’t argue with – long may Toffee Factory continue to nurture and generate creativity and production.


Toffee Factory: A Little History is can be viewed online at


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