All About Barnetts Here..

Taken from a news article...
Tucked away in a corner of Radford, a family business churns out millions of them. Uncle Luke’s Tablets, No 10 Drops, Lun Jeelers, Sherbons and, of course, Barnips. If you are from Nottingham or perhaps arrived in the city after a northern childhood, those names may set your tongue tingling with recognition. And there’s a good chance your grandparents sucked them too. Exactly how many sweets are made at Barnett Confectioners Ltd, on Stansfield Street, tucked away near Ilkeston Road, is something Richard Barnett can only guess at. “We make three million Barnips a year,” he considers. “Then add two thirds of that for the rest. That’s around five million or six million a year, give or take a million.” And that says something of the charm of Barnett’s. Richard’s great-grandfather; also Richard, founded the company in the house where he was born in 1875. Technology has of course moved on but the 19th Century Richard Barnett would be pleased to see that his business and its traditional processes have survived.

The present Richard Barnett himself redesigned the Barnips’ packet. Just in case you aren’t an avid consumer, this is what a nostalgic-looking packet -the Post News Shop retails them at 5Op - boasts: “11 Liquorice and Menthol lozenges, soothing for the nose, throat and chest.” Other nostalgic-sounding favourites like No 10 Drops, Stormguards and the herbal sweets Lun Jeelers are also still going strong. “Originally they were called Lung Healers, but the trading standards people made us change the name because they said they didn’t ‘heal’ your lungs,” says Richard. “As if they did heal your lungs! If they had, we really would have been on to something of a winner!”

Barnett’s are the only surviving Nottingham sweet makers. Forty years ago, there were three. They have survived world wars and takeover bids, and have a comfortable niche in the market. A walk around the factory reveals no dauntingly huge machines. Much of the work is done by hand in a busy atmosphere, the air dominated by the rather soothing smell of burnt sugar mingled in with eucalyptus (the latter an ingredient of Barnips). The boiling vats of sugar and glucose are manhandled at 150°F; the sugar coating, another process, necessitates the hand- loading of something like a small cement mixer, which tosses the sweets around, until the sugary surface sticks.

Richard Barnett, given the preponderance of sweets around him, cuts a lean figure. His 6ft 1in frame seems to expend a great deal of energy keeping the company ticking over. In jeans and pullover, he’s down-to-earth and ready to roll up his sleeves. “1 can’t bear suits,” he says.”lf we are pushed; I make myself available to do whatever needs doing. ‘Typically; 70% of orders that come through the business, I put together.

“If a pallet of sugar comes in and someone is needed to drive the forklift, I’ll do it. “I wear what’s appropriate. If I were visiting customers, I wouldn’t dress like this. Then I would put on a suit.” The job itself, running a company that’s steeped in history, is another matter, Richard, who lives with his family in Wollaton -he went to nearby Fernwood Comprehensive School, then quit a business studies course at Clarendon College to devote himself full-time to the family business -has worked from bottom to top. He has been put through all aspects of the Barnett industry, from manufacturing floor to sales to administration and management. If there’s a hole in the system, he plugs it. Yet the enthusiasm for the task hasn’t left him after nearly 30 years.

The factory operates daytimes only five days a week. Rush orders occasionally demand a Saturday shift. “I’m here however long it takes me to do something,” says Richard. “I don’t think of it in terms of, stopping at work; it’s what you do; it doesn’t feel like a job.” The company employs 11 people in Stansfield Street. In its Hartley Road days - ended by a compulsory purchase order - there were up to 30 employees. When a job was vacated, it tended to go to someone close to the previous incumbent, more often than not a relation or close friend. “People used to know we were here when we were on Hartley Road,” says Richard. “The factory was there for many years and my grandfather, Leslie Barnett, was actually born there, in what became the front office. “There were a lot of terraced houses round there and everyone knew someone who worked at Barnett’s.

“Our manufacturing process is still the old way of doing it. We use copper pans and we don’t vacuum cook.” The sugar and glucose mix that forms the basis of all their sweets is boiled up to 150°C. The flavouring and all the rest of it is added as the heat leaves the mixture, by now poured -by hand -on to water-cooled iron- framed tables, “The way we do it gets the best flavour. When you vacuum cook you don’t get that. “It’s the residual burning of sugar, which you can’t help anyway; which adds to it. That little bit of burning boosts the favour, and makes all the difference.” The company produces three brands of sweets, all essentially similar in terms of production, but all with a slightly different marketing appeal. There’s Barnett’s sweets, which include Barnips, Lun Jeelers. Rhubarb and Custard, Strawberry Cremes, Humbugs and Fruit Drops.

There are then the Uncle Luke lines in health sweets, including Uncle Luke’s Tablets (retail price around 85p a bag). And finally Mitre sweets. With Mitre there are 21 brands, again with names evocative of the past, including Bonfire Toffee, Large Pear Drops, Sherbet Pips and Roasted Nut Brittle. In total, the three brands represent nearly 60 different types of sweet. During the Second World War, when the sweets industry was hit hard by rationing, Barnett’s managed to prosper, because they were making cough sweets -to which rationing of sugar did not apply. As a result, their market grew, though almost exclusively in the North, still the heartland of their popularity The nature of the business has changed very little. Peppermint, for example, is still kept for years at a time. Its flavour improves, apparently; with age. “In the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s there was a seller of all these mints and essences, all decanted into bottles, just as you would store wine,” says Richard. “In fact there was a time when it was better to have stock than money in the bank. “We bought Chinese liquorice in blocks because it didn’t go off. We used it for many; many years and we actually thought we’d never need to buy liquorice again. “Equally; we bought so much menthol that the makers of Consulates cigarettes approached us to see if we had any to sell.” Labels like Uncle Luke’s, meanwhile, are passed on, bought and sold by different sweet makers. “We’re probably the third owners,” says Richard.

In his office, which also doubles as the company archive, he produces a book of Barnett’s sweet labels from January 1936. They have an appealing, pre-war ring with names like Bronko Berries, Chip Scotch, Cokernut Balls and Apples on Sticks. There were Dandy Dicks, Brazil Kobs and Everton Toffee on offer then.’ Many such old favourites are still big business. And the next batch is nearly ready, bubbling away in its copper vat in Radford.

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