To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published April 10th 2012
There is definitely a vogue for nostalgia and retro design in all things at present. I don't know if those of us beyond a certain age wish things could be as they used to when we were small, or whether we just view the past with a rosy glow. However, all the traditional sweet shops I visited recently were packed out with children, rather than grownups. Why don't you try some of these sweet shops yourself, or take some kiddies with you, and see what you think?
I've always looked on New Row as a cut through between St Martin's Lane and Covent Garden, but judging by the throngs of people buying sweets from Hardys Original Sweet Shop, this is no hidden backwater. Not only can you buy lots of old fashioned sweets, but the shop has an Edwardian feel to it. I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised to find it was lit by gas and not electricity. Sally, the manager of this branch, explained that there are other shops in the group: at Greenwich, St Paul's, Cambridge and Windsor. If you are in the Covent Garden area with a sweet tooth, make sure to pay a visit to Hardys and buy some Merry Maid Caramels or Raspberry Ruffles as I did. Here are some more pictures to whet your appetite.
Remaining in central London, in Brewer Street Soho, is Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe. This business has an even older retro look and feel somewhere around the eighteenth century. Mrs Kibble (that is her real name) set up shop a few years ago and subsequently opened a second branch in St Christopher's Place, close to Oxford Street. You'll again find lots of old favourites, including sweets sold by the jar, and a range of sugar free confectionery. If you're taking the children, you may have to steer them away from the local sex shops, but I'm sure they won't be interested anyway. I came away with some Satin Cushions. Does that take you back?
If you go to Spitalfields I'm sure you'll have come across A Gold at 42 Brushfield Street. The shop is a traditional food emporium housed in a genuine eighteenth century shop. The premises have enjoyed a chequered history as home to a boot maker, furrier, diamond cutter, draper, bookbinder and milliner. Ian and Safia Thomas opened the current business, using the name of Gold taken from Amelia Gold the milliner who ran the business in 1880. Their traditional ranges of sweet treats include Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, Kendal Mint Cake, Handmade Marshmallows and Fiz Whizz Popping Candy. However this is more than just a sweet shop as you can also buys delicatessen items, sandwiches and cakes.
Crossing the river to Dulwich is Hope and Greenwood where you will find another type of traditional confectionery shop. Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood have been trading for about eight years and also have a second shop in Covent Garden. Using their own language they are 'purveyors of splendid confectionery', but also sell home wares and food by the hamper or the jar, as well as a range of sugar free sweeties. They too have a branch in Russell Street, Covent Garden, which brings me full circle.
On a recent trip to good old Buckingham Palace, i came across a recently opened Victorian style sweet shop called Charlies Sweet Emporium, the shop is directly opposite the mews and is packed out with all the old favorites as well as a fantastic range of goodies for London visitors to take home as gifts. On entering the shop i was welcomed by the loveliest and most helpful shop assistant who took my heavy shopping bags from me to store safely behind the till counter to allow me to browse freely (Lovely touch!) i was then offered free samples of the most wonderful hand made fudge (of course i bought loads!) the store is beautiful and i was impressed with the selection of sweets that i thought had disappeared long ago! If you find yourself wandering down Buckingham Palace Rd, do stop off and i am sure that you will be as impressed as i was..... Good luck Charlie's!!!