We at Darling Sweet are thrilled with the arrival this month of our two beautifully restored Forgrove 22B twist wrapping machines dating from 1955 and built by that factory in England. Both once stood in the Humphries confectionery factory in Cape Town, producers of the once famous Sunrise Toffees, so we are proud to have a part of South African toffee manufacturing history at Darling Sweet!
It’s a pity, however, that we know so little about the Humphries factory, even though so many of us remember with fondness their Sunrise Toffees and often enjoyed a Cutie Pie, which took the factory’s founder in 1914, Frank Humphries, seven years to perfect. Our search for information about him yielded very few results until we made contact with the grandchildren of both him and Israel (“Izzy”) Blumberg, who owned it for most of its existence. The grandchildren of both men have been very generous in providing information and documentation about Humphries, so we plan to share with you the history of this factory in a following post together with images of some of the Humphries tins in our vintage toffee tin collection.
Here we’ll tell you about the history of confectionery twist wrapping machines and about the Forgrove company that built ours.
These machines would not have existed if it hadn't been for the desire and vision of a few sweet brand leading figures, around the mid-20th century, to bring confectionery to the working classes. One such brand, responsible for commissioning the first machine of this kind, is none other than the very well known and universally loved Quality Street. The brand owner, Harold Mackintosh, had the idea of making available, at a reasonable price, tins containing a mix of different flavoured toffees covered in chocolate. To differentiate the various flavours he had each one wrapped in a different coloured wrapper. To keep costs down he commissioned the Rose Brothers in Gainsborough, known at the time for their innovations in cigarette packing machines, to design and build the world’s first toffee wrapping equipment. This invention changed the face of the industry for good, since for the first time confectionery became available at an affordable price to a greatly expanded consumer market, which led to a boom in this industry in Britain, with brands such as Cadbury's becoming truly massive.
The Rose brothers didn’t dominate the twist wrapping machine market for long, though, and they soon had stiff competition from another emerging factory called Forgrove, who built the two machines now doing the wrapping for Darling Sweet. The Forgrove factory was started by two technology students, Andrew Forbes and Henry Grover, who set themselves the task of building a machine that could wrap soaps, but with little success. They then decided to adapt the machine to wrap oblong pieces of chocolate, with much greater success, and so their first such machine, the “The Old Rocking Horse”, was born. They sold five in the first year and double that in the next, and so Forgrove was created and the business continued producing confectionery wrapping machines.
World War II posed many challenges for the Forgrove company because of the scarcity of raw materials. They had to resort to alternative products for survival, such as gun assembly machines or devising devices for wrapping soldier’s food for an extended shelf life. Here are some fascinating illustrations of the Forgrove factory at the time. While most of the men were at war, assembling the machines fell to women, which changed the workforce of the future as women never really left the factory floor afterwards.
When the war ended Forgrove again took up production of their 22B model. A total of around three thousand such machines were built, a small number of which still operate to this day.