Made in Bristol: Fry's Turkish Delight

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Full of Eastern Promise' was the advertising slogan that we've always remembered from our childhood. It allude to and is still does, that sweet sticky center, covered in a generous helping of milk chocolate and the taste of the exotic. But what we hadn't realised was that our favorite childhood treat was created and launched here, in Bristol. So, here's the tale…
J. S. Fry & Sons was a Bristol based chocolate company established by Dr Joseph Fry around 1748, however he didn't come about this venture in the most conventional manner. The business first started as an apothecary on Small Street, prescribing chocolate for medicinal purposes, the growing interest and demand for the 'chocolate prescription' made Joseph Fry realise the potential in the product and by 1777, the Fry's Chocolate factory was established on Union Street. Based in the heart of the city, which is known now to be the periphery of Broadmead shopping center, it stood there as a working factory for a 150 years, permeating the air with the smell of warm melting chocolate, which drifted across Castle Park and down the Welsh back. It's working conditions were deemed to be outstanding, a rarity at the time and at the start of World War One, Fry's was one of the largest employers in Bristol.
One of their most successful products was Fry's Turkish Delight, which was launched in 1914 and an instant success with the public. The chocolate bar, for those of you who've never tried this delightful treat is a bar of rose-flavoured Turkish Delight, covered in a thin layer of milk chocolate. Today it is described by Cadbury's as a 'mystical, exotic treat that let's you escape from the everyday.' Throughout almost the last century, since it's invention, the Turkish Delight chocolate bar is probably one of the most commonly known products made by Fry's Chocolate and at times of popular demand it was estimated to be selling millions of bars a week.

The origin of Turkish Delight - traditionally known as Lokum - dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire, it is one of the oldest known confections. A tale tells of how the creation of the sweet was the handy work of an ingenious confectioner, who was ordered by a Sultan to create a delicacy that would assist him in wooing his numerous mistresses. This resulted in a soft and tender sweet which is subtle in flavor and deemed to be a very important component of Turkish Cuisine. The sweet was not only a favourite of Pablo Picasso, who claimed the sweet helped him think, but also Napoleon and Winston Churchill who were both partial to Pistachio flavor.

In 1917 Fry's merged with Caburys and by 1935 the business had move to new premises at Somerdale factory, Keynsham. Unfortunately the factory was closed in 2010 and moved it's operations to Poland. The closure sparked huge local support and outcry and the factory is still sorely missed as a founder of successful Bristol based businesses.

To find out about more about J.S Fry & Sons and their contribution to the world of chocolate, have a look at another of their creations here...

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