Monday, 2 February 2009

The Tovil Treacle Mines

Photgraph 1..."TreacleTart" of the boats used to transport the treacle from the bridge at Tovil Boatyard to Trebor Sharpe sweet factory.
Photograph 2...The stile over which many a sweet treacle-steeped worker clambered over on their way to the Tovil Treacle Mines.

The Tovil Treacle Mines were the inspiration behind the Unlucky Fried Kitten song, "Shooting Star" which was the top-selling by-product of the treacle mines. The Shooting Star was made using the treacle exclusively mined at it it's delicious syrupy taste.
"Unlucky Fried Kitten At Tovil Treacle Mines" can be seen on YouTube...with the "Shooting Star" song as accompaniment.
There is a Facebook Group for the Tovil Treacle Mines....from which the following information is gathered. Please enjoy reading about the history of this fascinating industry once set in the heart of rural Kent:

A historical reference to the days of the fully operational Tovil Treacle Mines set in the Loose Valley and Tovil region of Maidstone, Kent. The pinpoint location is actually Bockingford...a tiny settlement in the aforesaid region.
Tovil Treacle Mine once supplied treacle and liqorice to most of Kent's sweet manufacturers....and almost exclusively to Trebor Sharp's in the town. (now taken over by Cadburys)
I realise that this will be a seldom visited group because the Tovil Treacle Mine closed in the 1950's so it's not like there are hoardes of ex-employees raggling around on Facebook. However...if anyone has any memories of the old place please feel free to contribute. I do have some pictures..taken by my Grandfather, who sadly left us in the 70's. (he didn't die..he just left us) I shall put them on here when I locate them. I'll make some more posts in a short tell you what I recall of the legendary Tovil Treacle Mines (stories passed on by my Grandfather and his cronies.

Wow...I just done some research and found that it didn't close in the 50' was, in fact, still going in the 70's...but only on a small scale. I remember it being operational...but I thought it had been taken over by a German firm. I'm pleased to say that I can remember it now. Incidentally...I also found...that the mines were closed throughout World War 2 for security reasons after the Luftwaffe were found to be using the vast "treacle fires" as navigational aid....very interesting.

I have uploaded a video shot in the beautiful Bockingford region.
The Tovil Treacle mines were here.
Bockingford is also known for it's water mills and for the production of very expensive artist paper.
In the video you can see the majestic Treacle Tower which still stands today. Hopefully it will remain there for a long while...but these things are never certain. The top of the tower was sealed off in the 1950's after 2 local youths fell to their death whilst trying to get some "treacle scrapings" from inside the rim of the tower. Some say the tower is haunted and that you can hear the lads' deathly wail if you press your ear firmly to the tower.

The Ice-Cold Oggie soft-drinks factory was situated fifty metres up the road on Teasaucer Hill. (metres were called yards in those days) Ice-Cold Oggies came in a variety of flavours including raspberry and lemon-lime and, of course, treacle

Although the Treacle Oggie was the most densely produced soft-drink at the Ice-Cold Oggie factory it was not considered to be the most delicious flavour. That mantle is bestowed upon the Barming Cherry flavour...made from cherries picked at arguably the UK's finest cherry-growing region of Barming, on the outskirts of Maidstone.
The factory founder-owner, Mr Harold "Slash" Wildly would make a twice-weekly trip to Barming on the trolley-bus which ended at the Barming Terminus and he would meet the local cherry-farmers in the Cherry Tree public house across the road....where they would thrash out their best prices for the world-famous Barming Cherries.
Back at Bockingford the valley was a favourite location of landscape artists....often seen capturing the idyllic rural scene of the streams and the mills...munching on a Shooting Star or a Treacle Tartello and guzzling on a Blackberry and Damson Ice-Cold Oggie.

An original Barming Cherry Ice-Cold Oggie sold on e-bay recently for £16, a Japanese soft-drinks bottle collector

In the video you can see a row of cottages on the left-hand side. These were occupied by the managers and foremen of the Tovil Treacl Mines. Each dwelling had it's own Treacle Well in the back garden.

The Picnic Table was put in place to replace the Freddie Tubbs Oak Memorial Bench stolen in 1985. The bench was put in place as a tribute to Freddie who perished in the Tovil Treacle Mine Disaster of 1964. He saved the lives of many treacle workers and although he wasn't the sole casulty (twelve men died in the collapse of the Lower Bockingford Mine) he is certainly the most remembered.


Jeremy Rowling- my mum used to live in Larkfield and she told me she could remember the smell of the treacle mines when she was a little girl, I'm surprised that Maidstone does not encourage tourism by telling everyone about the mines. well done andy for bringing this tiny corner of confectionery heritage to facebook

Stephen Piper- I live right on Bockingford, you can still hear the Ghost Miners shuffling their pots at night on a still night, some say they still mine for the old liquid gold to this day, led by old "Sticky Widget" treacle foreman from hell.

Rio Fraser- I know of people who have seen those ghosts....sticky hair, bulbous noses, glazed skin and molasses-fever. Not a pretty sight.

Ollie Supercat- I'm happy that you desire to pay homage to one of our lost traditional industries. They actually grow treacle in laboratories now....which I think is disgusting.