Jelly Babies: Squishy Sweets That Resemble Obese Sprogs

A bag of Bassetts Jelly Babies
Huzzah! Sugar!

Jelly Babies are super popular sweets in the UK. Think Jaffa Cakes, but with more sugar. Then you’re getting there on legendary status.

But one of the weird things about them is their long, long history. Brace yourselves for this one. It gets dark… fast!

What are Jelly Babies?

They’re soft, sugar, fruit flavoured jelly sweets resembling “babies” (as in, they don’t really) and are covered in a light frosting.

The fruit flavours are along the limes of lemon and all that, but the red ones are the best and there’s no debate about that at all.

Jelly Babies are super tasty and that type of sweet where you open a packet and, five minutes later, you’ve eaten all of them.

Not good for your health, then, but a welcome indulgent treat every now and then. And they’re only 8p! Oh, hang on… that was the 1959 price.

Sheesh, why was everything so much cheaper back then?!

The History of Jelly Babies

The sweets were created in Lancashire back in 1864.

They were invented by an Austrian immigrant, turned confectioner, and initially went by the name of Unclaimed Babies.

Legend has it he was told to mould some jelly bears, but that went wrong and we ended up with babies. Which we eat. Like the Baby Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder II. Bwahahaha.

For some reason deciding to stick with the design, the name Unclaimed Babies was provided.

You know, as just remoulding them was such a stupid idea. Bears are scary after all.

However, whilst it’s a bit of a horrifying concept now, we have to remember what it was like during the Victorian era. Childhood mortality rates were very high, so the idea wasn’t taboo back then.

There’s a chance some people probably found the name amusing, topical even. As unclaimed babies would have been commonplace.

However, over the years the name morphed into Victory Jelly Babies.

That’s probably as customers were going into shops in Lancashire and saying stuff like, “Can I ‘ave some of them jellied babies, mate?” And the like.

A collection of Victory Jelly Babies old packaging
Thanks to Bamford Auctioneers for the image.

Adverts for the sweets first began appearing in Riches Confectionery of 22 Duke Street, London Bridge, 1885.

But Burnley seems to have clung to the Unclaimed Babies title far longer than other regions of England, as adverts from 1929 still show the newspaper wanted to use that name.

Burnley Express and Unclaimed Babies advert

Bassett’s in Sheffield took over production of the sweets in 1918 and this led to the new era of the little things.

They were called Peace Babies at that point, to celebrate the end of WWI.

For WWII, the sweets stopped production for a while due to national rationing. But from 1953 onward, they relaunched as the now familiar Jelly Babies.

Their history was such by the mid-20th century, Scottish journalist Fyfe Robertson (1902-1987) did a little piece on them back in 1965 for the BBC.

Yes, they’re now iconic across the land. And that’s, in part, due to their longstanding tastiness and how they play a part in many a childhood.

However, there have been certain other helping hands along the way to ensure they became a household name.

Jelly Babies and Doctor Who

Okay, we’re not fans of Doctor Who so didn’t know this. But in the classic Sixties series the sweets figured fairly regularly.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) was the first to consume them on TV.

However, it’s Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) who made a habit of offering them to strangers. Hmm… what was wrong with good old Junket, Doctor?

Apparently this ran on for the show up until the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi of swearing lunatic Malcolm Tucker fame (see In The Loop).

Can You Turn Jelly Babies Into Space Rockets?

But of course! All you need is some potassium chlorate, one of those blow torch things, and at least one Jelly Baby.

The result? A hellish inferno the likes of which resembles the 1972 Great Daylight Fireball of doom and destruction!

Looking at that, you wonder why NASA bothers with all those stupid rockets.

Just strap a load of Jelly Babies onto the bottom of something and you’d be snugly in the Earth’s orbit in the blink of a Jelly Baby’s eye.

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