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Rock (a type of candy), is a favourite of kids throughout Britain. It is traditionally a seaside treat brought home by family or friends who have been away on their holidays. Lettered rock was first manufactured by hand in Victorian England and continues to be made in the same way today.

Rock is sold as a long, peppermint flavoured stick, coloured on the outside, white in the middle and with the magic of lettering, usually red, stating the name of the town, running down through its entire length. It comes wrapped in cellophane with a little slip of badly printed paper showing a photograph of the holiday resort.

As soon as it is received it is unwrapped with glee and sucked on for hours. The rock remains hard, even as it dissolves away to a point getting shorter and shorter. The letters are of harder candy and remain slightly proud of the surface, looking to a child's eye like a mini mountain range of red peaks poking through white. The wrappers always collect sticky juices which seem to have a fatal attraction for little hands and faces...and for furniture and carpets. Rock is the bane of many a house-proud parent's life!

Rock is made by boiling sugar to 150°C until it forms a thick syrup. This is poured onto a cold slab and tempered, put into a mixing machine to introduce air, and then back onto a hot slab at which point the letters are added. The letters are much larger than in the finished product and are formed by piecing together lengths of clear candy; to the untrained eye the letters can only be identified in cross section. These lengths are carefully arranged on the slab of rock and the whole thing is rolled into a cylinder. Rolling continues, making the cylinder longer and thinner until it is about 1-3cm diameter, and is cut into sticks about 15-30cm long.

Rock making is, needless to say, a highly skilled craft - the letters need to remain readable and in position throughout, and the sticks need to be uniform. Training takes about 5 years and the skill was passed down from generation to generation.

The most famous seaside rock is undoubtably Blackpool Rock, immortalised by the George Formby song "With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock"

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