'Oldest sweet making machine' in the world found in Wigan

Winnard with humbug machine
The humbug maker is believed to be more than 100-years-old. Credit: Uncle Joe's Sweets

What is believed to be the oldest sweet making machine in the world has been discovered in the back of a store room at a sweet factory - and it still works.

The humbug maker is more than 100 years old and was found by staff at Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, in Wigan, one of the oldest sweet firms in Britain.

The discovery was made during preparations for the company's 125th anniversary celebrations in 2023, and, despite being left unnoticed for decades, it is still capable of producing hand-made sweets.

A 1950s photo of a worker preparing the humbugs ready to go into the machine. Credit: Uncle Joe's sweets

The humbug maker was manufactured by BCH Rochdale and is made of cast iron with brass insets.

It is believed to date back to before the Uncle Joe’s factory opened in 1919.

Toffee was fed into the side and the manual mechanism turned it into the familiar triangular pyramid shape of a humbug sweet, which traditionally comprised 16 black and white stripes.

In its heyday, it would have been used to making 40lbs of sweets every 20 minutes.

The machine would have been used to making 40lbs of humbugs every 20 minutes. Credit: Uncle Joe's sweets

One of Uncle Joe's Managing Directors Antony Winnard, is the great great nephew of the company’s founder.

He said: "As part of preparations for our 125th anniversary next year we were searching through a little-used storeroom and in amongst the old paperwork and machinery parts we were amazed to see this old humbug maker, still in perfect working order.

"It was obviously forgotten about when we installed the modern machinery that we now use but back in the day you could have made a lot of sweets in one day using it, although you would have left work with a sore arm!"

Managing Director Anthony Winnard says the machine would give you a "sore arm". Credit: Uncle Joe's sweets

Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls are made by Wigan-based William Santus and Co Ltd, a privately-owned traditional sweet company that was established in 1898.

Each year 33 million sweets are made in the same way as the first ones back in 1898, when William Santus’ wife Ellen started boiling up sugar in the kitchen of her home in Acton Street, Wigan.

They soon became a local favourite and their fame spread, as did the slogan, "They keep you all aglow" with the sweets are sold all over the world.

The company has already been in touch with a local museum about displaying the humbug maker.