Wigan's Uncle Joe's Mintballs celebrate 125th birthday

Video report by Granada Reports correspondent Paul Crone

The sweet company which makes the iconic Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls has launched a year of celebrations to commemorate its 125th anniversary.

The landmark occasion will showcase the history and heritage of the business, which was set up by William Santus with the help of his wife Ellen in a small house on Acton Street, Wigan, in 1898.

Since then, their world-famous sweets have been immortalised in countless articles, cartoons and poems, they are on sale all around the globe, even in Macy's in New York, and there has even been a song written about them.

The sweet factory in Wigan town centre Credit: UncleJoes.com

The Toffee Works factory in Dorning Street, where the sweets are still made today, was completed in 1919 at a cost of £2,400.

The then Prince Charles marked its centenary in 2019 with a visit and saw how the sweets were manufactured.

The then Prince Charles at the sweet factory in 2019 Credit: PA images

Each year 33 million sweets are manufactured using the same traditional methods as when Mrs Santus originally made them in her kitchen.

They soon became a local favourite and their fame spread, as did the slogan "They keep you all aglow".

The completely natural "secret recipe" has been passed down through the family generations

The mintballs are handmade at the factory in Wigan, which locals are used to smelling in the air across the town centre when they are cooking.

The ownership of Uncle Joe’s has been passed down through the family generations.

Joint Managing Director

s Antony Winnard and John Winnard MBE are the great nephews of the company’s founder.

Mintball making in pictures:

Sugar Boiler Neil Causey pours the mint mixture out to cool at the Santus Toffee Factory in Wigan Credit: PA
Sugar Boiler Mark James turns the mint mixture Credit: PA

The 125th Birthday celebrations began with a visit by Mayor of Wigan Borough, Councillor Marie Morgan, on Monday January 23.

She toured the factory before unveiling a commemorative 125th anniversary banner alongside the famous Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls sign on the side of the building.

The anniversary logo will also be attached to commemorative sweet tins throughout the year.

An illuminated version of the logo is due to be projected onto the side of Haigh Hall in the coming weeks as part of a year-long collaboration.

Mike Harding wrote "Our Song" about Uncle Joe's Mintballs.

Here are some of the lyrics

"Now there’s a place in Wigan a place you all should knowA busy little factory where things are all the goThey don’t make Jakes or Eccles Cakes or things to stick on wallsBut night and day they work away at Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls

Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls keep you all aglowGive ’em to your grannie and watch the beggar goAway with coughs and sniffles, take a few in handSuck ’em and see, you’ll agreeThey’re the best in all the land

125 years of making Wigan town centre smell great Credit: PA images

Further 125th anniversary announcements will be made throughout the year.