Tuppenny Pennysaurus – Normandy, France 1760-65
This particular painting pre-dates Charles Burroughs but we still find the history of this curious creature in his field notes, probably because the additions of confectionery were added by Charles early on in his career. Although Charles admits no involvement in painting the original Tuppenny Pennysaurus he does describe its curious existence in an 1899 document.
‘The Tuppenny Pennysaurus is indeed a fine creature and can be found in many places around the globe but only in the green and pleasant lands of Normandy can you find one of such delicate beauty. It feeds mostly on beet, a vegetable known for its edible tap roots and pleasing sweet taste which it cultivates in large cleared areas called Beetrusses. The Pennysaurus existence was threatened in 1801 with the opening of the first sugar beet factory in Kunern, Germany after the discovery of a beet sugar extraction method in 1747. It was soon found that the tastiest and best beets for the creation of sugar were cultivated by this gentle creature, a creature that spent its days warming in the Normandy sun and nibbling contentedly on its fine crop of beets.
Pennysaurus beets became so famous for
their sugar yielding properties that vast estates were created in France to
look after and protect the Pennysaurus from rival beet processing businesses
and even countries. Sugar was big business and it was found that the better you
looked after a Pennysaurus the larger the crop it would produce. The whole
sugar industry bloomed and in 1837 France became the largest sugar beet
producer in the world.
To keep the Pennysaurus happy and maintain the special sugar beet crop annual event was created called ‘Scrumptious Sunday’ on the third Sunday of June where everyone in the region would make special sugar creations or Mixties.’
Charles was documenting the unique sugar ‘Mixties’ in this painting, for what means we are unsure but so far we have identified twenty nine including the mysterious Milk Teeth and Sweet Peanuts. It went on display for the very first time in 1840 and we believe it was a direct influence in the creation of George Basset & Co. or Basset’s as the confectionery company is affectionately known.
‘I painted this piece because of a sweet shop I used to visit on my way to school. It sat across from the school gates and was a Barbers shop that doubled up as a sweet shop every weekday morning through the inventive use of a couple of white boards thrown across boxes. I used to visit to get a tuppenny mix, a veritable feast in those days which came in a little white paper bag and contained favourites like fruit salads and blackjacks.
The owner was a white haired chap who had a remarkable memory, he used to memorise all the children's favourite sweets so when you paid your two pence you got all your favourites without saying a word. He went one better, on Fridays when he went to restock his shop at the cash and carry he used to hunt out a sweet never seen before. On Mondays he had this ready and hid under the counter so when you came in and had your usual he popped one of these special sweets at the bottom for you to discover.
Quite a special thrill for children who used to queue every Monday morning to be the first to discover what the new special sweet was and it remains a memory I cherish to this day.’