The British Empires Tenpenny Britannisaurus Rex

The British Empires Tenpenny Britannisaurus Rex - 1848

In May 1848 Sam Brannan, a store keeper, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco shouting ‘Gold! Gold!’ an incident which sparked the infamous Californian Gold Rush. Over the course of the years a further 250,000 fortune seekers flooded the area, most destined to lose everything. One of these prospectors was an 18 year old Charles Timpson but by 1856 when he arrived he was too late to make his fortune and in 1878 returned to Britain a broken man but still looking for the fabled ‘pot of gold’ that would make his fortune.

An ageing Charles eventually found employment at the Bassett factory in Sheffield as a travelling salesman supplying the shopkeepers of Britain with an endless supply of the latest confectionary. In 1898 he was given the special task of trying to sell a new product, liquorice wrapped in a variety of sugary flavours but on his first visit to a major buyer he dropped the tray of samples. Quickly he gathered them together mixing up the various sweets, colours and shapes as he tried to rearrange them. The client stopped him, he loved the mixed up assortment of shapes and colours and asked if they could be made like that intentionally.

They could indeed and Liquorice Allsorts came into being, so popular did they become that this period in history is called the ‘Sugar Rush’, Charles was richly rewarded for his own ‘rush’ finding the pot of gold he so desperately sought. Such was the impact of liquorice allsorts that an explosion of sweet production followed as other manufacturers tried to catch up. Pear drops, sherbet lemons, wine gums, aniseed twists and even lollipops made their first appearances during the sugar era.

Britain, proud of its new sugar rush employed the greatest minds of the time to come up with a figure to represent the nations obsession with confectionary and its worldly empire driven dominance.

The British Empires Tenpenny Britannisaurus Rex made its first appearance in 1901 featuring on popular posters of the day as well as coins, stamps and pottery. The Britannisaurus Rex was used to reflect the mood of Britain and the face of a nation; the spear is held with serenity, the shield with strength and the robe is a flowing representation of the stable, rocky surface of Britain itself. The selection of sweets surrounding the Britannisaurus Rex have been carefully selected to pass on a message too.

You can do what you like to Britain but f*** around with our sweets and you’ve got trouble.