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A DISTANT ancestor of mine was a partner in the sweet-making firm of Slade & Bullock. The 'Bullock' of the partnership was Ben Bullock, a Burnley miner who moved to Dewsbury in 1868 and began selling boiled sweets in Dewsbury and Heckmondwike markets. In 1876 he formed his own company and began increasing his range of products. One of these new products was the first example of lettered rock. I continue the story by quoting from an article in the Dewsbury Reporter, published in 1976. 'Ben turned out his first batch of lettered rock with the words 'Whoa Emma' inside them as a tribute to a popular song of the day.
A day at the seaside was the closest that most 19th and early 20th century factory workers would get to a holiday, and they desired a cheap and cheerful gift to bring home as a souvenir. Legendary Victorian figure Dynamite Dick (rumoured variously to have come from Morecombe or Blackpool) borrowed the idea of Fair Rock and added a flourish of his own – lettering. This ensured rock’s association with individual resorts.
THE ORIGIN of lettered rock has been claimed by Blackpool's smaller neighbour and would-be rival, Morecambe. The town's claim is not easy to prove. In his recent history of the town - Lost Resort? The Flow and Ebb of Morecambe (Cicerone Press, 1990) - Roger Bingham repeats the claim. But even in such a closely-researched book, the most he can conclude is that 'though other resorts have challenged the claim that seaside rock originated in Morecambe, lettered rock probably did' (page 184). On the same page, there is a picture of Dick Taylor's rock shop and Mr Bingham dates the production of the first lettered rock to 'about 1925'.