Looks sweet and innocent enough, doesn’t it, the jelly baby, but this unassuming treat has a dark past. What we want to know is do you have a sinister mastication to the method in which you eat them? Are you the type that goes straight in for the kill by chopping of the head, Henry VIII style? Or do you nibble off the arms and legs to leave a helpless torso? Perhaps you place the whole thing into your mouth and allow it to melt as if it’s in an acid bath! Pseudo-cannibalism may not have crossed you mind until now but allow us to take you through the history of this sweetie and all will be revealed!
Invented by an Austrian immigrant confectioner working at Fryers of Lancashire in 1864, the mold produced for what was supposed to be jelly bears looked more like new-born infants. Subsequently the sweets were given the macabre name, unclaimed babies. Unclaimed babies were part of life in Victorian Britain, with newborn babies being left on church steps regularly—Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: A History of Temptation claims that Victorian people would have found the name “amusing”.
This name was short-lived. In celebration of peace, after WWI, Bassett’s of Sheffield began producing the sweet in 1918 as Peace Babies but production was halted during WWII due to a shortage of raw materials. Once production restarted in 1953, they were relaunched as Jelly Babies and their popularity took off. They even have names as well as their individual flavour! “Brilliant” (red: strawberry); “Bubbles” (yellow: lemon); “Baby Bonny” (pink: raspberry); “Boofuls” (green: lime); “Bigheart” (purple: blackcurrant); and “Bumper” (orange).
There is a little more to their cute faces than meets the eye too—have you ever looked at them? Their faces illustrate sin and the darkness of the human heart. So here is the list for you to wrap your head around:- Pink: This one is an actual baby—awww! Red: Displaying a large B, representing blood sacrifice; Green: This baby is crying indicating human misery.
Doctor Who ate them, he pretended they were weapons against an enemy too in the popular cult TV show. Rowan Atkinson carried them in Johnny English Strikes Again, as disguised explosives. The Beatles were pelted with jelly babies, but most importantly Basil Brush considered them his favourite sweetie snack—and who could argue with a sitcom puppet fox?
by Donna Siggers and David Last