On point: Edward Sharp & Sons of Maidstone

Edward Sharp & Sons became the largest toffee manufacturer in the world.

Edward Sharp (1854 – 1931) was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of a paper factory manager. He was educated at the local grammar school. He was a dedicated Congregationalist.

Sharp established a grocery business on Week Street, Maidstone. He began to sell homemade sweets in his shop from 1878, principally toffee and nougat. He employed one man and one boy by 1881.

The confectionery sideline was to prosper, and Sharp had divested his grocery business by 1898 and established a dedicated factory in a former roller skating rink on Sandling Road, Maidstone.

From the turn of the century, Kreemy Toffee secured the business a nationwide reputation. A new factory, the Kreemy Works, was established at St Peter’s Street, Maidstone, from 1912.

Sharp’s success was credited to improved methods of manufacture, careful advertising and a national increase in toffee sales during and after the First World War. The business claimed to be the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1922, and Sharp was made a baronet.

An illustrated Sharps toffee tin

Sharp’s wife died in 1925, and to widespread surprise, he married his secretary when he was 74 years old in 1928. He died in 1931 and left an estate valued at £156,367.

Sharp’s sons Herbert Edward Sharp (1879 – 1936) and Wilfred James Sharp (1880 – 1945) became joint-managing directors of the company.

Edward Sharp & Sons toffee sales continued to grow, and it was the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1933. The company owed its success to heavy advertising and a quality product.

H E Sharp died in 1936 and left an estate valued at £79,943. W J Sharp died in 1945 and left an estate valued at £194,219. The grandsons of the founder became joint-managing directors.

Employees could consume as much confectionery as they could eat on the premises, but were not permitted to take produce home.

During the Second World War and up to the 1950s, restricted supplies of raw materials forced Sharps to concentrate on the export trade.

Sharps was one of the foremost confectionery manufacturers in Britain in 1951. The factory could produce 600 wrapped sweets a minute. By this time the highest selling product was Super Kreem toffee.

Sugar rationing ended in 1953, and butter rationing ended in 1954. To cope with increasing sales, 24 hour production was introduced, and 350 men were employed on the night shift alone by 1954.

Edward Sharp & Sons was acquired by Trebor, a privately-owned London confectionery manufacturer, in 1961. The sales forces were merged in 1968, and the company became known as Trebor Sharp.

Trebor Sharp was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

Sharps toffee was discontinued in 1998.

The Maidstone factory was closed as part of an efficiency drive, with the loss of over 300 jobs in 2000. The factory had produced Softmints, toffee and fudge. Production was relocated to Chesterfield and Sheffield. The factory was demolished to make way for housing in 2002.

The brand was relaunched as Sharps of York in 2004. The Sharps brand was acquired by Tangerine Confectionery in 2008. The Sharps brand had been quietly dropped by 2016.

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16 thoughts on “On point: Edward Sharp & Sons of Maidstone”

  1. I would like to send a photo to see if worth anything. I am not able to attach the photo.
    Can you advise?

  2. I work there from 1961 to 67 on the toffee macince an the creamy toffees I left to have my first baby,then two later returned to the night shift

  3. I have a tin made by Edward Sharp & Sons of Maidstone Kent, featuring 3 kittens in a basket. Could you provide a date for me as to manufacture.
    I’ve tried to attach photo without success

  4. We have a tin box of toffee with a picture of the Château Frontenac in Québec City, dating probably in the 1930.

  5. I have an old toffee tin with a picture of a Native American wearing a headdress, beaded gloves , carrying a pipe, I think the picture is the famous Grey Owl otherwise known as the British born Archibold Belaney , he was over in England in the 20s and 30s , I have a picture of the Tin but unable to attach a picture, do you have records that the image is the individual I have named, or can tell me anything more on it, hope you can help Mark.

  6. My Grandmother Daisy Peverley’s Cousin was Winifred Peverley who Married Sir Herbert Sharp. My Gran used to Receive a Lovely Tin of Toffees every Christmas from the Family.

        1. I used to keep all my Dinky Toys in those Tins to play with when i visited my Grandmother Daisy. I think they all ended up going into the Jumble Sale.

          1. My Mother Joan does not remember her Great Cousin Winifred Sharp now at the age of 93yrs with Dementia.

  7. I have the same kitten tin that’s listed here. My great Uncle gave it to me when I was a child. I’ve carried it all over the world with me, so I was surprised when I saw the image here.

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