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Redcar Rock Shop

John Robert Jenny’s Rock Shop is one of the most well-known staples of the Redcar Esplanade, having served the locals and tourists of Redcar for over 50 years.

A sign for the Redcar Rock Shop. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

Did you know that one of Redcar’s most well-known Rock Shops first began in Middlesbrough? John Robert Jenny first started out as an assistant to a clothier before moving into confectionary and opening his sweet shop in the town in 1930. Five years later he decided to move his premises to Redcar. Five years later he decided to move his premises to Redcar, probably because the seaside town was a popular destination for tourists.

The Redcar Rock Shop as it used to look in the 1950s. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

From 1846, when the railway was extended between Middlesbrough and Redcar, the small coastal town went quickly from a local fishing community to a popular beach destination. Redcar was popular with both people from the Teesside area and holidaymakers from across the country, and the busiest times was during Easter and the months of June, July and August. It may seem unusual today, but these were also the only times John opened his Rock Shop to the public and kept the premises closed for the rest of the year.

Catering to the crowds of tourists and day-trippers may have been lucrative for John, but his trade started to hit rough times with the outbreak of the Second World War. On top of the disappearance of the holidaymakers, Redcar was restricted to allowing only essential tradespeople to enter and John lost a lot of his customer-base. He was also only allowed to make smaller amounts of sweets due to government rationing. Despite these difficulties the Rock Shop managed to stay in business after the end of the War.

By the late 1940s John had retired and left the business to his daughter and her husband, Fred Harrison, to run. From this point onwards the Shop’s fortunes began to flourish. Cars were becoming affordable at the time and as a result more people coming to Redcar outside of holiday times. The Harrisons began opening the shop all year round to cater to a new larger customer base.

The Harrisons making Rock in the Shop while their customers watched. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.

The Harrisons made most of their sweets on-site, especially their iconic Rock. They kept hand-written recipes in well-worn notebooks and drew out methods of how to make certain patterns in Rock. They also had a five-sided turning sign outside which amusingly advertised that visitors could ‘Sea it Made’. Their sweets also came in a range of sea-themed shapes, from small sweets shaped like shrimps to large Kipper-shaped candies.

The Rock Shop closed in 1987 when Fred Harrison retired. The entire contents of the shop were acquired by Kirkleatham Museum a couple of years later. This included all the jars, sweet-making implements and moulds, recipe books and the five-sided ‘Sea it Made’ sign.

The ‘Sea it Made’ sign on display along with a selection of the Shop’s sweet-making instruments. Image courtesy of Kirkleatham Museum and Grounds.