The lives of those in the chocolate and confectionery industry in north west Victoria over the centuries were not all sweetness and light. Using collections in the Bendigo Regional Archive Centre (BRAC) and broader Public Records of Victoria (PROV) catalogue, Such Sweet Sorrow, which runs from the 8th to the 28th of July at the Bendigo Library, “explores the tragic, mysterious, scandalous and dark human stories connected to chocolate and confectionery across Bendigo, Mildura, Castlemaine, Chewton, Echuca and more.”

The first newspaper reference to ‘confectioners’ in the region was in 1854, regarding Robertson & Lloyd, who operated from Wesley Hill in Forest Creek (near Castlemaine), supplying stores with ‘all kinds of boiled sugar, biscuits and gingerbread on the shortest notice’. Later, the goldfields filled with confectionery, as well as all kinds of confectionery-related intrigue.

As the exhibition and its catalogue explore, brands unique to the north west of Victoria included the Good Little Normey (with a story filed under Desperation), Kiss-Me-Quicks, Ball’s Everton Toffee, Tryambro, Toffee Jumbos (see Family Tragedy), Cupidas and Whispers, while local factories produced their own ‘fresh, pure’ varieties of chocolate novelties, caramels, jubes, wrapped coconut ice, eucalyptus drops, almond rock and sherbet. Such Sweet Sorrow offers tales of poison, tragedy and depravity to go with the sugar and spice…as well as some tales that focus on the the ‘lighter side’ of history.

The exhibition opened with a celebration of International Chocolate Week and included delicious tastings from local chocolatiers Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolate and Choclatiste, as well as presentations exploring the (sugar) highs and lows of sweets, lollies, chocolates – you name it! – and celebrating our region’s delicious history of creativity and manufacturing.

Explore the stories through the BRAC website HERE or visit the exhibition at Bendigo Library, First Floor, 251 – 259 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo.