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John and Violet Mackintosh

The Alhambra theatre and concert hall, built in 1838

The big toffee and chocolate manufacturing firm, John Mackintosh and Son Ltd, which exports its delectable produce to countries in all parts of the world, began in a simple way when the young John Mackintosh and his wife Violet made the difficult decision to invest their hard-earned joint savings of ¬£100 in a pastry shop at King Cross. As a young woman Violet worked as a confectioner’s assistant. In the early years, Violet ran the shop whilst John worked in a cotton mill.

Whilst running the shop Violet developed a recipe that combined brittle English toffee and soft American caramel. The first batch of toffee was boiled by Violet in a brass pan over her kitchen fire. Violet and John named it ‘Mackintosh’s celebrated toffee’. It was immensely popular and allowed the business to expand to manufacture and wholesale. This was followed by a foray into the field of chocolate making that was equally successful and from then on the business continued to expand and to increase its profits. By 1914 they were employing over 1000 people.

Violet held the welfare of her employees in high regard. After John’s death, she built a number of almshouses, the John Mackintosh Memorial Homes in Savile Park.

Eventually John and Violet’s son, Harold Vincent, took over the running of the business with great success. In 1957 he was created Viscount Mackintosh for his work in promoting National Savings during World War 2. The firm was so well known that during the war William Joyce, known to the British as Lord Haw-Haw, referred to Halifax as a certain toffee town.

The firm eventually became Rowntree-Mackintosh, before being taken over by Nestlé.


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