George Romney Ltd is a fourth-generation confectionery business that you’ll find located on the edge of the Lake District National Park in the market town of Kendal.
Mr Sam. T. Clarke, the great grandfather of the present Managing Director, Mr John Barron, started production of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake in 1918 after being medically discharged during the First World War.
Unable to obtain supplies of Kendal Mint Cake, he sought out and purchased an old recipe and started a confectionery manufacturing business.
The company name ‘George Romney Ltd.’ was chosen as a result of Kendal’s association with the famous portrait painter, as well as the fact that the family home was on Romney Road.
Romney's Kendal Mint Cake was immortalised in history on May 29th 1953 when it was carried on the first successful summit of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
All of our production now takes place on-site at Mintsfeet Industrial Estate, Kendal, where we have been since 1969. We now employ 19 members of full and part-time staff, who collectively produce over 100 tonnes of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake a year. We also produce a large range of fudge, gift hampers, and our very own Old Fashioned Treacle Toffee — that’s still being made to an original family recipe.
Kendal Mint Cake is made up of four simple ingredients: sugar, glucose, water and peppermint oil.
The sugar, glucose and water are mixed together and boiled to a very high temperature (115ºc). This mixture is then poured out evenly into copper pans.
We then add peppermint oil and the “graining” process begins, we won’t reveal exactly how this is achieved as it is (for good reason) a family secret and ensures the mixture sets hard in the signature way that you’ve come to know and love.
Joseph Wiper is said to have produced the first batch of Kendal Mint Cake by mistake in 1869. While making a batch of clear mints he took his eye off the pan and the mixture had become cloudy… and so Kendal Mint Cake was born.
THE ORIGINAL ENERGY BAR
During its rise in popularity, Kendal Mint Cake was seen as a great energy source that would remain stable in extreme conditions.
Kendal Mint Cake became a staple of many early 20th century expeditions, including the first-ever land crossing of the Antarctic led by Sir Ernest Shackleton between 1914-1917.
Although the land crossing was unsuccessful on this occasion, it was still recognised (quite rightly) as a major feat of perseverance and endurance, setting the stage for even greater adventurous feats in the years to come.
Thankfully… this was not the end of such adventures with Kendal Mint Cake.
George Romney's opens
George Romney first produced
Kendal Mint Cake in 1918 and was founded by Sam T Clark. Unable to get Kendal
Mint Cake in the south, he bought an old recipe and started business in
Leighton’s Yard, Highgate. The company name came from the famous 18th-century
artist that had lived in the Cumbrian town of Kendal. Sam T Clark lived on
Romney Road which was named after the famous artist.
The George Romney Team
The Romney’s team pictured
outside the old factory located at Highgate, Kendal. On the right of the group
is a young Malcolm Robinson who would go on to become a stalwart of the company.
A MOUNTAINOUS ORDER
On the 27th
November 1952, Romney’s would receive a letter from the British Mountain
Everest Expedition 1953 team, that would change the course of the company’s
history. It read:
I wonder whether your firm would like to help us by supplying some provisions
either free or at a reduced price if possible, perhaps on an advertising basis?
Our requirements are as follows:
Kendal Mint Cake (Brown variety) – 38lbs approx.
Experience has shown this to be an excellent special high altitude food.
We would like to incorporate it in the special high altitude ration in the form
of bars the same we require 300 such bars. A firm has offered to pack them for
us in the high altitude ration if we can provide them notice by 1st
December 1652. I’m afraid this is extremely short notice for you but we would
be very grateful for your help. If you do not make them in the 2oz. size then
perhaps our packing firm could break down a larger packet (say 8oz. size) into
multiples of the required 2oz. size.
If you are able, would you please send the Mint Cake to our packers and
the bill to me.
Packers – Wilts. United Dairies Ltd.
(Everest Goods: for the attention of Mr Taunton) Wells, Somerset.
I should be grateful if you could send me a small sample as I have never
myself had the pleasure of tasting your product.
Expedition Member (provisions)”
Romney’s jumped at the idea of being part of such a prestigious
expedition and agreed to provide the required Brown Kendal Mint Cake bars free
of charge. Production of the Kendal Mint Cake bars would have to wait though,
as Romney’s did not have the means to obtain enough ingredients for the order
due to ongoing rationing within the UK following the second World War.
3rd December 1952, Romney’s received a letter from the
Ministry of Food titled ‘Food Rationing and Controlling Orders Made Under the
Defence (General) Regulations, 1939’. It read:
“Pursuant to the above order, the Minister of Food authorizes Messrs.
George Romney, Ltd., 53 Highgate, Kendal, Westmorland to supply, and Mr. G. C.
Band, British Mount Everest Expedition, 1953, Westmorland to obtain, the goods
specified in the schedule below. This authority is subject to the condition
that the goods are used solely for the purpose of victualling the British Mount
Everest Expedition, 1953.
For and on behalf of the Minister of Food.”
With permission now granted by the Ministry of Food, The Romney’s team
began producing the 300 Brown Kendal Mint Cake bars require for the expedition.
The former managing director of Romney’s and third generation owner, Shane
Barron, grandson of Samuel Thomas Clarke, remembers as a ten-year-old boy
packing the specially made Mint Cake. It had to be made in small tablets that
were then sealed in tins and packed into tea chests.
“I was small and was one of the very few people who could get into the
tea chests to pack the sweets. I also got some pocket money for helping”, said Mr. Barron.
3rd December, 1952 Romneys received a letter from Wilts
United Dairies Ltd confirming that the 300 bars of Romney’s Brown Kendal Mint
Cake had been delivered. It Read:
This is to acknowledge your letter of the 29th ult. and to
inform you that we have safely received the 300 tablets of Kendal Mint Cake for
inclusion in the high altitude ration for the Mount Everest Expedition, 1953.
Thanking you for the prompt delivery of this consignment which has been
of the greatest assistance to us.
Yours faithfully, Wilts United Dairies Limited. (G. Taunton)”
MOUNT EVEREST FINALLY CONQUERED
At 11.30 am on the 29th
May 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from the British Mount
Everest Expedition finally reached the summit and became the first people ever
to have conquered the Earth’s highest mountain.
With regards to the Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake
they had taken with them, a member of the team wrote:
“It was easily the most popular item in our
high altitude ration packs – our only criticism is that we did not have enough
Shane Barron recalls the moment the Romney’s
team found out that the expedition was a success.
“I remember it was Coronation Day that we
heard that they had made it to the top. We were watching the Coronation on a TV
we had just bought second hand for the occasion.
When the news came through my grandfather was
over the moon, especially by the fact that Edmund Hillary had actually eaten
Mint Cake on the summit. He complained because he hadn’t been able to take
enough with him to the top.”
In July 1953, national newspapers ran front
cover stories about the successful expedition, with Romney’s featuring an
advert in the Times reading:
“Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake
300 small tablets of Romney’s Mint Cake were
included in the high altitude pack of the Mount Everest Expedition, 1953.
Supplied also to the Oxford University West
Spitzbergen Expedition, 1953, and to the University of Nottingham South-East
Iceland (Vatra Jokull Ice Cap) Expedition, 1953.”
After the successful expedition, Hillary said
to a national newspaper, ‘On the summit Tenzing embraced me – we nibbled Kendal
Did you know?
When making the push for the summit of Mt
Everest, a climber will burn on average 20,000 calories a day, as well as
10,000 calories a day for the rest of the climb.
That kind of endeavour requires quite a few bars of
Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake…
A year after the success of the Everest Expedition, Romney’s Kendal Mint
Cake was assisting with more exploration across the globe, including The
Kangchenjunga Reconnaissance, 1954. Romney’s received a letter on 12th
December, 1954 from S.R. Jackson, the most experience rock climber in the
party. It read:
Now that we have returned from the Reconnaissance it is with a good deal
of pleasure that I write to thank you for the Kendal Mint Cake which you so
kindly provided to the Expedition.
Your Mint Cake was extremely good and I can assure you it was enjoyed by
every member of the party. We did not of course take any other Mint Cake but
your own, but it may interest you to know that a few bars of another make were
given to us out of the supplies of another expedition we met. You will be
gratified to know that your manufacture was easily top favourite, not only
because of its flavour but also because of its consistency and right degree of
It may interest you to know we were successful in pioneering what we
consider to be a feasible route, and that our exploration and experience should
provide valuable information to future expeditions.
Formal thanks and acknowledgements will appear in the expedition book
which should be published next year.
Yours faithfully, S. R. Jackson.”
A SWEET FAREWELL
The longest serving employee at Romney’s Mint Cake works in Kendal
retired – saying he had enjoyed every minute of his 44 years with the firm. Mr.
Herbet Hutton, who joined the firm when it was still known as Sam Clark’s.
Since starting as an apprentice to the grocery trade he had a variety of jobs
including salesman and representative.
At a presentation, he was given cards and a garden seat from the other
“There was never a day when he did not come in full of vim and vigour”, said Mrs. Sylvia Barron, daughter of the firm’s original founder.
A NEW HOME
In 1969 Romney’s Factory moved from its home on Highgate, Kendal to a
larger site based on Mintsfeet Industrial estate. The industrial estate was
named after the River Mint that runs around the back of it. The mint connection
is entirely coincidental, but we like to think it was meant to be!
The Mint Cake Tea Party
The only hitch in the confection’s history came in 1970 when Romney’s
launched Mint Cake on the U.S. market. It seems that our transatlantic
neighbours had some trouble grasping the concept of a cake that was not
strictly speaking a cake.
Their complaint was that it was not flour based
and as such they wanted to call it Kendal Mint Candy. When a shipment arrived
in New York they refused to allow it into the country and it ended up in the
sea, - an incident which is referred to as the Mint Cake Tea Party
The 3rd Generation
Shane Barron (right) took over as Managing Director in 1974, after a successful early career in the catering trade. His brother, Steven Barron (left), joined the family business several years later.
The brothers worked together to establish a compact production unit within their wholesale premises, marketing their product throughout the lake counties and exporting bi-annually to America.
FROM ICELAND TO SINGAPORE
Romney’s continued to receive letters from across the world, thanking
the business for their products assistance during expeditions. The BSAC Iceland
expedition of 1981 sent a postcard stating ‘Expedition a success, many thanks
for your help’.
On the 11th November 1981 Romney’s received a letter from
I always take a quantity of your excellent Kendal Mint Cake on my
mountaineering excursions and I really enjoy reading on the packet the details
of the many expeditions that have used your Mint Cake over the years.
In case it is your intention to up-date the list one of these days, I
would like to advise you that my group, Singapore Hash House Harriers, ate part
of a Kendal Mint Cake on the summit of the Himalayan Peak – Pisang, 20,056 feet
after our ascent on the 25th October 1981. Pisang, which is in the
Manang Valley close to the Annapurna range, is not a particularly formidable
peak, but then my group are not really young tigers. As climbing leader, we had
Pertemba Sherpa (Everest 1975, 1979), who, of course, is a real mountaineer.
I thought this information might be of interest to you.
Yours sincerely,C N Watson”.
THE PURCHASE OF WIPER'S
Mr. Harry Wiper was the last owner of Wiper’s,
he was left in charge of the firm when his father died in 1960. In 1987 the
firm was sold to Romney’s who still use the Wipers name and method of
production to this very day.
THE 4TH GENERATION
In 1993, John Barron, great grandson of Samuel T Clark, started working
at the Romney’s factory. He became the forth generation of the family to work
within the factory under the leadership of his father, Shane Barron.
"IT'S CLIMBED EVERY MOUNTAIN"
49 years after the first successful summit of Mount Everest, The Times
Newspaper ran an article on Kendal Mint Cake with the headline:
‘It’s climbed every mountain. Sandra Lawrence sings the praises of
Kendal Mint Cake’.
The article read:
“My parents brought it in a climbing equipment suppliers one holiday in
Cumbria and I remember even as a child being struck by the wrapper. The white
paper with its spidery blue writing, scenes from the lakes and recommendation
by explorer Sir Edmund Hillary was so classy and British.
Inside the milky-white tablet glittering with sugar crystals defied all
efforts to break into it. My younger sisters, as yet unencumbered by any teeth
at all, had chosen the pale brown version and just sucked away contentedly
until the whole thing was a soggy mass.
Years later, I am delighted to find that George Romney’s Kendal Mint
Cake still has that wrapper, albeit in plastic these days, though thankfully,
the boiling temperature has been lowered, thus producing a slightly softer
product. ‘We’ve never changed the wrapper in well over 50 years”, says Shane
Barron, managing director of Romney’s.
“Other companies have increased the size but not
the weight of the bar, and created modern wrappers, but we have stayed with our
traditional product”. The company still uses the copper pots that Barron’s
great grandfather used and still stirs the mixture by hand.
FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
After twenty years of working in the factory, John Barron took the
reigns and became Romney’s Managing Director after his father, Shane Barron,
took a reduced role within the business.
KENDALL MINT CAKE
It was a brilliant collaboration that nobody saw coming (which is probably why it
had so much fantastic publicity!). Romney’s produced a limited edition ‘Kendall
Mint Cake’ to mark the 21st birthday
of US celebrity, Kendall Jenner.
Around 200 limited edition packages of the special birthday cakes were given away by
online fashion retailer Lyst’s social media channels and one contained a golden
ticket for some of the celebrity’s favourite items.
Kendall Jenner is best known for appearing on Keeping Up With The Kardashians as Kim
Kardashian’s half-sister, and is one of the top 10 most-followed celebrities on
Instagram. In the first packaging redesign for more than a hundred years,
Lyst’s Kendall Mint Cake features Jenner and her ‘squad’, including friends
Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and sister Kylie Jenner.
Paula Barron, director of George Romney, said: “When Lyst first approached us with
the idea of a special ‘Kendall’ Mint Cake, we were intrigued. Why not give our
iconic packaging a 21st century update for her 21st birthday?
“We love the quirky finished product, and hope
that maybe it will inspire Kendall to one day visit the beautiful town of
Kendal and the Lake District.”
A ROMNEY'S LEGEND RETIRES
After 65 years of managing Romney’s warehouse, Malcolm Robinson retired
at the age of 80. Mal started working for the company in
1955 at the age of 15 and has worked for all four generations of the family! ‘He
has been an integral part of Romney's success over the years and was a true
pleasure to work with’ – John Barron, Romney’s Managing Director.
Whilst one key member of
the Romney’s workforce had retired, the next generation was starting to emerge
as Max Barron began full time work within the factory. John Barron expressed
delight that his son has followed in the family footsteps and became the 5th
generation family member to work at the business.