‘Summers have changed beyond belief’ - What’s it like to work at Yarmouth’s famous rock shop?
- Credit: Archant
Great Yarmouth really comes to life in summer. In the fourth of a series looking at what makes the town tick during its busiest period, Daniel Hickey spoke to staff at a Regent Road landmark.
The Docwra rock shop and factory in Great Yarmouth were part of Terry Carpenter's youth.
Every summer his family visited the seaside town, where they had a caravan on South Denes.
"We were always in the shop, always up and down Regent Road," he says.
But did he ever imagine he would one day be the man who makes the rock?
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"I started with the seasonal staff," Mr Carpenter, 39, says, "and worked my way up."
He learned the trade from the previous rock maker, who retired five years ago.
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Making the sticks involves a two-to-one mix of sugar and glucose boiled to nearly 150 degrees then poured on water-cooled steel plates.
Coloured elements are created using food colouring.
In its 1950s and 60s heyday, the factory, which had 140 workers, was making 120,000 sticks of rock for resorts across East Anglia and other parts of the UK.
It now produces 25,000 sticks a week from its Regent Road site, which is open all year round but over the six weeks of the busy summer season employs between five and six extra staff.
Janet Docwra, the shop's manager, says the summers have changed "beyond belief".
"They are nowhere near as busy," she says.
Along one wall of the shop, now mounted by shelves stacked with chocolate and rock, there used to be five tills, with another three tills in another corner, and assistants behind each of them, and each of the tills ringing from morning until night.
John Burnham, 43, makes the chocolate.
He has worked in the factory for 16 years, and like Mr Carpenter started out as a member of the seasonal staff, what started out as a summer job turning into a career.
"I was on the tills first, doing retail jobs, and got moved over here about four years ago," he says.
Learning how to make the chocolate, a process dependent on the strict regulation of temperatures, took Mr Burnham one season.
"It's a lot busier during the summer but not as busy as years ago, we're probably about half as busy, but it is constant," Mr Burnham says.