Wigan Mint Ball manufacturer celebrates 125 years with a VIP visit and robots!

Wigan’s famous sweet firm began anniversary celebrations with a mayoral visit, cute robots and talk of moving home.

The borough’s first citizen Coun Marie Morgan was given a VIP tour of the Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball factory on Dorning Street as a year of festivities marking 125 years of Wm Santus and Co began.

Also on display were some statuettes called Woah Botz made by American fan of the confectionary, Jeremy Wilken, who used the company’s various tin cans for his creations.

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And co-director John Winnard mused about the possibility that the premises – which were opened in 1919 – might be past their sell-by date and it was time for a move.​

Uncle Joe's Mint Ball tins have been made into artwork, Woah Botz, multi-media robot sculptures created from recycled, reused and repurposed materials, created by an artist in America.

Mint Balls were first made in 1898 from Ellen Santus’s kitchen in Swinley and have become an institution since with sales all over the world.

The company has diversified into other products but its techniques and recipes remain defiantly old school. But what of the place where they are made?

Mr Winnard said: “The factory was purpose-built 104 years ago but times have changed and now we have big artics outside picking up the pallets.

"When it rains in a particular way, we have buckets on the floor to catch the leaks and you think that if we were starting out now, we wouldn’t be building our factory here.

The Mayor of Wigan Coun Marie Morgan, centre, with John Winnard, left, and Antony Winnard, right, joint managing directors.

"But people also remind us that our old-fashioned factory is one of our calling cards and it would be such a wrench to go somewhere else. This is something that has been under discussion for a number of years now.”

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Molten Mint Balls
Antony Winnard shows the Mayor of Wigan, Coun Marie Morgan, around the Uncle Joe's Mint Ball factory.