Hard-working dad who gave the world the Toffee Crisp

John Henderson died dec 2011
John Henderson died dec 2011

THE Halifax man credited with bringing the Toffee Crisp to the world has died aged 83.

John Henderson lived a full and varied life and was linked through marriage to the famous Mackintosh’s confectionery family.

He spent his last 55 years living in Halifax and was well known in business and social circles.

It was while working in the development department at Mackintosh’s, Halifax, that the idea for a treat of chocolate, puffed rice and toffee was born.

His late wife, Edith, used to bake crispy cakes for their children, Charles and Jill, and their friends.

She badgered her husband to try and use the ingredients in a chocolate bar and the idea was presented to the board at Mackintosh’s in the early 1960s.

During consultations it was decided to add toffee and a lot of work was needed to get the texture correct and adapt machinery for production.

“It was very tricky to get the toffee hard enough but not run off the edges,” said Jill.

“He was involved in all that. Mackintosh’s was at the forefront of developing a lot of confectionery in those days.”

Toffee Crisp was first produced in Halifax in 1963 and remains a favourite with millions of chocolate lovers. Adverts carried the famous strapline: “Somebody, somewhere, is eating a Toffee Crisp.”

Production was later transferred to Castleford and is now in the process of being moved to Newcastle by the company’s current owner, Nestle.

Mr Henderson joined Mackintosh’s in 1957 as a management trainee and also worked on the development of Mint Cracknell, Tooty Frooties and he established new Caramac manufacturing plants in New Zealand and Australia in the 1960s.

His grandfather worked as an accountant at Mackintosh’s and later as finance director based at Dublin. His wife was a sister of John Mackintosh.

Mr Henderson was raised in southern Ireland and graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Trinity College, Dublin.

His first employment was with the Irish Electricity Board, then Wimpey and McAlpine, building bridges, railway marshalling yards and dams in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

After his career at Mackintosh’s he was appointed managing director of Yorkshire Moulds (1982-1995) supplying plastic moulds to confectionery companies.

In 1983 he used his passion as a mapmaker to start Roadfinder Maps, publishing detailed postcode and street maps. It has since ceased trading.

His interests included travel and researching the history of lighthouses in Britain and Ireland.

He was heavily involved in the Calderdale community through Halifax Rotary, Loyal Georgians, Halifax Housing Association, Mackintosh Homes, the Waterhouse Trust, White Windows, Bradley Hall Golf Club, Halifax Thespians and Stafford Bowling Club.

His son Charles still lives in Halifax and Jill lives in Gloucestershire.

Jill said: “He lived life with a very strong moral compass, was extremely determined and a hard worker who lived life to the full and never wasted a day, ever, which is a lesson to us all.

“He was quite an inspiration and a well liked and respected gentleman.”

Mr Henderson was diagnosed with cancer in June. More than 130 people attended his funeral at Halifax Minster.