The History of the Christmas Cracker

The History of the Christmas Cracker

For the UK, and a number of other countries across the globe – namely Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – Christmas crackers are as much a staple part of tradition as the tree or the turkey. It’s difficult to imagine the festive period without the snap of crackers round a table that then bestow upon us the questionably humorous jokes, the colourful paper hats and the little prizes.

So, where does this custom of present-filled, ‘cracking’ cardboard actually come from? To find out, we have to go all the way back to Victorian Britain. Tradition tells that in 1847, London confectioner Tom Smith decided to start adding mottos to his almond bon-bons after being inspired by brightly wrapped versions of the sweet he had seen in France. His initial concept was to wrap the sweets in a coloured paper twist and include a motto or a riddle for his customers to enjoy. These sold well around the festive period, but before long sales of the sweet started to dwindle and Smith found himself having to devise some new-fangled promotional ideas.

The first tactic of his was to capitalise on the idea of sweets as gifts, and so he started to include short love poems and messages in the wrappers of his confectionary. Next up, came the famous noise. Stories suggest that the idea for the ‘bang’ came to Smith one night as he was adding kindling to his fire. It’s said that when Smith added a large log to the flames, he was enticed by the crackles and sparks forming in the fireplace and thought how fun it would be if sweets or toys could make a noise when they opened.

To implement his new idea, Tom Smith started to produce a larger paper package that could incorporate an explosive element. Utilising the friction-activated chemical of silver fulminate, which was discovered by Edward Charles Howard in 1800, Smith had found himself a satisfying bang for his products.

The addition of the bang proved to be an instant success and sales came flooding in. With this rapidly growing popularity, the product was further developed and the bon-bon name was dropped in favour of a new title — The Cosaque. The sweets inside were also replaced with small gifts/presents. The name is believed to have come from the Cossack soldiers, who were notorious for their gun blazing horse riding.

Before long, the onomatopoeic name, ‘cracker’ became commonplace and the product became synonymous with the festive period for its small trinkets and novelty value.

Tom Smith sadly passed away in 1869, and the business was left in the ownership of his three sons, Henry, Tom and Walter. The next generation of the Smith family proceeded to transform the cracker into the modern equivalent of the product we know and love today. Walter Smith, Tom’s youngest, replaced the love verses with more topical notes, which then went on to become jokes and riddles as we are familiar with presently. It was also Walter’s idea to include the now customary paper crown hat, a choice some suggest was inspired by the Twelfth Night celebrations where a King or Queen would be present to oversee the festivities.

So there you go, the tale of the Christmas cracker all the way from sweets and love messages, to the noise-making cardboard tube we know today. As time has gone on, patterned designs have become popular, certain presents have become seemingly indispensible (nail clippers anyone?) and the jokes have inconceivably weathered the test of time. But, would we really have it any other way? After all, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a cracker would it?


CRACKERS IN NUMBERS

Crackers pulled a year in the UK

Longest cracker pulling chain in Barnes, London (10/12/15)

Average number of crackers pulled annually by each Briton



Churchill Autumn Additions Now In Our Showroom and Online!

Churchill Autumn Additions Now In Our Showroom and Online!

For many, autumn means brown leaves and shorter days. Despite this, there is some cheerfulness to be found because the change in the seasons has also signalled the release of Churchill’s new Autumn 17 range. Read on for the lowdown on these exciting new items!


In line with the continuing revival of studio pottery, the Raku collection celebrates the heritage of traditional glazing techniques. A stylish Agate Grey tone is the latest colour addition to this already popular collection. There is also a brand spanking new range of six oblong plates in three key sizes, and these are available in Topaz Blue and Quartz Black.

Raku Studio Prints Agate Grey

Find Raku Agate Grey Here!

Hints is an exciting new collection from the Stonecast range. The concept for the Hints range is motivated by those who like the rustic Stonecast look, but would prefer it with a splash of colour. Stonecast Hints is hand decorated with a fine coloured speckle, the same speckle colour is hand applied to the edge to create a stippled band, achieving a rustic finish.

The Bamboo range has been given a colourful twist with the arrival of two new feature colours – Dusk and Mist. The two tones are inspired by the shades of the landscape and they make exciting new complementary additions to this series of durable yet elegant tableware.

Cool Slate Blue is a new colour within the Homespun collection. This shade works to create a stunning dark canvas for showcasing a range of cuisines, and it is available in a range of core shapes and sizes to suit your dining needs. The Homespun design is essentially a blending of contemporary sophistication with fond nostalgia.

Homespun Slate Blue

View the extensive range!

The new additions to the Vintage Prints range are ideal to incorporate with the existing items in the range, to add colour and pattern to traditional whitewear or for mixing eclectically with Stonecast and Studio Prints collections. The trend for vintage chic is very much in the fashion spotlight and this range typifies this popular aesthetic.

Stonecast is an exciting collection of rustic and hand decorated products inspired by the changing seasons and fresh ingredients. Stonecast is hand decorated with a fine speckle and rustic edge in a rich golden brown. Bringing rustic charm to cookware, this range available in Barley White. The seven new cookware items are designed to complement all existing Stonecast ranges – HintsColours and Patina. They are also ideal for mixing and matching with other Churchill collections.

Stonecast Cookware

7 New Barley White Items Here!

From the Churchill Alchemy Buffet range comes Melamine Trace – a versatile, strong and practical collection of serving bowls that feature an alluring, rounded shape. This collection is based upon the twin combination of handsome aesthetics and trustable durability. The Melamine Trace comes in two distinct finishes. The matt white provides an understated-yet-stylish palette for exciting food presentation whereas the speckled granite grey finish makes for a contemporary take on the serving bowl.

Melamine Trace Bowls

Alchemy Additions Arrive!

These New Churchill Items Are Now On Display In The Stephenson’s Showroom!

Visit our Showroom

To see the new Churchill items!

Stephenson's Showroom

All of the new Autumn 17 Churchill items are available to view in our Stephenson’s showroom and one of our experienced advisors will be more than happy to show you the range and talk you through the best options and combinations to suit your needs. A visit to the largest cash & carry showroom in the North is more than worth your time!

We’re located on the A6 road and our address is:

Kennerley Works, 161 Buxton Rd, Stockport SK2 6EQ.

Our opening times are:

 

 

Opening Times:

Monday 9am – 5:30pm
Tuesday 9am – 5:30pm
Wednesday 9am – 5:30pm
Thursday 9am – 5:30pm
Friday 9am – 5:30pm
Saturday 9:30am – 3pm
Sunday Closed

 

 

 

Hiring: Customer Service Administrator (6 Month Contract)

Hiring: Customer Service Administrator (6 Month Contract)

With an illustrious history dating back to 1868, Stephensons have been supplying the catering and hospitality industry for almost 150 years.

Stephensons are renowned for their innovative, exciting products and are often first to market with the latest trends from leading suppliers such as Churchill, Dudson, Steelite, Villeroy & Boch, Duni and Artis.

Alongside tableware, Stephensons also supply back of house and capital equipment. The company invested in a demonstration kitchen in 2016 to replicate a commercial environment. With limited seating and an informal, friendly atmosphere, Stephensons host demonstrations from RATIONAL, Robot Coupe and other distinguished manufacturers.


Start Date

Immediate

k

Reports To

Customer Service Manager

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Working Hours

37.5 hours a week

 

p

Salary

15,000 pro rata


YOUR ROLE
Purpose of the Role

You will be support for the Customer Web Advisor to ensure orders are placed on the system correctly and any products not in stock are chased and Customers kept up to date.

You may also be required to answer the phones, direct calls coming to the correct department and to take details of customer requirements for our team of Customer Service Advisors.

Other Duties
  • Entering all Customer orders onto the system and try to ensure that the customer has ordered the correct products and orders are entered accurately first time.
  • With the support of the Customer Services team and prioritising weekly, hourly times to be on the phone and carrying out other duties.
  • Chasing up of orders during low call periods
  • Updating your customers with regard to back orders on a frequent basis so that all Customers have received a progress up date with regards to their order within the week of it being ordered.
  • Supporting Sample requests and coordination.
Key Personal Behaviours
  • Understanding & Self Motivated
  • Getting things done – Quickly with high accuracy
  • Working with others – Supporting team cover
Skills, Knowledge & Experience
  • Computer literate – Excel/ Word
  • Confident & clear telephone manner
Benefits
  • Staff discount in cash and carry
  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Opportunities for progression
  • Supportive working environment

Up to the job? We are accepting applicants of all skill levels.

Send your CV to our HR Manager: clairh@stephensons.com

Hiring: Purchasing Assistant (Maternity Cover)

Hiring: Purchasing Assistant (Maternity Cover)

With an illustrious history dating back to 1868, Stephensons have been supplying the catering and hospitality industry for almost 150 years.

Stephensons are renowned for their innovative, exciting products and are often first to market with the latest trends from leading suppliers such as Churchill, Dudson, Steelite, Villeroy & Boch, Duni and Artis.

Alongside tableware, Stephensons also supply back of house and capital equipment. The company invested in a demonstration kitchen in 2016 to replicate a commercial environment. With limited seating and an informal, friendly atmosphere, Stephensons host demonstrations from RATIONAL, Robot Coupe and other distinguished manufacturers.


Start Date

Immediate (9-12 month position)

k

Reports To

Purchasing Manager

}

Working Hours

38.25 hours a week

Plus 1 in 6 Saturdays

p

Salary

We offer a competitive salary.

Details upon application.

 


YOUR ROLE

Reporting to the purchasing manager and working as part of a small team of three you will be responsible for the following;

Key Responsibilities
  • Understanding product specifications and sourcing products for Customers and our team of Representatives
  • Processing requests and placing orders with suppliers
  • Assisting the customer service team with queries for information and delivery dates accurately and in a timely manner
  • Responsible for maintaining and updating data in our internal system relating to price and producing reports on for example, lead time,  order quantities, order confirmations and delivery dates
  • Maintain and update accurate supplier details
  • Maintaining the cost and pricing database
  • Liaising with the Warehouse to solve delivery queries and issues
  • Liaising with the Warehouse to ensure they are aware of large deliveries so that these can be planned for
  • Creation and management of spread sheets to control the purchasing process
  • Assist with the ordering and confirming of sales samples required by our sales force
  • Monitoring and forecasting stock levels
  • Researching and finding new products and suppliers
  • Negotiating prices and agreeing contracts
  • Keeping up to date with market trends
Key Personal Behaviours
  • Understanding & Self Motivated
  • Getting things done – planning & organizing
  • Working with others
  • Developing self
Skills, Knowledge & Experience
  • Experience in the Catering industry desirable but not essential
  • Strong Customer Services leadership experience
  • Advanced Excel skills
  • A high level of numeracy
  • Product, Process & Operational Knowledge

Up to the job? We are accepting applicants of all skill levels.

Send your CV to our HR Manager: clairh@stephensons.com

Victorinox: The Cutting Edge of Kitchen Knives

Victorinox: The Cutting Edge of Kitchen Knives

Victorinox is renowned the world over for its craftsmanship. The companies’ quartet tagline of ‘Quality’, ‘Functionality’, ‘Innovation’ and ‘Design’ has spurred their business ethic for the past 130 years and with such a committed focus to fashioning perfect blades, it’s no wonder that the original Swiss army knife was a Victorinox invention.

Today, Victorinox are still known for their nifty multi-tool, but they’ve also gained a significant reputation for professional and commercial knives that has made them a favourite of expert chefs and home kitchen cooks alike.

Recently here at Stephensons, we were given a demonstration and talk by Victorinox employee & fourth generation butcher, Martin Schnellmann, who travelled all the way from Switzerland to Stockport to impart his knife-based knowledge and let us know why Victorinox is a cut above the rest… Sorry.


Why Do The Pros Choose Victorinox?

One of the first things Martin chose to emphasise was the continued use of Victorinox products by professional chefs. According to Martin, it’s the combination of “unique by-hand sharpening, hardening and polishing” as well as “the laser tested cutting angles” that make these Victorinox knives firm favourites. One major way that Victorinox ensures superior quality over competitors is through an on-site laboratory that tests products for durability, endurance and quality. Martin highlighted some key statistics from the lab that reflect this superiority:

%

Sharper than competitors

%

Longer lifespan

Competitors knives need sharpening more often

%

Cost-per-cut reduced by

Some other interesting facts:
  • Victorinox produces 160,000 knives every day
  • Because the knives stay sharper for longer, there is reduced risk of hand and wrist fatigue
  • 26 million knives a year come from Ibach HQ in Switzerland
  • Founded 133 years ago, Victorinox is still run today by the Elsner family

Top Tips
As a fourth generation butcher and a representative for Victorinox, Martin Schnellmann knows his knives. We asked him for some advice to give you the cutting edge in the kitchen. Click through the tabs below to read what he said: 
“A knife is a helper, not a weapon. A sharp knife won’t require too much strain to use, meaning you can handle it with calmness and precision. Choosing a good handle will help too. A fibrox handle has the benefits of non-slip safety, whereas a rosewood handle will over time adapt and form to fit the hand”
“If you’re using your knives a lot, obviously they need to be a sharp. As a butcher, we sharpen as often as once an hour during heavy usage times. If using a sharpening rod, a few swipes at a 20° angle will work to hone the blade.”
“If you want to be know how to really use a blade to its maximum potential, practice really does make perfect. Test different knives on different products and find out what works for you. You may find that something like a pastry knife is actually great for large fruits such as watermelon.”

“If you’re looking for an all-rounder in the kitchen, stick to the smaller knives such as the Santoku or chef variations. These are made to handle a wide range of tasks and are probably the easiest to master quickly.”

“If you’re going to be using a knife frequently and every day, getting to grips with a large knife is recommended. Make this knife your best friend and learn its intricacies. You will be rewarded.”

We couldn’t let Martin go without asking him what his favourite knife to use was, and his answer may surprise some…

“For me, it’s the pastry knife. I find it stays sharper longer, has a nice weight and the wavy edge always gives a satisfying cut. I’ve had my pastry knife for 20 years now and it’s still as good as it was the day I got it!”

Martin Schnellmann

4th Generation Butcher & Commercial Cutlery Sales Manager, Victorinox


Victorinox Pastry Knife

  • No-slip fibrox handle
  • Tempered steel
  • Retains sharpness for longer
  • Versatile and trustworthy
  • Serrated edge
  • 10″ / 26cm
Buy Martin's Favourite Knife Now