The Mertons, an old landed Devonshire family, according to papers found in the family archives, held the secrets of the treacle miners of TAMERTON. Two outcrops of theriaciferous rock can be found at Tamerton near Plymouth and Dunchideock near Exeter. Each mine had its own method of extracting the treacle from the ground. The Tamerton miners used the gravitational drip process - and name it "Royal Twelve" (it was allowed to mature for twelve years). At Dunchideock treacle-bearing matter is detected nowadays by its fluorescence under ultraviolet illumination. It is, crushed, ground and extracted with various organic solvents, then concentrated by vacuum distillation. The resulting heavy liquor is layered into wooden vats, sealed and left to mature for up to 10 years. It is at this stage that the distinctive flavour of Dunchideock treacle emerges. After maturation, batches are usually blended to give added smoothness of taste. Tamerton Treacle and Dunchideock Treacle have to be tasted to appreciate the difference.


Tamerton Treacle was popular in America, where it was used in the making of Brooklyn Fudge. Locally - "thunder and lightning" was very popular; the secret was the mixing of Tamerton treacle with equal portions of whisky or cider. The German visitors on tasting it exclaimed "Donnerundblitzen!!" Children sampled their own treat of "Thunder and Lightning" by spreading a "real layer of Devonshire cream on bread and allowing the treacle to drip slowly on it". It was spread over the slice of bread with a warm non metallic knife.


All the details of the discovery of the original find by Zacchariah Rose of the theriaciferous rock at Tamerton and the escapades and romantic life of the famous Lady Tamerton, the beauty of the Court and paramour of Charles II, can be read in the book by Mervyn Madge - "The Tamerton Treacle Mines and other tales of Cornwall and the West Country published by Marshalle Publications, Chelfam House, Saltburn Road, St Budeaux, Plymouth, Devon PL5 IPB.


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