In the summer of 1939 clouds were gathering over Europe but the people of Wymsey were preoccupied with a more parochial looming disaster - the closure of the Wymsey Treacle Mine. Treacle had been mined in Wymsey long before the Romans occupied Watchester (Cystcentum) in AD66. A mosaic temple floor found at Sylvestum, north of Watchester, depicts the mining process as practised in Roman Britain.
Wymsey Treacle was long valued for it's effects, consistency and colour. Artifacts uncovered in, and around, the mine point to continuous exploitation since neolithic times. In the middle ages the raw product was valued by alchemists who believed that it was manna that God had hidden in the centre of the earth for the use of cherubim and seraphim when visiting earth. Pseudo Colonius Pollinius states, in his 1513 treatise Sticusium Malpropitum, "be it of the beste be it from Wymsea".
William Cobbet visited Wymsey in 1816 and comments in Rural Rides, "This place I found to be a fair and healthy place, the women and children well fed and happy. Most menfolk were at work upon the Land but that evening in the excellent Crown & Thorns inn I was surpassingly surprised to see many men brown of hue. On enquiry I determined that these were miners of Treacle and what a jolly crew they turned out to be. That night I repaired to my bed thanking our maker that there was at least one happy parish in the land."
Nearer our own times, pots and pots of Wymsey Treacle were delivered to Queen Victoria in an attempt to stop her perpetual mourning for Prince Albert and it is reported that it was after supping on the treacle that she decided to have a Great Exhibition.
The Great Depression led to a fall in world demand for natural treacle and the development of mechanised molasses mining contributed to the downfall of the industry. Whilst in 1838 the Wymsey Mining Company employed 156 men and 3 boys by 1938 the mine was down to two employees.
Today little remains of the surface workings and the mine entrance lies behind a barbed wire fence although it is occasionally explored by members of the Watchester Cavers Club.
Recent events in the world treacle markets are leading to a reappraisal of mined treacle, in particular there is a growing dissatisfaction with modern processing which includes the use of genetically modified bacterial digesters. The Taiwanese shipbuilder Yoko Star is reported to be designing a gigantic treacle tanker and, in Britain, a Railtrack spokesman confirmed that the Company had been asked by the government to explore methods of transporting treacle by rail. As demand for natural treacle rises so does the price (the London Futures Market has recently started trading in treacle), so it could just be a matter of time before Wymsey restarts mining for treacle.