‘Delightful … brings vividly to life a fascinating part of East End life before it is lost forever.’ – Melanie McGrath, author of Silvertown and Hopping

‘Vivid and richly readable … If it doesn’t become a TV series to rival Call The Midwife, I’ll take my tea with ten sugars.’ – Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail (Book of the Week)

During the Blitz and the years of rationing, the Sugar Girls kept Britain sweet. Every year, thousands of women left school at fourteen to work in the bustling factories of London’s East End. Of all the factories that lined the docks, it was at Tate and Lyle’s where you could earn the most generous wages and enjoy the best social life. The work was hard, but Tate & Lyle was more than just a factory, it was a community, a calling, a place of love and support and an uproarious, tribal part of the East End.

Sunday Times bestseller The Sugar Girls (Collins, 2012) weaves together tales of adversity, resilience and youthful high spirits. From young Ethel to lovelorn Lilian, irrepressible Gladys to fun-loving Joan – and Miss Smith, who tries to keep a workforce of flirtatious young men and women on the straight and narrow – this is an evocative, moving story of hunger, hardship and happiness. It provides a fascinating insight into a lost way of life, as well as a timeless testament to the experience of being young and female.

Our new book GI Brides is released on 29 August. To find out more, click here


The Sugar Girls Blog

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  • The Sweet Smell of Knowledge (10/21/2013) - A ‘sugary memory’ from guest-blogger Barbara Nadel My paternal grandparents were different. Unlike most East End granddads and grandmas in the 1960s they didn’t go down the pub, have a picture of a lady with green skin on their parlour wall or visit Southend on Sea for plates of cockles. Instead they lived in a [...]
  • A sugar girl turned GI bride (9/11/2013) - When we posted a notice on this blog about our next book, calling for stories of British women who had become GI Brides, we never expected to find a woman who was both – and yet that was the case of Frances Pelling. Her daughter Lynn contacted us to tell us her story.  Frances was born [...]
  • Listen to Gladys and Eva on Radio 4′s Midweek (3/27/2013) - This morning, sugar girls Gladys Hudgell and Eva Rodwell were star guests on BBC Radio 4′s Midweek, hosted by Libby Purves. Glad and Eva livened up the Wednesday morning discussion show with tales of their experiences at the Tate & Lyle sugar factories in the East End in the 1940s and 1950s – in particular, [...]
  • The Sugar Girls’ guide to life after Call the Midwife (3/10/2013) - With the second series of Call the Midwife coming to an end tonight, we’ll be subject to an agonizing – and appropriate – nine-month wait before our favourite nuns and nurses get back on their bikes for the Christmas special. So if you, like us, are dreading the post-partum depression that will inevitably follow the [...]
  • The Silvertown Explosion – share your memories (1/25/2013) - Do your family have any connection to the Silvertown Explosion of 1917?  The One Show are looking for people to interview for a forthcoming programme and would love to hear from anyone with a personal connection to the tragedy. The explosion happened on 19 January 1917 at 6.52pm, claiming the lives of 73 people.  The Brunner [...]
  • More memories of the Great Smog (1/20/2013) - After we wrote about the sixtieth anniversary of the Great Smog in December, we received a fascinating email from Janet Stammers, who grew up in Albert Road, Silvertown in the 1950s and remembers the smog well. As Janet recalled: “My mum and me were trying to make our way to Eid’s the bakers and literally [...]
  • The Sugar Girls and the Great Smog, 60 years ago today (12/5/2012) - Today marks 60 years since the Great Smog of London, which saw the city almost grind to a halt. Many sugar girls we interviewed remembered the freak weather event, and we incorporated some of the stories they told us into our book. We would love to hear from anyone with memories of the Smog – [...]
  • Putting a name to a face (part 2) (8/24/2012) - Dave Wilcox just got in touch to say that he too recognised a family member in one of our photographs, in this case his mother, Margie Wilcox. As Dave put it, in this picture Margie is ‘the one in the foreground with the big smile, mug of tea and a fag’. Apparently, Margie  worked on [...]
  • Putting a name to a face (8/23/2012) - It’s always nice to receive a message from someone who can identify one of the sugar girls in the pictures we have here in the Gallery section of the website, since many of these women are unknown to us.  A little while ago we received the following message from a woman who recognised her mother on the cover of [...]
  • The Sugar Girls at the Mayor’s Newham Show (7/25/2012) - We spent this weekend with Gladys and Eva at the Mayor’s Newham Show in East Ham’s Central Park, where the Sugar Girls exhibition had been remounted in a special ‘Pride of Newham’ marquee. It was a great opportunity for us to meet some of our readers, and to sign copies of the book. Vivian from [...]
  • The Trebor Sugar Girls (7/19/2012) - Guest post by Matthew Crampton, author of The Trebor Story While the Sugar Girls were busy in Silvertown, up the road in Forest Gate many other young women were working with sugar. Their story is told in The Trebor Story – a new book about the East End sweet firm which grew to become Britain’s [...]
  • Tales from Plaistow’s Past (7/18/2012) - Last night we heard more about the fascinating history of Plaistow, an area where many of our Sugar Girls lived, courtesy of Neil Fraser, author of new book Over the Border: The Other East End. Neil was sharing the bill with us at a book talk at The Bell in Spitalfields for History in the [...]
  • Memories of an East London war bride (7/12/2012) - On Monday, one of our Sugar Girls,  Eva, introduced us to a good friend of hers who we were keen to speak to for our next book, which is about women who married American soldiers during the Second World War.  Alice ‘Jimmy’ White is now 88 but can still vividly recall her experiences in the [...]
  • Sugar Girl poet Marie Hindmarsh (6/19/2012) - In The Sugar Girls we wrote about a young woman called Joan Cook, who penned cheeky little ditties between shifts on the Hesser Floor at Tate & Lyle.  But it turns out that Joan wasn’t the only poet at the sugar factory.  Marie Hindmarsh (nee Crabb) worked in the Syrup Filling Department at Plaistow Wharf [...]
  • Henry Tate’s legacy: The Sugar Girls at South Lambeth Library (6/15/2012) - On Monday, we will be speaking at South Lambeth Library, along with two of the sugar girls whose stories feature prominently in our book: Gladys Hudgell and Eva Rodwell.  It’s a particularly appropriate location since the library is one of four in South London founded on gifts of land or money from Henry Tate, whose [...]
  • Sugar Girls at Goldsmith’s Row book market (5/16/2012) - The Sugar Girls took part in a brand new East End book market on the weekend. Goldsmith’s Row Book Market, just off Hackney Road and near Columbia Road Flower Market, is a great new addition to the area and features stalls selling everything from second hand novels to limited edition art books, every Sunday from [...]
  • Sheila Oakley – a sugar girl in Canada (5/1/2012) - One of our most pleasurable experiences since The Sugar Girls hit the shelves over a month ago has been reading the many letters and emails we have received from readers who also worked at Tate & Lyle, and who have their own memories to share. Sometimes we feel like kicking ourselves that we didn’t encounter [...]
  • The Sugar Girls at the Redbridge Book Festival (4/23/2012) - Last Friday, we were delighted to be speaking at Wanstead Library, as part of the fabulous Redbridge Book Festival.  Joining us on the stage were Gladys and Eva, two of the sugar girls featured in the book, who shared their stories with an audience of more than 120 people. Gladys recalled how she had originally [...]
  • Lilian’s suitcase of memories (4/18/2012) - At the weekend we paid a visit to Lilian, one of the four main women featured in The Sugar Girls, to take a look at her photo collection. Previously, Lilian had told us that she didn’t have many pictures of her childhood or her time at Tate & Lyle, as she didn’t consider herself a [...]
  • The Sugar Girls book signing at Tate & Lyle (4/14/2012) - Earlier this week, we attended a very special book-signing in the canteen of Tate & Lyle’s Thames Refinery in Silvertown. Community Affairs Manager Ken Wilson had organised a display board of pictures of the sugar girls, and had invited Colin Lyle – son and nephew, respectively, of former factory directors Philip and Oliver Lyle – [...]