History

Chocolate Bar Gifted To Troops By Queen Victoria In 1900 Found In Attic

The 121-year-old chocolate bar was found in a Boer War helmet case at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk.

A 121-year-old chocolate bar that was given to British troops to boost morale during the Second Boer War has been discovered in the attic of a National Trust property.

Still in its original wrapper and tin, the chocolate was part of a batch commissioned in 1900 by Queen Victoria. 

Found in a Boer War helmet case at the 15th century Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, the sweet treat belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld.

As a gift from the Queen, many soldiers preserved their chocolate tins, with some posting them back home for safekeeping.

While some tins survive, few can be traced to their original recipient, and fewer still contain the chocolate more than 120 years later.

National Trust conservators found the treat while cataloguing the belongings of Sir Paston-Bedingfeld's daughter Frances Greathead, who died last year aged 100.

Anna Forrest, the National Trust's cultural heritage curator, said it was a "remarkable find".

"Although it no longer looks appetising and is well past its use-by date – you wouldn't want it as your Easter treat – it is still complete and a remarkable find," she said.

The chocolate was found untouched in its tin in the attic at Oxburgh Hall (Picture: National Trust/Victoria McKeown).

"We can only assume that the 8th Baronet kept the chocolate with the helmet as a memento of his time in the Boer War."

The Second Boer War, or South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states over the Empire's influence in South Africa.

It began in 1899 and lasted three years.

During the conflict, more than 100,000 tins, each containing half a pound of plain chocolate, were produced.

Queen Victoria intended that every soldier and officer would receive a box with the inscription "South Africa 1900" and "I wish you a happy New Year" in her handwriting.

She commissioned the country's three principal chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury, Fry and Rowntree, to undertake the order.

As pacifist Quakers that opposed the war, all three manufacturers refused to accept payment for the order and originally donated the chocolate in unbranded tins.

However, the Queen insisted the troops knew they were getting British chocolate and the firms backed down, marking some bars.

The tins themselves were never branded.

It is unclear which of the three manufacturers made the chocolate discovered at Oxburgh.

The National Trust hopes to put the chocolate and its tin on display at a future date.