Chocolate commissioned by Queen Victoria in 190 and still in its original wrapper and tin, has been discovered in a Boer War helmet case in the attic of Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk.
It comes just months after a secret collection of Catholic documents were uncovered during a project to reroof the National Trust stately home.
The Bedingfeld family at Oxburgh Hall were once rising stars of the Tudor Royal Court but Sir Henry Bedingfeld refused to sign the Act of Uniformity in 1559 – which outlawed Catholic Mass. The devout Catholic family stayed true to their faith over centuries despite being ostracised and persecuted and even had a secret priest hole at Oxburgh to shelter Catholic clergy.
The recently discovered chocolate and helmet belonged to the 8th Baronet, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfeld, who fought in the Second Boer War (1899-1902).
The discovery was made among the belongings of his daughter, Frances, which are being catalogued following her death in 2020.
Further research and recent conversations with the family have shed more light on the discovery.
The chocolate was part of a batch commissioned by Queen Victoria, which was issued to troops in South Africa in 1900 to boost morale. It was 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 the Queen’s handwriting.
Queen Victoria commissioned the country’s three principal chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury, Fry and Rowntree, to undertake the order.
But all were owned by pacifist Quakers who opposed the war, and 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 as gift from the state and the firms backed down, marking some bars.
The tins themselves were never branded and it’s unclear which of the three manufacturers made the chocolate discovered at Oxburgh.
Picture: The chocolate was located within the case of a Boer War helmet. (National Trust/Victoria McKeown).