121-year-old Coronation chocolates look sweet

Coronation chocolates given to a school girl 121 years ago have been found untouched in their original tin. 

The tiny sweet treat was given to Mary Ann Blackmore by her Durham school when she was nine years old in 1902. However, ‘generations of self-restraint’ meant she never took a single bite. Instead Mary, who was born in 1892, treasured them as a memento of an important royal occasion for her entire life. She died at the age of 96 in 1988.  

Special tins of Cadbury’s vanilla chocolates were made to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on June 26,  1902. Both monarchs feature on the front of the tin alongside the coronation date. Another label inside states the event, date and royal names. 

Coronation chocolates from 1902
Coronation chocolates from 1902 – credit Mark Laban Hansons

Mary’s granddaughter Jean Thompson, 72,  said: “I’m not sure if the chocolates were given to my grandmother as a prize at school or if every pupil received one. 

“Though her family originated from Cornwall, Mary Ann, was born in Sunniside, north west Durham, and spent all her life there.  I think the chocolate was regarded as too special to eat, maybe due to generations of self restraint! I was aware of it as a child as something special, an object of curiosity from my nana’s childhood. By that time there was no question of eating it, which I guess is why I’ve kept it.  

“None of my children are interested in keeping it so, with coronations being a topical subject, it came to mind that a more appreciative home could be found with a collector of such items.” 

The chocolates are due to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers’ Derbyshire saleroom on July 20-25 with a guide price of £100-£150. 

Coronation chocolates from 1902
Coronation chocolates from 1902 – credit Mark Laban Hansons

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “It’s always amazing to make finds like this. When people had very little they treasured things we take for granted now. These days, boxes of chocolates are lucky to last a day in most homes, let alone 120 years. 

“The chocolates were inside an old chest of drawers. When you open the tin, you can still smell the chocolate. The tin bears its original Cadburys vanilla chocolate label and wrapped over the chocolate and silver foil is a King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra Coronation label. 

“Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate as we know it today was not introduced until 1905. You can see from the label that Mary was given vanilla chocolates.  

Cadbury was founded in 1824 in Birmingham  by John Cadbury (1801–1889), a Quaker who sold tea, coffee and drinking chocolate. Cadbury developed the business with his brother Benjamin, followed by his sons Richard and George. George developed the Bournville estate, a model village designed to give company workers improved living conditions.  

Dairy Milk chocolate, introduced by George Jr in 1905, used a higher proportion of milk in the recipe than rival products. By 1914, it was the company’s best-selling product. Cadbury was granted its first royal warrant from Queen Victoria in 1854. It held a royal warrant from Elizabeth II from 1955 to 2022.