More than a hundred years of Rowntree history…

By Jaanika Reinvald.

Last Tuesday the “York Remembers Rowntree” oral history project volunteers had a unique opportunity to visit a museum of Rowntree memorabilia that displays objects from Victorian times to today. It’s a truly  impressive collection of more than 100,000 objects, including a large variety of chocolate tins and boxes, many still with the original chocolates inside. In the museum every square inch of wall and even ceiling space has been used to strategically display the collection.

Natasha, the official Rowntree display girl, has been allocated a place of honour in the middle of all the display cabinets.

Natasha, the official Rowntree display girl, has been allocated a place of honour in the middle of all the display cabinets.

A large part of the collection has been obtained through auctions, second hand sales and carboot sales as well as through personal donations where people have willingly passed their own collections or singular objects so they could be better appreciated. Most of the objects are displayed cabinets that are all handmade.

Joe showing to Pi the 1935 King's Jubilee edition of the chocolate tin.

Joe showing to Pi the 1935 King’s Jubilee edition of the chocolate tin.

Joe can tell a story about every single object in his collection, from the original purpose and creation story of every object to how they ended up in his hand and why they have been given a particular place in his collection.

Lifeboat and raft rations to Ministry of War Transport Requirements

Lifeboat and raft rations to Ministry of War Transport Requirements

The open display cabinet in the background had several shelves allocated for Rowntree chocolates that were specifically produced for the war effort. For example, a tin of emergency ration chocolates from WWI that included all the essential vitamins and minerals that a soldier in the trenches might otherwise not get enough of.

After a century the chocolates still smelled delicious.

After a century the chocolates still smelled delicious.

All the chocolates had passed their best before date and were not suitable for consumption any more but this did not stop us from still enjoying their smell.

The collection also included a variety of chocolates tins, originals and replicas.

The collection also included a variety of chocolates tins, originals and replicas.

Joe impressed us with not only his excellent existing collection but also his skill of making replicas of chocolates as well as some chocolate moulds.

The fancy caskets would have been sent to country and town houses.

The fancy caskets would have been sent to country and town houses.

These fancy caskets were one of a kind and never went into mass production making them that much more special.

Edwardian chocolate boxes with a kaleidoscope effect.

Edwardian chocolate boxes with a kaleidoscope effect.

These stunning chocolate boxes charmed us with their visual effects. In a pre-television era, and truly still today, these boxes are a marvel to behold. The mechanism is actually very simple. The decorative pictures of the peacock and the butterfly have been chosen carefully to be colourful and the moving visual effect is achieved by leaving holes in the top layer of the box cover and placing a turnable circular disc with a bright colourful pattern underneath it – hence the kaleidoscope effect.

Part of the museum was set up like a sweet shop.

Part of the museum was set up like a sweet shop.