he chocolate lovers among you may be amazed if a box of sweet treats stick around for more than a week in your home, so what chance would they have of lasting 82 years? - Writes Charles Hanson.
During one of the many house clearances Hansons undertakes I discovered a box of Coronation souvenir chocolates from 1937 and, though the silver wrapper had been partially torn off, the chunky chocolate remained untouched.
As a chocoholic myself, I was astounded. How did they manage to resist tucking into what would have been an expensive treat at that time?
Eight decades later, I can’t say it looked appetising, tinged as it was with the inevitable white sheen that develops as chocolate ages. But considering it was twice as old as me it was still in pretty good shape.
The coronation of George VI and his wife Elizabeth as King and Queen of the UK and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on May 12, 1937.
As you would expect their faces adorn the metal chocolate box which was ‘Presented by the County Borough of Bolton Education Committee’. A celebration gift almost started, then tucked away and forgotten.
So, why wasn’t it ever eaten? I was reminded of a 100-year-old box of chocolates we sold just before Christmas 2017. The box of Little Red Riding Hood-themed treats had never been eaten by their original owner, Eileen Margaret Elmes, because she said they were ‘too pretty’.
Ms Elmes died in 2007 and the discovery of her treasured chocolates captivated the world. They sold for £230 from an estimate of £70-£100.
Perhaps those Bolton chocolates were so special they were saved, perhaps to be eaten on a special occasion. But the perfect moment never came.
It all reminded me of the amazing house clearance finds we come across time and time again – everything from violins in the attic to sovereigns under the bed or a rare Chinese plate in the kitchen cupboard. Everyone has random treasures they hold on to but families sometimes lose them for long periods of time, only to rediscover them years later.
Quirky and curious finds that spring to mind include an onion bottle from circa 1720 – named because of its shape not because it was used to store onions. It was dug up in a garden.
Old cigarettes, cigars and tobacco are a familiar theme – as addictive as chocolate for many people and used all the more in years gone by before medical research revealed their health hazards.
Found on my travels was a cavalier’s tobacco box from 1645 with an Elizabethan coin inside it. I’m always fascinated when I come across objects like this. Who did it belong to?
Moving forward to 1914, the year the First World War broke out, I uncovered cigarettes and tobacco from that very year in a drawer.
Most of the tobacco and cigarettes were still intact inside a metal presentation box, which was engraved with ‘Christmas 1914’.The gift had been hardly touched and, with conflict under way, you couldn’t help but wonder if the recipient had lost their life, an early casualty of the war, perhaps.
Another magnificent Hansons discovery was a Winston Churchill cigar which resided in Derbyshire for many years after being gifted to a police officer by the famous leader in the early 1950s.
Winston Churchill was prime minister from 1940-45, leading Britain to victory during the Second World War, and again from 1951-55.
He’s said to have smoked thousands of cigars – 10 a day – during his lifetime after becoming partial to them around 1895 when he was 21 or 22 and in Havana, Cuba.
Sir Winston was said to be especially fond of large maduro cigars but observers noted he never seemed to smoke them more than half way down. This particular example sold for £400.
But random finds aren’t always about chocolate or tobacco. Another favourite discovery was a pair Edwardian leather ice skates discovered in an outhouse.
These heavyweight lace-up boots are a far cry from the lighter versions available today but, like most things made years ago, they have stood the test of time.
As soon as I saw them an image sprang to mind of young a woman in elegant Edwardian dress skating across a frozen lake during an icy cold winter.
So, what treasures have you got lurking away? I’m sure there will be something. Some coins, perhaps, gathering dust in a drawer; toys treasured from your childhood; old football programmes or a famous autograph?
What I have learned is never to judge a book by a cover. Whatever your object is we would love to see it. Our specialist valuers can assess absolutely anything, from ceramics, glass and furniture to jewellery, stamps, antiquarian books, toys, football memorabilia and more – the list is endless. Free confidential home visit valuations available as well as our house clearance and downsizing services. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.