Chocolate at Temple Newsam
A bill of sale dated 1774 for an order of Sloane's chocolate from Nicholas Sanders chocolate makers in London.
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Archives choc full of tales about sweet life of estate’s lords and ladies

Sweet-toothed aristocrats in Leeds were among the country’s earliest chocoholics, fascinating new documents have revealed.

Ahead of tomorrow’s World Chocolate Day, an exquisite bill of sale plucked from a vast collection of archives in Leeds after more than 240 years shows that centuries ago, fashionable nobles at Temple Newsam House became part of an 18th century chocolate revolution, satisfying their craving for the trendy treat with special deliveries from exclusive London emporiums.

Drafted in beautiful copperplate handwriting, the bill from Nicholas Sanders Chocolate Makers in Greek Street, Soho, dates from 1774, when Lord Ingram of Temple Newsam paid the handsome sum of one pound and thirteen shillings for a taste of cocoa pioneer Hans Sloane’s famous drinking chocolate.

British physician and naturalist Sloane travelled to Jamaica in the early 1700s, encountering cocoa and reportedly developing his own recipe for drinking chocolate mixed with milk, which became hugely popular back in the UK.

By 1797, huge demand from aristocrats like those at Temple Newsam had made the drink so sought after among the upper classes that it became known as “the drink of the gods.”

The chocolatier’s bill of sale is one of a number of newly-rediscovered “shopping lists” which experts uncovered during recent research at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, shedding new light on life and history at the historic house.

The collection also includes items ordered in 1736 from Talbot Waterhouse, a confectioner based in Pall Mall, who supplied the estate with specialities including sugary jellies, marmalade and orange cakes.

And even further back in 1698, tastes at the house were more savoury, with fish, herring and gallons of vinegar the order of the day.

Cocoa Tree Logo
Logo from a bill of sale dated 1774 for an order of Sloane’s chocolate from Nicholas Sanders chocolate makers in London. Credit West Yorkshire Archives Service.

Leila Prescott, the curator at Temple Newsam said: “As a former home to some of Britain’s most prominent aristocrats, Temple Newsam would have been a very lavish and flamboyant place and there’d have been an expectation that both residents and guests would have indulged in the finest foods and treats.

“Hot chocolate, in particular, became hugely popular among British nobility in the 18th Century and having orders specially sent up from exclusive London emporiums was very much a status symbol and a statement about the life of luxury those who lived here enjoyed.

“Documents like these are always an exciting find because they give us a unique, first-hand insight into what it was actually like at the house for those who lived here centuries ago.”

The lists were found as part of research into Temple Newsam’s current Beer exhibition and are all stored in the archives of Temple Newsam House and Estate which are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Leeds.

The service works to preserve the local heritage of historical documents and to help members of the public make use of them.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “Temple Newsam is among the city’s most historic and beautiful locations and we are immensely proud of its status as one of the nation’s cultural gems.

“The continued discovery of new and fascinating facets of the house’s rich heritage also helps to add even more colourful chapters to the story of Leeds.”

Temple Newsam’s Beer exhibition can be seen until October and features more stories about life on the estate through the eyes of the people who lived, worked, brewed and drank there.

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