The Chocolate Rooms
Only delicious smells were allowed in the elegant surroundings of Fountain Court – fish and meat stayed in the huge Tudor Kitchens. Both the Chocolate Kitchen and Chocolate Room are based near the King’s back stairs, which meant a quick journey for the chocolate maker to present the chocolate to the King.
Our Chocolate Kitchen is a remarkable discovery. It was, until very recently, a flower store filled with shelves, pots and vases. Before that it was a kitchen that served the Grace and Favour Apartments (PDF, 62.5 KB) above it.
The Chocolate Kitchen had been mentioned in many documents but its location remained a mystery until 2013 when one of our curators discovered an 18th-century inventory of the palace pinpointing its location.
The Chocolate Kitchen’s 18th century fixtures and fittings all survive – you can see a Georgian fireplace and smoke jack within the chimney, a pair of charcoal braziers, a folding table, cupboard and shelves.
The smoke jack is an ingenious mechanism that uses the heat from the fire to turn an internal fan. The fan is connected to cogs and chains which then turn a spit over the fire. Automated bean roasting would have made this a cutting edge kitchen at the time.
Two trivets on the fireplace would have held kettles over the heat. These are movable plates that can be turned into and out of the fire at will. The fireplace also has adjustable cheeks that control the heat of the fire.
Braziers can be thought of as a Georgian stove. Burning charcoal is placed into the grate with a tripod sat over the top. A kettle, saucepan, or chocolate pot could then be put onto the tripod to start the cooking. Ashes from the charcoal fall through the metal grates into an alcove beneath, ready to be swept away.
The shelves and table are similar to modern versions, but with Georgian style tweaks. The fact they survived with virtually no damage after being in use for hundreds of years is astonishing.
Just down the cloister from the Chocolate Kitchen, next to Chocolate Court, is the Chocolate Room. As with many parts of the palace, this too was recently a store, and would have been used by neighbouring Grace and Favour Apartments. Our helpful 18th-century inventory is quiet on the use of this room, but we know from work records that the King’s Chocolate Room was next to Chocolate Court.
The fireplace is from the late 18th century but few other features remained apart from the barred windows – a sign that the room needed to be secure. However, we found the scars of the historic shelving on the walls and damaged fireplace ironmongery – both have been restored. This room held the beautiful serving equipment used to present chocolate to the king. It includes china and delftware cups, with silver chocolate frames, chocolate pots, and molinets. ‘Sweetmeats’ or items of confectionary were regularly served with chocolate and would have been placed on delicate glass serving dishes. We have painstakingly re-created all of these objects from archaeological and documentary research with the help of traditional craftspeople.
The transformation into the decorated Chocolate Room has been the careful and considered work of a team of HRP experts and skilled craftspeople. These craftspeople use the same materials and methods as their Georgian predecessors to re-create the objects with historical accuracy.