MOST Easter chocolate will barely last the weekend, so Pauline Hubery has an amazingly rare piece of confectionery: an Easter chocolate that has lasted nearly 100 years.

It was given to her father, Jack Dawson, at Easter 1922 when he was just one by his father, Robert. They lived at High Grange, between Crook and Bishop Auckland.

“The milk solids have come to the top and given it a bloom and it’s got a slightly sour smell,” says Pauline, “but if you were 97-years-old, you’d have a slightly sour smell, too.

“It was bought instead of an Easter egg for dad, and it’s always been there in the wardrobe.”

The chocolate was made by Rowntree's of York, and it shows a serviceman smoking a cheroot – but therein lies another mystery.

This design came from a mould that produced a much larger, commercially available bar, whereas Pauline’s smaller bar – about eight inches by five inches – is without a wrapper and may have been specially made for a shop window display.

In the 1920s, there was a corner shop in the mining community of High Grange, but it is unlikely to have had such a display, so perhaps Robert bought the bar as a special treat on a visit to a big metropolis with confectioners on every street corner – Bishop Auckland, perhaps?

When the chocolate was produced, Rowntree's was going through a difficult period. The firm dates back to 1725 when a Quaker, Mary Tuke, opened a grocery shop in York. In 1862, Henry Isaac Rowntree bought the cocoa, chocolate and chicory side of the business. He, too, was a Quaker and the non-alcoholic appeal of chocolate appealed to him.

He was joined by his brother, Joseph, and in 1881, they hit the big time by producing French-style fruit pastilles. The pastilles took off and provided capital for the company to improve its chocolate operation – in 1898, it bought its own plantation in the West Indies.

After the First World War, the company struggled. Rowntree's saw the milk chocolate, produced as Dairy Milk by the Quaker rivals Cadbury in Birmingham, as a passing fad.

However, in 1931, a new marketing manager, George Harris, was appointed along with a new advertising agency and Rowntree's took off once more: Black Magic was introduced in 1934 followed by Aero (1935), Chocolate Crisp (later known as Kit-Kat, 1935) and Dairy Box (1937), and loose chocolate beans were first sold in 1938 – when placed in a cardboard tube, they would become famous as Smarties.

Black Magic is also regarded as important in chocolate history as Rowntree's launched it with an advertising campaign that made chocolate an acceptable gift of friendship – previously it had been seen as so special that it was only given as a gift when a couple had become engaged.

It is a 66-year-old box of uneaten Black Magic that is the oldest surviving chocolate in the York’s Chocolate Story visitor attraction in King’s Square, York. The chocs were given as an engagement present by a proud young man to his bride-to-be in 1953.

Guest Experience Manager at York’s Chocolate Story, Bernie Fleck said: “The influence of Rowntree's on the city if York has been immense. Products that were created and produced here in the city are now sold across the world. Interestingly, we have never seen a bar like Pauline’s. Rowntree's did make many display items and unique products for short runs in the early days. We would love to find out some more about it if anyone has any information”

Do you know anything about a bar of chocolate with a serviceman smoking a cheroot, or do you have uneaten chocolate that can come close to, or even beat, Pauline’s 97-year-old bar? Or do you have any confectionery item of an interesting age? It would be great to hear from you at this time of year; in fact, at Easter, it would be eggcellent if you have a cracking chocolate story to tell. Please email