Our staff and invited guests introduce their favourite documents from the Bristol Archives collections. For this edition, Graham Tratt, Archivist has chosen Walter Churchman’s letters patent, 1729.
Dating from the reign of George II and chosen as the introductory item for the Chocolate! exhibition at M Shed in 2013, this is the document to which the beginnings of chocolate making in Bristol can be traced.
It granted Walter Churchman, an apothecary, the exclusive right to use his ‘new invention or engine’ for the ‘expeditious, fine and clean making of chocolate’.
When Churchman’s son died in 1761, another apothecary bought the patent – Joseph Fry, from whom the mighty JS Fry and Sons chocolate company grew.
The company owned eight factories around Union Street and The Pithay before moving out to the open space of Somerdale. Fry’s was taken over by Cadbury’s, and more recently Kraft, and production gradually moved out of the country to Poland.
Through Fry’s, along with the factory at Greenbank previously used by Elizabeth Shaw and its predecessor firms, Bristol occupied a major role making one of our favourite food items. To have the royal paperwork which started it all is a treat in itself.
The reference number for this document is 38538/corp/L/1/1/.
you can also see a PDF version of the Chocolate walk resource (via the internet archive).