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Welcome to the Tosier Chocolate House, please don’t be shy, come on in!


Fri 5 Apr 24

‘Grace Tosier’ played by an interpreter from historical performance collective HistoryRiot, welcomes visitors to the Old Royal Naval College’s new exhibition Chocolate House Greenwich.  

The exhibition, now open in the Visitor Centre gallery, explores the history of the chocolate house in Greenwich in the 18th century and the flamboyant Grace Tosier who ran it while her husband Thomas served as chocolate maker for King George I at Hampton Court Palace.  

Expensive, exotic ingredients from afar, including chocolate made from ground-up cocoa seeds, were used to make this sugary, sometimes spicy, chocolatey hot drink that was all the rage in the 1700s. Great minds of the Enlightened Era would come together at chocolate houses to drink hot chocolate and discuss their big ideas about architecture, astronomy and science.  

As part of the exhibition, visitors will experience the Tosier Chocolate House in Greenwich, reimagined in a side room through an audio and visual experience that invites you to listen into stories and experience 18th century Greenwich.  As Grace Tosier, who features in the new AV experience created by Unusual Expo and actor – writer Jonathan Coote, said: 

As our fame has spread, we have welcomed many notable persons across our threshold, drawn here to engage in convivial conversations and enjoy our excellent chocolate. 

There was a day one summer – Queen Anne was still alive; the building of the Hospital was well under way and the first of the Pensioners had started to arrive.  

Some locals frowned upon the old seadog’s behaviour, rough-hewn by a life of hardship at sea, but it was my belief that the building of the Hospital would be the making of Greenwich. 

HistoryRiot’s historical characters like Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor and Eleanor Coade and the naval pensioners have been enlivening the buildings and grounds, bringing the Old Royal Naval College’s 600-year history to life at on the fourth Sunday of every month.

For Chocolate House Greenwich, two performers will be playing Grace Tosier, offering live interpretation and interaction with visitors and providing a fun and creative way to bring history to life.  

Credits: Colin B. Mackenzie

Actor and historical interpreter, Hillary Wood, said:  

“One of the things I have loved being reminded of whilst doing research into Grace Tosier is that she was not alone as a woman in business at that time. Women in the 1700s were prolific in business, and it was a normal pursuit for them. I have a long list of 1700s women in business up my sleeve to talk about to the public! I have also had the privilege of previously playing Eleanor Coade (perhaps the most famous businesswoman of the 1700s) world renowned for her Coade stone use at the Old Royal Naval College in statues and ornaments made from her stone.” 

The other Grace Tosier, actor and historical interpreter, Tracy Russell, said: 

“I have very much enjoyed researching Grace Tosier as chocolate is a subject that opens the early Georgian period. It’s a lively and scandalous time with several vibrant public personalities, the age of enlightenment being a less deferential time than previous centuries. When I’m not in costume inhabiting an old building somewhere, I’m a voice actor – specialising in audio guides for heritage sites and museums.” 

Tickets can be booked now as part of a Painted Hall ticket or walk-ups are available from the Visitor Centre. Grace Tosier will be welcoming visitors on Saturday 6 April and Sunday 7 April between 11am and 3pm.

Credits: Colin B. Mackenzie