Sunday, 3 April 2011

Chelsea, Chocolate and Gay S

For Chari's Sunday Favourites this week a post from last year which covers a few of our favourite things!

Click on the link to see some more posts at Happy To Design.

At first sight it seems unlikely for Chelsea, Chocolate and Quimper to be connected, but indeed they are – the common factor being a certain Hans Sloane.

Those of you that have visited London will probably have heard of or even been to Sloane Street, Sloane Square or Hans Crescent, all of which are named after him.

Despite having lived in London for a while I hadn’t heard of Hans Sloane until I read a book about Quimper Pottery which stated that it is believed that Alfred Beau was inspired to create his ‘botanique’ series after he had seen the decoration on a range of Chelsea porcelain known as ‘Sloanes botanicals’.

Although born in Ireland (in 1660) Hans Sloane’s father was a Scot, as a child the young Hans was interested in natural history and other ‘curiosities’ which he collected. These interests first lead him to London to further his studies and then after four years he travelled to France spending time in Montpellier and Paris. While in France he met with leading French botanists and physicians and qualified as a Doctor – all the time he was increasing his collection of plant examples and other items.

Upon Sloanes return to London he was soon elected to the Royal Society and in 1687 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
He soon became popular with the aristocracy and was asked to accompany the 2nd Earl of Arlbemarle to Jamaica, where the Earl had been appointed Governor.

Sloanes stay in Jamaica lasted just fifteen months, after which time despite Sloanes best attentions, the Duke died. However during Sloane's stay he collected many samples and wrote detailed observations concerning the flora and fauna, the life of the natives and such phenonima as earthquakes; Jamaica was new territory in this regard.
Of course there are some of us that may think that Sloanes most worthwhile observation was the affect of cocoa beans on the Jamaican natives. Sloane watched them crush the beans and make a drink from the resulting paste, and then noticed that their mood improved after drinking it. Sloane found the drink ‘nauseous’ but much more palatable when mixed with milk. He brought this recipe back to England where the mixture was first sold as a medicine, but Cadbury’s bought the recipe and manufactured chocolate using Sloanes recipe (Cadburys have recently been taken over by Kraft).

It seems that the term ‘Sloanes botanicals’ was rather a misnomer – the term was first used in a Dublin newspaper in 1758 (after Sloanes death) when an advertisement announced the importation of fine tureens decorated 'after Hans Sloanes plants'.

Sloane had been a great supporter and benefactor of the Chelsea Physic garden. The artist Ehret actually recorded the plants with paintings and engravings and these were published by Philip Miller who worked at the Physic gardens. It was actually these illustrations that inspired the Chelsea porcelain decoration, which in turn so inspired Alfred Beau.
Sloane continued with his interest in botany and collecting while at the same time working in medicine. Eventually his collection filled so much of his home that he had to employ a full time curator! Sloane was keen that his collection should remain together and on his death the collection was offered to the government for the sum of £20,000, this money was raised by holding a lottery and the Sloane collection became the foundation of the British Museum and later the Natural History Museum too.

Next time you reach for a bite of chocolate (its medicine isn't it ?) or admire a Porquier Beau plate, spare a moment to think of Hans Sloane!



  1. Lovely plates and trays, Maggie.

  2. Lovely interesting post Gay and I won't feel half as guilty taking medicine. I have one botanical plate just like the last one.

  3. Hi Maggie...

    Ohhh...what a lovely post, my friend! I'm so glad that you chose to share it with the Sunday Favorites party this week! The botanical dishes are just scrumptious! And yes...I also agree that chocolate is a fantastic medicine! wink! I really enjoyed reading the history of of Hans Sloane as well!

    Warmest spring wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  4. Beautiful dishes, tried to become a member but can't find it.