A chocolate tin made in Carlisle almost 120 years ago that was sent by Queen Victoria to one of her soldiers fighting in the Boer War in South Africa is to go under the hammer.

The tin, made by Hudson Scott & Sons, was discovered in a cupboard in London where it had sat for decades and even contained its original block of chocolate.

Auctioneers say it is probably the most controversial chocolate ever made as it prompted a Royal temper tantrum in a row that threatened to blacken the names of all of the country’s top chocolate makers.

The tin will sold off in an auction today held by Scunthorpe-based Eddisons CJM.

Paul Cooper, from the auction company, explained the history behind the item: “In 1899 the Queen decided to cheer up her troops fighting in the war, which was going rather badly at the time, by personally paying for the gift tin to be sent to every ordinary soldier.

“The problem was that all of the country’s top chocolate makers Cadbury, Fry and Rowntree were owned by Quakers. They were pacifists, opposed to the war and they were appalled by the idea of being seen to profit from the fighting.

“They really did not want to be involved but they also knew that a refusal to comply with the Royal request to supply the chocolate was going to cause them immense reputational damage at a time when British and Empire forces were fighting and dying in the conflict.

“In the end the three firms decided to donate the chocolate free of charge but unbranded and in tins that did not carry names. The Queen was not amused.

"She wanted the boys to know they were getting best British chocolate. The firms backed down again and some of the chocolate was then marked although the tins never were.”

Cadbury, Fry and Rowntree used different firms to make the tins and there are very slight differences between the three. Thanks to that the auctioneers have been able to identify this tin as one of those ordered by Cadbury from Hudson Scott and made in Carlisle in 1899.

Mr Cooper added: “The tin came to light after we auctioned off a First World War chocolate gift tin, complete with chocolate, last month. After reading about that a pensioner in London contacted us to say she had even older chocolate.

“Apparently she once owned a shop in Lincoln’s Inn Fields selling a variety of souvenirs and collectables. When the business closed 25 years ago unsold stuff was taken home. She dug into a cupboard and found the Boer War tin – with the chocolate still inside."

The chocolate was originally a single block but it has shrunken and broken up during its travels over the past 118 years.

Mr Cooper continued said: “The World War One chocolate lot went for £3,050 but it was just a part of a collection of items that included a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

“The Boer War tin is interesting. The gift was ridiculed by some of Britain’s continental rivals. French cartoonists had a field day with jokes about wounded troops being treated with chocolate but the soldiers themselves loved getting a present from the Queen.

"Many sent it home unopened. Others turned down offers of £20 for their tin, which is quite something when you realize they were earning a shilling a day.

“The result is that the tins are not quite as rare as you might think, although it is still very unusual to find one with the contents intact.

"They usually make £50 to £300 depending on the condition of the tin – and whether or not the contents are still intact."