Visit the historical Easter eggstravaganza at Reading Minster

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TWO Easter eggs thought to be the oldest in the world are on display at Reading Minster. The Piet Van Klinkenberg and the Sallie Maxwell Benett eggs are eggstra special as they are both dated. The Klinkenberg egg is engraved with the date 1912 and the Bennett egg has the inscription ‘Easter Greetings 1899’.

The eggs belong to the Berkshire based History Portal and are on display at the Minster from 10am to 5pm until Saturday (31 March).

The historic eggs can be seen at Reading Minster

The Bennett egg and is named after its original owner and most likely creator. Mrs Bennett was the wealthy widow of Louis Bennett, Speaker of the House of Delegates in the US Congress and the mother of WWI fighter pilot, Louis Bennett Jr.

When her son was killed in action in 1918 in France, Mrs Bennett dedicated the rest of her life to his memory. This included funding the building of a church near to Louis’ place of death, commissioning a bronze wreath for London’s Cenotaph, funding three stained glass windows dedicated to the RAF at Westminster Abbey, a bronze statue of Louis at the centre of his town of birth and the donation of her home and book collection upon her death, which was named the Louis Bennett Public Library in Weston, West Virginia.

It is possible that Mrs Bennett kept this egg, which was found in a trunk full of personal memories in her attic, as it was a link to her son, originally decorated for him as a child.

Mark Lawrence, the CEO of History Portal came across the egg by chance when it was spotted at an auction in late 2017.

He said: “Having built a knowledge of record-breaking Easter eggs, I was aware that this egg was a new recorder holder and successfully managed to secure it for History Portal.”

Before this egg was discovered, the record holder was a 110-year-old example in Austria. The Bennett egg is 119 years’ old.

During the Victorian era, it was a common pastime to decorate real eggs. These were often stained, sometimes to mimic chocolate. The most common colours were black and red, some eggs were left with their natural colouring and hand painted. Stained eggs decoration was often scratched onto the surface to reveal a design.

The Piet Van Klinkenberg egg is an intact chocolate Easter egg most likely made in Germany and supplied to a UK retailer.

Chocolate eggs were expensive luxury items in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, made exclusively for adults. It is not known why this luxury item was not consumed but it is possible that the sweet treat was a gift for an individual who passed away before having the opportunity to enjoy it.

Items related to deceased people were often retained by grieving relatives.

Mark says: “History Port spotted this egg for sale in 2017 at Bellmans Auctioneers, who found it to be a most unusual piece of social history. Upon conducting further research, we established that this egg was extra special in relation to its age.”

This egg is 106 years old. Before it was discovered the world’s oldest known chocolate Easter egg was a 94-year-old example in Canada.

Mark added: “I’m very much looking forward to showing these amazing eggs to the world this Easter and I’m immensely proud that they will are on display in Reading.”