'Save the Chelsea bun!': London Minister Greg Hands campaigns for his local pastry

A campaign is under way to save a London delicacy that has "fallen into some obscurity", the Chelsea bun.
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A campaign to save the Chelsea bun was launched this week by a London MP in partnership with a Chelsea food store.

Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham and minister for London, is collaborating with food store Partridges, in Duke of York Square, for the campaign.

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Chelsea buns date to the 18th century, and typically contain sweet dough rolled up with currants, brown sugar and butter.

They likely originated at the now-defunct Chelsea Bun House, near Royal Hospital Road. Kings George II and III patronised the shop and George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, presented shop owner Richard Hand with a silver half-gallon mug and five guineas.

The food shop Partridges is working to revitalise the treat with its World Chelsea Bun Awards, a bake-off on May 18.

John Shepherd, Partridges’ owner and managing director, said traditional Chelsea buns were often stodgy, and were displaced by pastries like the pain au chocolat.

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But next week Partridges will launch a lighter, revised, bun recipe, and will soon display a large bun outside the store.

Mr Shepherd told LondonWorld the campaign "is to try and resurrect an old traditional product”.

“[Greg Hands] has identified that the Chelsea bun has fallen into some obscurity, but it's a proud product of this area over many centuries, and it would be very good to revitalise it," he said. “We’re really glad he’s put his weight behind this campaign.”

Greg Hands MP wants to "save the Chelsea bun".Greg Hands MP wants to "save the Chelsea bun".
Greg Hands MP wants to "save the Chelsea bun".

Mr Hands wrote on X on Tuesday: “Save the Chelsea Bun! “I am today launching my new campaign […] to save our local delicacy, the Chelsea Bun. The bun has a 200+ year history - and was first baked by Richard Hand in Chelsea.”

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Mr Shepherd said they hope local eateries will offer Chelsea buns around Easter, when they were historically popular.

The World Chelsea Bun Awards will encourage contestants to donate to the Children’s Surgery Foundation. Since beginning in 2018, the contest has raised over £18,500 for the foundation’s efforts to supply intravenous vein finders to the UK’s 26 paediatric surgery wards.

Actor and cake expert Jane Asher, a judge of this year’s contest, said: “Not only will it be fun, but at the same time you will be helping to relieve the potential pain and distress experienced by children undergoing surgery.”

Other judges include Shepherd, Munther Haddad, chairman of the Children’s Surgery Foundation and a senior consultant paediatric and neonatal surgeon, and Lady Frederick Windsor, also known as the actor Sophie Winkleman.

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The theme for 2024’s contest theme is 'Floral Feasts', to coincide with flower festivals including the Chelsea Flower Show.

Winners will receive bespoke hampers and commemorative aprons, and the live tasting's overall winner will also get £250. Contestants can submit photos to an Instagram competition, or bring buns to a live tasting at the store.

Visit the official World Chelsea Bun Awards website for more on the contest.

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