Forgotten 19th-Century Chocolate Factory Unearthed In Barcelona

Published February 21, 2024
Updated February 23, 2024

The renowned Spanish chocolate factory operated for decades in the 19th century before apparently shutting its doors.

Storage Vessels Found In Factory

Archaeology Service of BarcelonaArchaeologists found a number of items in the former chocolate factory, including these storage vessels.

Archaeologists made a sweet discovery while examining a house in Barcelona, Spain: a chocolate factory from the 19th century.

For most of the 1800s, the renowned chocolatier produced treats that were sent across the Spanish empire. Sadly, it was forgotten by time — until now.

Discovering The Chocolate Factory

Renovations of a house at 23 Plaça de la Llana revealed a number of fascinating historical layers from Barcelona’s history. The property, located in the city’s old town (Ciutat Vella), had lived several lives: as a 14th-century medieval mansion, as a hostel that operated in the 15th and 16th centuries, and as a renowned chocolate factory that operated in the 19th century.

Archaeologists from the Barcelona Archaeology Service (ICUB) unearthed the bones of the factory, as well as tools used by its chocolatiers including storage vessels, pliers, and lead plates that were used to make labels.

Lead Plates

Marta Lucas (Global Geomática, SL) via Barcelona Archaeology ServiceLead plates that were used to make labels for the chocolate produced by the Barcelona-based factory.

“We were able to see doors, arches, windows from previous periods and how the building was structured and remodeled,” Marta Lucas, the director of the project, told the site Betevé.

The factory was called Clemente Guardia chocolate factory, and historical evidence suggests that it operated successfully for decades in the 1800s.

The Rise And Fall Of Clemente Guardia

The Clemente Guardia chocolate factory appears to have begun operations around 1825, when the Barcelona Archaeology Service reports that the property’s owner Josep Serra requested permission to update the structure.

From there, the chocolate shop quickly built a customer base. The Spanish publication La Vanguardia reports that the factory sent its sweet treats to anywhere within Spain, and even abroad to Spanish territories.

Chocolate Labels

Archaeology Service of BarcelonaThese lead plates show how intricate the chocolate labels produced by the factory once were.

In 1888, the Almanac of the Barcelona Universal Exhibition (Barcelona’s World’s Fair) listed the chocolate factory at 23 Plaça de la Llana as a place to find chocolate and pastillage (a type of sugar-paste icing).

And an advertisement placed by the Clemente Guardia chocolate factory on the front page of La Vanguardia in 1893 additionally boasts about its “particular grinds” and vanilla and stone chocolates.

ICUB plans to continue working at the site to learn more about 23 Plaça de la Llana, noting in their statement: “Work continues on the archaeological excavation of the subsoil and, at the same time, the study of the building’s facings is carried out with the aim of continuing to document the different periods and learn about the evolution of the building.”

Aerial View Of Factory

Archaeology Service of BarcelonaAn aerial view of the chocolate factory.

The discovery “greatly expand[s] the knowledge we have about the history of Barcelona,” Lucas remarked to Betevé.

But some questions remain. After decades of successful operation, during which time its confections could be enjoyed by Spanish citizens around the world, it seems that the Clemente Guardia chocolate shop quietly shut its doors. The taste of its chocolate is lost to time.

After reading about the forgotten 19th-century chocolate factory unearthed in Spain, look through these deliciously fascinating facts about chocolate. Or, discover the story of Milton Hershey, the man who built a chocolate empire.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.