CHARLES Dickens would have loved Mary Ann Craven – or at least the version of her who appears in York’s newest tourist attraction.

One of the rooms in Chocolate: York’s Sweet Story is dedicated to the founders of the city’s chocolate dynasties. There they are, in framed paintings and photographs on the wall: the Josephs Terry and Rowntree; Mary Tuke; Francis Terry; and Mary Ann herself.

Then, in one of the most delightful features of this new attraction, they come to life: crossing into each other’s frames like a scene out of Harry Potter, bickering and arguing about whose products are best.

Mrs Craven is splendidly bad-tempered. Francis Terry boasts about his company’s chocolate apple and orange. “Do you do owt except fruit?” she asks.

Then, as one of the ‘confectioneers’ – the personal guides who take you around – hands out free chocolate, she grumbles: “That’s not very Yorkshire!”

You’ll get plenty of chance to taste chocolate, fortunately, once the King’s Square attraction opens on Saturday.

There’s a café downstairs where you can buy the stuff, for a start – along with locally-made cakes and goodies.

From there you are taken upstairs in groups to meet your ‘confectioneer’. She (or he) teaches you to taste chocolate like a professional, using eyes, ears, nose and, finally, mouth.

Next up is a room dominated by a giant screen, where you’re given a whizz-bang history of chocolate, and how it made its way from America to York.

Then you “meet the founders” in those wonderful animated paintings, before moving to a room devoted to photographs of the various York chocolate factories, and the people who worked in them. If you’re from York, you may recognise relatives amongst the photos.

Last up is a virtual chocolate factory, filled with hands-on exhibits, displays about chocolate making, and memorabilia such as the chocolate tin discovered in Scott of the Antarctic’s tent. You also meet a real-life chocolatier.

This isn’t a museum, stresses Continuum, the York-based group behind York’s Sweet Story: it’s an attraction. You’ll recognise some similarities with Jorvik – which Continuum helped design – but this is a whole new experience.

Above all, it’s fun. “We want people to come out smiling,” said Ann Gurnell, Continuum’s general manager.

They surely will.

• Chocolate, York’s Sweet Story opens in King’s Square at 10am on Saturday.