Tuesday 8 May 2012

Huntley & Palmers Biscuit Tin

I found this biscuit tin on the weekend at the Sunshine Coast Antique & Collectables Show.  I don't usually buy tins but the shape of this tin intrigued me.  When I examined it I discovered it was a Huntley & Palmers tin which I knew was highly collectable.  I knew that Huntley & Palmers had produced biscuit tins in a wide variety of designs throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (the things you learn from "Bargain Hunt").  It was a good looking tin, the condition was quite good (not bad for a tin over 100 years old) and the price was right so I bought it.

Tin with closed lid showing small recessed pull tab

This English tin was produced in 1907 and was only available for export.  It was never sold in England which would explain why it has turned up in Australia.  It is an oval shaped tin with simulated 'Buhl' work, also known as 'Boulle work' -which is a form of marquetry using brass and tortoiseshell.  This was the first of a series of tins of this shape which included another collectable Huntley & Palmers tin known as the 'Locket'.   It has a hinged lid with a recessed pull tab to open it.

The inside of the tin showing the lid and small recessed pull tab in a raised position

Underside of the tin showing HUNTLEY & PALMERS BISCUITS, READING & LONDON

As I researched the tins origins I discovered that it was produced for Huntley & Palmer by a company known as Huntley, Boorne & Stevens.  Could the Stevens part of this company be a long lost relative?  Who knows?  Only further research will tell.  

The fascinating story of this biscuit company begins in 1822 with the founding of the company by Joseph Huntley.  He produced his first biscuits in the back room of his shop in London Street, Reading.  It was Huntley's younger son, also Joseph, who made the company's first tin biscuit boxes in his ironmonger's shop which stood opposite his father's London Street bakery.  George Palmer, a distant cousin of Huntley, became Huntley's partner in 1841.  Thus the firm of Huntley & Palmer was born.  The company grew from its humble beginnings in the early 1800s to employing more than 5,000 men and women by 1898.  By this time the business was housed in a huge factory that covered 24 acres on the River Kennet and was at the time the largest biscuit factory in the world.  From 1870 until the 1970s, Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’ because of the fame of Huntley & Palmers biscuits.  The Reading factory was also used as a location for the filming of the "Bugsy Malone" movie in 1975.

Much more about Huntley & Palmers history can be found on The Huntley & Palmers Collection website.  This website features many of the tins produced for Huntley & Palmer as well as many fascinating movie clips of the factory and audio clips of its past employees.

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