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Hand warmer and purse

Hand warmer and purse

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Britannia metal, electroplated

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs H.M. Gordon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122b, case 2

Object Type
This hand warmer was intended to warm the owner's hands on a cold winter's day, or during a long service in a chilly church or perhaps on an unheated train journey. The main body consists of a flask which can be filled with hot water. A small side attachment with a clasp functions as a purse. The earliest hand warmers date from the 13th century and were used by priests to warm their hands during church services. By the 17th century, ceramic hand warmers, often in the form of a book, were carried in a lady's muff or pocket.

The design of this hand warmer has been registered with the British Patent Office by the retailer to protect the idea of combining the function of the warmer and purse from plagiarism by other manufacturers or retailers. The design was drawn as well as described. The drawing shows an object with ornament in the form of a shell. The hand warmer does not have this decoration which must have been seen as unnecessary when the object was finally made. It is described in the patent office registers as a 'muff warmer and purse'.

According to the Patent Office design register the hand warmer was registered by a William Hannaford of 228 Regent Street, London, who may have been related to Thomas Hannaford of the retailing business Halstaff and Hannaford at the same address. The firm put together and sold writing boxes, dressing cases and ladies' work boxes.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Britannia metal, electroplated


Height: 5.1 cm, Width: 10.7 cm, Depth: 7.4 cm

Object history note

British Patent Office Registry Mark, within diamond lozenge, dated to 7 May 1880.Made in England

Descriptive line

Hand warmer with built in purse


Personal accessories; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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