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Biscuit tin

Biscuit tin

  • Place of origin:

    Reading, England (made)

  • Date:

    1887 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Huntley, Boorne & Stevens (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin, printed in offset litho

  • Credit Line:

    Given by M. J. Franklin

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 125c, case 1

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The British biscuit tin came about when the Licensed Grocer's Act of 1861 allowed groceries to be individually packaged and sold. Coinciding with the removal of the duty on paper for printed labels. It was only a short step to the idea of printing directly on to tinplate. The new process of offset lithography, patented in 1877 allowed multicoloured designs to be printed on to exotically shaped tins.

The most exotic designs were produced in the early years of the 20th century, just prior to the First World War. In the 1920s and 1930s, costs had risen substantially and the design of biscuit tins tended to be more conservative, with the exception of the tins targeted at the Christmas market and intended to appeal primarily to children. The designs, generally speaking are a barometer of popular interests.

The advent of the Second World War stopped all production of decorative tin ware and after it ended in 1945, the custom never really revived.

Place of Origin

Reading, England (made)


1887 (made)


Huntley, Boorne & Stevens (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tin, printed in offset litho


Height: 7.6 cm, Width: 24.5 cm, Depth: 10 cm

Object history note

Made by Huntley, Boorne & Stevens, for Huntley & Palmers, both in Reading, Berkshire

Descriptive line

Chinese style biscuit tin for Huntley and Palmer's 'Orient' biscuits

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Michael Franklin, British Biscuit Tins, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984, ISBN. 0905209621

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Although this tin is decorated with traditional Chinese symbols, such as dragons and storks, it was clearly designed by a British designer with little experience of Chinese art or ways of behaviour. The people shown taking tea look as if they would have been very much at home in a British parlour. [27/03/2003]




Containers; Metalwork; Portraits; Children & Childhood; Eating; Food vessels & Tableware

Collection code


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