Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tin of the Week: No.7 - Huntley & Palmers

In 1822, Joseph Huntley founded a bakery under the name of J. Huntley & Son in London Street, Reading. Joseph's shop was situated opposite a coaching inn as London Street was on the main stagecoach route between London and Bristol; therefore Joseph decided to sell the coach travellers his biscuits to sustain them during their long journeys. As the biscuits were prone to breakage during transit Joseph sought a way to package them safetly. Co-incidentally, Joseph's yougest son - also called Joseph - had opened a tin manufacturing and ironmongery shop opposite his father's bakery, so father and son joined forces to make specialist tins to sell the biscuits in.

Soon business was booming and Huntley's biscuits were becoming well-known to a wider public, but ill health forced Joseph senior to retire from the company leaving the eldest son, Thomas, to manage the business. Three years later, Thomas invited a distant cousin, George Palmer, to become a business partner in the re-named Huntley & Palmers company. This proved to be an excellent move, as George's business accumen propelled the company to acheive national recognition via appointing agents across the country to sell and promote the company's biscuits.  After outgrowing the original London Street shop, the business moved to another factory premises in Reading in 1846.

By the mid-nineteenth century, Huntley & Palmers had become synonymous with biscuits, earning Royal Warrants from both British and European royal families. The root of the company's success was their wide variety of products and pricing range. Huntley & Palmers supplied both standard and specially made biscuits for Captain Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1911, and also supplied the armed forces in both World Wars.

 In 1921, Huntley and Palmers formed the  Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd. with rival company Peak Frean, with Jacob's joining in 1960. The Reading factory was used as a location for the Bugsy Malone film in 1975, but was closed down a year later and all production ceased at the Reading factory. The Associated Biscuits Manufacturers Ltd was sold to Nabisco in 1989 and then to Danone; it is now privately owned.


  1. Another interesting history of tins - I really enjoy reading your blogs they are so interesting
    Julie xxxxxx

  2. Well, I never knew that! The triangular biscuit tin above is superb! Are they all yours VK?

  3. Julie - thanks so much for your lovely comment, it means a lot xxx

    Yes M, the two tins are mine and are boot sale buys. I use the cocktail one to store biscuits in, whilst the triangular one is on display with my other tins.

  4. Thanks for another interesting tin post I would love to see the first tin they used. i have a baby food tin on my blog at the moment the social history behind tins fasinates me
    Cate x

  5. What an interesting post! My parents always had the Huntley and Palmer cocktail selection at Christmas in the 70's but the tin was nowhere near as tremendous as that one. It deserves to be used to store something glamorous in, a diamonte tiara maybe? xxx

  6. Love the illustrations! Interesting to see how they packaged the biscuits as in the square tins...
    Tamzin X

  7. I really enjoyed reading that and not just because I'm a biscuit lover!
    I have an award for you over on my blog if you'd like.


  8. Great article, really interesting. I had no idea about the history of Huntly and Palmers. It does rather add veracity to the idea that there may ultimately be five people in the world who own absolutely everything. And there's no escape. You may think you're supporting a family food business, for example, only to discover that it's owned by BAe or something.

    The various tins that you show us make me long for the time when packaging design was individual and interesting. I have several ex-Christmas Quality Street tins and the only good thing I can say about them is that they stack nicely. Sigh.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog; I do enjoy reading each one.

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