Records of Huntley and Palmers

Scope and Content

There are various personal papers of the Palmer family c1860-1951, including personal correspondence; papers of George Palmer about his work as an MP; obituaries; visiting cards; a family tree tracing the Huntleys and Palmers back to the early seventeenth century; wills of Samuel Palmer 1903, Mary Jane Palmer 1910 and Samuel Ernest, Lord Palmer 1947; baptism and marriage certificates of Samuel Palmer, with various papers about the marriage settlement, and other miscellaneous items. Some of the personal papers show the relationship between the family and the firm, such as notices of congratulation sent on behalf of the employees to various Palmers when they got married.

The bulk of the collection concerns the business of the firm, in all its aspects. Financial and general management records include accounts 1837-1947; balance sheets and ledgers 1858-1951; raw materials invoices and summaries 1844-1857; journals of monthly expenditure 1926-1936; journals of yearly expenditure 1913-1954; internal accounts ledgers 1899-1924; wages records, summaries, analyses and comparisons 1858-1954; senior staff and directors' salaries and other remunerations 1928-1963; partnership accounts 1857-1878; register of members and shares 1899-1963; stocks summaries 1939-1944; profit and loss accounts 1924-1934; fire and other insurance records 1878-1936; tax returns 1893-1906; private family accounts 1878-1898; inventory books 1905-1918, and dividend records 1898-1930. Minute books include those of the Executive Committee of Directors 1922-1948; of the Board of Directors 1898-1951; of the Reading Biscuit Factory Committee of Management 1917-1946, and of the general Committee of Management 1920-1926, 1946-1958 and 1959-1968. Legal papers include the book recording the particulars of sealed documents 1898-1967; registers of deeds of property purchased 1841-1971; contracts 1880-1931; deeds of association relating to the relationship with Peek Frean and with Associated Biscuit Manufacturers; patents filed in different countries 1887-1959, and trademarks 1961-1968. Business correspondence includes letters of the Palmers and other senior managers c1850-1983. There is also correspondence relating to various books produced about the firm, the British biscuit industry and the design aspects of packaging. Promotional material includes catalogues, records of displays and correspondence about Huntley and Palmers' exhibits at various international fairs 1878-1950; advertising booklets, leaflets and catalogues c1880-1990 (in several languages); sets of advertising cards with various themes c1885-1910; newspaper and other advertisements 1842-1946; recruitment and other pamphlets c1900-1990, and press cuttings 1912-1984. There are specimens of different types of packaging c1850-1960, including foil and paper wrappers, labels for tins, cartons and details of stamps and marks. There is also some original artwork for packaging and promotional material. Production records include records of the purchase of raw materials 1857-1929; recipes c1860-1945; output records 1859-1965; productivity figures 1904-1960; records of new machines and alterations 1919-1931; production costs 1914-1933; weekly manufacturing totals 1923-1932; records of wedding cakes made 1877-1921; comparisons of ingredients usage 1925-1934, and plant and machinery records 1905-1934. Sales records cover both home and export sales from the 1850s onwards and include price lists 1867-1982; lists of Christmas specials for export 1897-1901; order books; customer invoices 1864-1919; annual summaries 1884-1898; trade comparisons and analyses 1894-1937, and price lists from rival firms c1890-1970. Personnel records include details of wages and employees c1890-1944 (not comprehensive); records of staff absence, accidents and factory closures c1900-1936; sick fund details 1849-1855; details of Christmas gifts to staff 1887-1916; papers concerning industrial relations c1911-1981; minutes of the Workers Representation Committee 1916-1926; conditions of work 1918-1944, and rules and regulations 1893-1949. There are records of Huntley and Palmers' various social clubs, including menus etc. from social and sporting events 1868-1938; Recreation Club papers and fixture lists; cricket score books 1883-1956; bingo cards; netball fixture lists 1945-1946, 'Ladies Record of Activities' c1945, and music scores. Published material includes newspaper and journal articles c1900-1995 about the firm, the Palmer family, the British biscuit industry in and the collector's interest in biscuit tins. Journal issues include Bakers' Gazette nos. 1-12 1849. There are photographs c1872-1980, depicting various subjects including groups of employees, members of the Palmer family, VIP visits, exhibits at trade fairs and Huntley and Palmers' buildings. Album subjects include celebration cakes and international exhibitions 1929-1954; presentations of sports and long service awards 1918-1954, and the visit of the Queen Mother to the factory in 1955. Audiovisual material consists of a video copy of a 53-minute film shot by Peek Frean in 1906, showing work in their factory; a video copy of a 20-minute film shot by Huntley and Palmers in the 1940s showing ingredient production around the world and factory processes; a video copy of a Huntley and Palmers promotional film lasting 16 minutes and shot in the 1950s; a video copy of a promotional film shot by Associated Biscuits Ltd in the 1970s showing production by the three firms, lasting 25 minutes; a vinyl disk produced c1935 by Huntley and Palmers with Christmas greetings from 'the Empire's greatest biscuit makers', duration 50 seconds, and a CD recording of the above disk. Other items of note include material relating to Huntley and Palmers supplies taken on the British Antarctic expeditions of 1911-1912; visitors books for the factory 1869-1973; papers concerning the royal warrants granted to Huntley and Palmers as suppliers to the courts of Europe; albums of corporate stationery 1883-1911; a ledger recording the journeys of the firm's continental travellers 1887-1903, and particulars of army biscuits supplied to the War Office August 1914.

Further material originates from the firms associated with Huntley and Palmers. There are some records from Peek Frean c1880-1960, consisting chiefly of advertising material, financial records and minute books. Items from Jacob's include catalogues and price lists c1890-1940, and promotional material c1980-1995. There are some records from Huntley, Boorne and Stevens, consisting chiefly of notes and figures concerning production in the twentieth century but also including a vellum ledger with customer accounts 1842-1845. There are records of directors salaries 1928-1958 and minutes of the Accounts Committee 1931-1945 from Associated Biscuit Manufacturers, and some catalogues, price lists and promotional material c1970-1980 from Associated Biscuits Ltd. Finally there is some material from the Nabisco Group, including historical notes, promotional material 1983-1990, price lists 1984-1990 and catalogues and other items from subsidiary companies.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Huntley, a Quaker schoolmaster from Oxfordshire, established a biscuit bakery in Reading in 1822. After 1829 his son Thomas became a partner and the firm was known as Joseph Huntley & Son. On the retirement of his father in 1838 Thomas Huntley operated alone and under his own name, and then in 1841 went into partnership with fellow Quaker George Palmer, later MP for Reading, as Huntley and Palmer. By 1846 Palmer had begun to transform the business, developing the first continuously running machine for making fancy biscuits and setting up a properly organised factory. Other members of the Palmer family became partners, and by the end of the nineteenth century the firm, now called Huntley and Palmers, was the largest biscuit business in the world and among the forty most important industrial companies in Britain. Huntley and Palmers cakes and biscuits were a household name and the distinctive tins, made by the firm Huntley, Boorne and Stevens (founded by another member of the Huntley family), were recognised worldwide. In 1898, after George Palmer's death, the private company Huntley and Palmers Ltd was established, which in 1921 combined with the firm of Peek Frean, each becoming subsidiary units of the Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd. The Liverpool firm of W.&R. Jacob & Co. joined the group in 1960. In the late 1960s re-organisation took place, and from 1969 the three units disappeared as independent trading entities, being replaced by the division known as Associated Biscuits Ltd. Huntley and Palmers' Reading factory was finally closed down in 1972. Associated Biscuits Ltd was bought out by the American multi-national Nabisco in 1982. The company was renamed as Jacob's Bakery Ltd in 1989 and acquired by BSN (Boussois Souchon-Neuvesel), which in 1994 changed its name to Danone.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

The original deposit was made by the firm in 1977, with several later deposits. Material was also transferred from Reading Museum.


Reading Museum Service has an extensive collection of Huntley and Palmers material that complements the University Library's holdings. The Museum's collection includes biscuit tins, printed ephemera, photographs, maps, catalogues and oral history interviews.

Description prepared by Bridget Andrews, with reference to T.A.B. Corley, Quaker enterprise in biscuits: Huntley and Palmers of Reading 1822-1972 (London: Hutchinson, 1972). Collection listed by Verity Andrews.

Other Finding Aids

The collection is listed at item level.

Geographical Names