A Rare Pair of Gilt Polychrome Armorial Painted Galvanised Steel Grocery Bins c.1890

Origin: Unknown
Period: Late Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1890
Width: 20”
Height: 26”
Depth: 19.5” (each)

The large and very decorative pair of galvanised steel log bins, each hand painted and gilded with the armorials for The Worshipful Company of Grocers and the Royal Coat of Arms to fern green grounds with scrolled borders, the wholes with slanted hinged lids with integral handles and surviving from late Victorian England.

The bins are in untouched condition paintwork wise with the beautiful armorials not having been overpainted or re-touched. There are two patched repairs to the example with the Royal Coat of arms as photographed. There is some bending and misshaping to the lids and sides as photographed.

Used mainly for foodstuffs such as coffee, spices or flour for instance, this type of design was very much of the Victorian period, the slanted tops opening to reveal scoops for removing the produce on sale. Due to the fact one of the bins has the Royal coat of arms the store in question must have been of significant scale and quality.

We have spoken to the archival department at the The Worshipful Company of Grocers who said “the use of the Grocers; Company arms was quite profligate, and though some businesses and individuals did ask permission it was not usual, and the Company did not enforce its rights to challenge. We have various inventories for the Halls, and no grocery bins appear, so not likely to have been part of Company property.”

The Worshipful Company of Grocers is one of the ‘Great Twelve’ Livery Companies of the City of London, ranking second in the order of precedence - in 1515, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London settled an order of precedence for the 48 livery companies then in existence.
The foundations of the Company can be traced back to the Pepperers, who established a Fraternity in 1345, although they were active in London from at least 1180. The Fraternity was entrusted with the duty of preventing the adulteration of spices and drugs, as well as with the charge of the King's Beam, which weighed the bulk merchandise in which they dealt. By at least 1373 the Fraternity was known as the Company of Grocers. The name Grocer probably derives from the Latin, grossarius, one who buys and sells in the gross, in other words, a wholesale merchant in spices and foreign produce.

We cannot find any other comparable examples; not only are this pair incredibly decorative they are also just as scarce and would have graced an important and busy trading spot.