An Enchanting Compartmentalised Victorian Tin Spice Box


Origin: British
Period: Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870
Height: 4 inches
Width: 7 inches
Depth: 5.5 inches
Each compartment: 2.5 x 2.5 inches

In casket form, the beautifully hand painted internal lid denotes six compartments; Allspice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Mace and Nutmeg with the interior gilded with a lustre glaze. The small size of the box means it is easily transportable, although it would have sat in a convenient spot in the Victorian kitchen, as it would have needed to be accessible at all times.

This charming black toleware box still has a heady aroma, the result of many generations use, and sits rather elegantly on bun feet, which is a more unusual feature of tins of this type.

With the age of steam driven ships, railways and the trading stability of the British Empire, the price of spices fell, as did the price of chocolate and sugar. Victorian cooks incorporated spices from ‘the Colonies’ into a surprising range of foods, from nutmeg in sausages, to cloves in apple puddings. Dishes such as chicken curry, spicy rice and meat chilli dishes were very much enjoyed by Victorian middle class families, who simply loved showing off new ingredients at dinner parties.

This fascinating spice tin would have thus belonged to a family who had the money to furnish their meals with colourful flavours, a revelation at the time.