Secret Life of Antiques| Biscuit Barrels



Cherished for their reminder of a more genteel time, and perhaps sweet memories of tea and cookies, collectable antique biscuit barrels are quickly gaining popularity among collectors.



Not only are they a wonderful way to serve cookies, they are all just so darn beautiful!  Just one makes your tea table a stand-out, a collection of them are works of art when displayed together.

The first biscuit barrels appeared in England around 1860 and quickly became en vogue as an essential serving piece for any society hostess.  Perhaps inspired by the barrels in which biscuits were stored on ships, the “barrels” remained popular until the early 1900’s.


Made by many manufacturers,  biscuit barrels come in many forms, hand painted porcelain, silver plated, sometimes sterling, hand cut crystal and English oak barrels with silver mounted hardware.  They are also sometimes called biscuit jar or biscuit box, depending on their shape.

Not actually intended for biscuit (the English term for cookie) storage, the biscuit barrels were never airtight.  Meant for presenting delicate tea biscuits or scones at tea time, these biscuit jars were highly esteemed for their ability to add another layer of  beauty to the tea table.



Biscuits were transferred to a luxurious biscuit barrel in the kitchen, and an ”upstairs maid” would proudly present this to guests on the tea trolley in the formal parlor. When tea time was done, the leftover cakes and cookies were brought back to the below stairs kitchen and transferred to a cookie tin for safe storage.



Driven by a passion to acquire another irresistible specimen, collectors are avid pursuers of antique biscuit barrels or jars of high quality. Our antique biscuit barrels and jars tend to sell quickly, and no wonder! Who doesn’t LOVE cookies, tea time and beautiful hand painted porcelain?

Here are a few tips to help you begin a collection of your own.

Tips for Collecting:

1. EDIT.  Choose biscuit barrels that speak to you personally. Don’t feel you have to collect every kind of biscuit barrel, unless you want to.  There are so many different kinds to chose from: silver barrels, hand painted floral biscuit barrels, English wood barrels, Cut Crystal barrels with silver handles and lids. Each has its own charms.


2. CHOOSE A COLOR PALETTE. Biscuit barrels come in all colors. Choose a color scheme that fits your home decor, and your collection will infuse your home with the colors you love.  Whether your style is traditional, or more contemporary in feeling, there are biscuit barrels that will fit the mood!

3. CHOOSE WISELY.  Take the time to learn about reproductions and what they look like.  You can often see wear on the bottom of the barrel, most silver tops and handles were plated, and have some wear from being used. Wear to the plating is acceptable, as long as it is not unsightly. A high quality biscuit barrel will cost from the low hundreds to several thousands, depending on the quality, rarity and manufacturer.

There is a biscuit barrel or jar for almost every budget!


Tips for Displaying your Collection:

1. USE DISCIPLINE. You don’t want to live in a museum. If you have a huge collection (and collections have a habit of growing) don’t display each and every biscuit barrel or cookie jar at once. Rotating your collection brings a completely new look to your rooms. Put a few of your pieces in storage, it will highlight the treasures that remain on display and give them the star treatment they deserve.



2. DISPLAY AS ART.  Especially if you have hand painted biscuit barrels, each one is an original work of art. A few biscuit barrels on a shelf, lit with a spotlight, will allow you to savor each antique beauty.

3. BE CREATIVE. Use your imagination, don’t limit your biscuit barrel’s use. Yes, they are works of art, they are beautiful when serving tea time treats, but allow your imagination to run a little wild!  Fill with lush flower bouquets for a romantic centerpiece. Use one in your guest bathroom to hold scented soaps. Use these darlings of the 1800’s to add beauty to your every days, not just for tea time.


A collection begins with just one! I hope you will investigate the sweet beauty of antique biscuit barrels and fall in love.


Don’t forget to enter to win Georgianna’s Book! {You can meet this talented author and photographer here if you missed my interview}




Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and uniquely yours. Visit our shop

40 thoughts on “Secret Life of Antiques| Biscuit Barrels”

  1. Even now, cookies from Jules de Strooper come in a pretty metal box.
    You have some sage advice about collections, especially regarding discipline!

    1. I love those Jules de Strooper cookies!
      Hope you are having a beautiful week, despite the rain!

  2. Yes. My favorite is a cookie or biscotti jar, as it were, from Deruta, Italy. Somehow my oldest grandchild figured out that was where the good stuff was located. Now each time he comes to the house he makes a bee line for the jar. As sweet as he is, I make sure our ritual is to sit down prior to opening and dipping in to the sweet treats.

  3. Ginger Valdes

    A lovely tutorial on biscuit containers and reminder of displaying collections of any kind. Thank you, Lidy.

  4. Mary Emanuelson

    This is an “Aha!” moment for me. My mother had a biscuit barrel. An elderly neighbor gave it to her when she was being moved from her home into her son’s. (She said it was a small thank you for my mother’s kindness to her. She was kind of difficult and didn’t get along with many people.)

    I always loved it and have it today. Looking at it always gives me a lift, it has roses on it and is so pretty.

    1. What a precious memento and memory of your Mother, Mary!

  5. Be still my heart. Your collection of biscuit barrels is stunning, Lidy. I appreciate your tips, and very much like the idea of using one to hold a floral arrangement. Lovely.

  6. Thank you for your tips on collecting these beautiful biscuit barrels. Have a wonderful week, Lidy.

  7. Lidy, what beautiful biscuit jars. Also, what wonderful tips for displaying them or any other collections. Your tips are always so helpful. I hope that you have a wonderful week!!!

    1. Thank you Shannon!I hope you have a wonderful week, too!

  8. Gorgeous….I have one very similar to the pink floral one with the silver lid/handle…I need to bring that out again!…thank you for always giving us such beautiful and amazing information!!! Have a great day Lidy!

    1. Thank you Shirley! It’s the perfect time to bring out everything with flowers, I agree! xo

  9. Very pretty! I have collected Biscuit Jars over the years and I keep them on display in every room. My favorites are the silver handle one’s! Thanks for the reminder of how to use these.

  10. Sounds like you are really enjoying your collection, Nancy! I love hearing that!

  11. Jan Schouw

    I didn’t know about biscuit jars. So lovely. Thank you for the tutorial.

  12. These biscuit barrels are absolutely lovely! I like your suggestions for displaying them. I have three that are cut crystal – they sit on the kitchen counters and the downstairs bar. Best of all they hold dog biscuits and cat treats. The pets know the sound of the lids closing and come running!

  13. Nancy Smith

    Beautiful spring day in Huntington Beach, CA….Lot of flowers here, would love to see “Paris In Bloom”

  14. Maritza

    What beautiful biscuit jars…..I have one myself I store my sugar packets in…..
    Thanks for sharing these beauties with us…..


  15. Judy Westmoreland

    Thank you so much for the tutorial on biscuit barrels. I do not have any. Would love to be able to find one. Your collection of biscuit barrels are beautiful. Thanks.

  16. Thanks for the informative article about biscuit barrels. I never knew about them. They are beautiful and remind me of a gentler time.

  17. maureen

    My favorite biscuit barrel is the Wedgwood blue that my Mom purchased for me in Dublin,Ireland. It sits on my demi-lune table in my dining room. As an aside I enjoyed reading about the author of the Paris in Bloom. I took my first trip to France this fall and was smitten with Paris, Rheims and Strasbourg! I cant wait to go back!

  18. Sue M.

    Those biscuit barrels are beautiful! I’m going to be on the look out for one…the hunt is part of the fun! Thanks for sharing, Lidy.

  19. Julie Watson

    The Victorians had such lovely ways of elevating the ordinary. The biscuit jar with the birds is my favorite. I am smitten with the little creatures. Can’t wait to hear their beautiful songs with the coming Spring. Thanks for showing these beautiful works of art.

  20. Linda Porraccio

    I just love Biscuit Barrels! I was very fortunate to find an old Wedegewood biscuit barrel! I just love anything Wedgewood! It sits on my counter in the kitchen! It is my first but it won’t be my last! Thanks for this article I really enjoyed it and I also love your website!

  21. Denise

    I don’t know anything about biscuit barrels, but I have a great rooster and a black bear and I have to say I am a great cookie baker just ask my grandchildren. Please enter me into the drawing.
    Thanks, Denise

  22. Shawn Gilbert

    First time I have heard of biscuit barrel…charming collection. Thank you for sharing them and for teaching me about them.

  23. Gloria

    I have two but was not using them. What a great idea to place a glass inside to hold water to display flowers. I will also use them to service as a vessel for biscuits and crackers as you show with them spilling out. Thank You again for the inspiration.

  24. Candi Duncan

    Last Sept while at a flea market in Paris I found a Legras biscuit barrel, with enameled iris’s. It was mine as soon as I saw it! I’ve loved them since a child grabbing a cookie from my Grandmothers ceramic barrel. I love reading your blog, I always learn something.

    1. Thank you so much Candi. And lucky you…your biscuit barrel sounds very special!

  25. Charlotte

    I have a white cookie jar with lid that I picked up at a little outdoor market the last time I was in Paris. I use it to store homemade Biscotti. You have made me think of finding more of these beautiful treasures. Can’t wait to see the ones you have for sale.

  26. Jane Greiner

    I love the biscuit jars I remember my grandmother had some

    1. Jane, isn’t it wonderful how some antique pieces instantly bring back fond memories?

  27. I love this article about biscuit jars. I have two and have had them for 20 plus years. They are my favorite of everything I collect. Thank you so much for this writeup. It really made my day!!

  28. Lula K. Crandall

    Thank you for such an informative article on biscuit jars! I was intrigued by a biscuit barrel at an auction and am now much more informed and hooked! I also love a beautiful tea setting and look forward to adding to It and am so excited to start a small collection. Yours are so beautiful!

    1. Lula, thank you so much for your kind words. I love biscuit barrels, and we have bought and sold quite a few over the years here at FrenchGardenHouse. During this time, it is especially comforting to have a nice cup of tea, served from a pretty pot, and a biscuit or two.

  29. Sheila Hatchet

    I found what seems to be a biscuit jar with a scalloped handle made of copper, with inlaid copper flower stems, floral pattern around the jar

    with a seam so I think it was factory made,

    no marks, inside us white enamel with three wear spots, and a copper lid.

    I am researching the one I found so your blog post came in handy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top