Hidden Treasure

I was over the moon this weekend … this was the first time ever that I was able to get to an estate sale right around the corner from me before everything got completely picked over. As a newbie, I was slightly unprepared.

People all around me had bags at the ready (ok, note to self, bring a bag next time). They were packed in a tight bunch on the porch and when the door opened, I was not ready for the rush and press of people all trying to get in at the same time. But I squeezed through the front door which then opened up into lovely old house. I had a few minutes to admire the architecture before I got down to business.

Pantry with built-in ice box to the left

This old house had lots of rooms and LOTS of doors leading the wanderer from room to room. But you know me, I spent most of my time in the kitchen and dining room finding tons of treasures.

As I squeezed my way into the pantry you see above, I had to first admire the built in ice box. Yes, the house was that old. There were many built-ins, as there are in those old houses, but this was one I hadn’t seen before. As I was checking it out, I saw a lovely tin sitting on top of it, way, way, way back and on top of something else. It was this one below. I wish I had taken a picture of where I found it. If you look at the picture above, it was on top of that ice box at the very back.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Advertising Tin with Easter Bunny circa 1950s (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Being resourceful, I found a chair, because there was no way  5’4″ me was going to reach the item that had caught my attention. I also managed to find a long rubber spatula with which to drag the Rubbermaid container that was under this lovely old tin. You have to be focused and completely unselfconscious to do this while people watch you. But I wanted that tin! The colors are what caught my attention. I could tell it had some age because the graphics screamed 1950s. Below are some more examples of how pretty these tins are.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Dainty Dinah tin (photo courtesy of Sonshine Attic)

I got it down, and along with a bunch of other neat stuff, stuffed it in my car (I paid first, of course) and when I got home hopped on the internet to find out where it came from. On the edge it is marked “Made in England by George W. Horner & Co. Ltd.Chester-Le-Street, County of Durham.” This is what I found out about the Horner Company.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Cinderella Tin (photo courtesy of Jackpot Jen Vintage)

My research led me to the Newsquest website that detailed the rise and fall of the George W. Horner Co. First you have to know that Chester-le-Street is a town in England, not a street. Before George took over the building on Front Street in Chester-le-Street, it had been among other things a general provisions shop and a fruit and vegetable shop. This was during the late 1800’s. Then during the early 1900’s, a man named J. Samuel made jams in heavy stoneware crocks out of the building until 1910 when George William Horner took over the building and began making confectioneries under the brand name “Mermaid.”

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Biscuit Tin Co. Ltd. (photo courtesy of Old Green Canoe)

It wasn’t until 1914 that he began to market the “Dainty Dinah” line of toffee candy. They were sold in tins depicting a dark haired girl in a bonnet as their spokes model. The Newsquest website says that although no one can say for sure who the model was, they attribute her to a girl named Alice Scott, who lied about her age to become Mr. Horner’s chauffeur at the age of 16.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Dainty Dinah Toffees Tin circa 1930s (photo courtesy of Tinternet)

The Dainty Dinah line turned out to be very successful. There are a number of tin variations on her. During the 1920s they expanded quite a bit, opening shops in London and Edinburgh, Scotland. At one point the company was said to have 770 women and 107 men working for them.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Biscuit Tin (photo courtesy of Museography)

It was during that time a chimney was added to the facility. It was 106 feet high and bore the name of their famous “Dainty Dinah Toffee” and the name “Horner.” On top of the chimney sat the bust of Dainty Dinah herself (Newsquest website). When that chimney came down in the 60’s they preserved the bust.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Butterscotch Tin (photo courtesy of UK Vintage Deco)

The company continued to thrive during the 1920’s, 30’s and early 40’s adding other confections to their lines. It was in 1947, when Mr. Horner passed away, that their troubles began.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Queen Elizabeth II Tin (photo courtesy of Peggy’s Trove)

The company was taken over by George’s son, Kenneth, but he wasn’t the problem. During the 1950s the market started to become glutted with chocolate factories and Kenneth turned to exporting. Unfortunately, this did not save the company and they closed in 1960.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Niagra Falls Tin (photo courtesy of 19Piglet64)

They did leave behind a legacy, though. These highly collectible tins are still around and can be found in great shape even 100 years after their creation. I hope I look this good at 100!

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Circular Tin (photo courtesy of Tinternet)

Well, that is a brief history of George W. Horner and his confectionery treasures. I hope you learned something new today, I know I did!

Oh, on a side note, I went back to that estate sale, since it was so close, an hour before they closed and got some more awesome deals!

My estate sale treasures!


Can’t believe I missed these the first time! Have a great week everyone … I’ll be busy all week putting my awesome finds up in the Vintage Eve’s Shop.

Adirondack Girl @ Heart is where the party is this week!

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5 thoughts on “Hidden Treasure

  1. What a learning experience for you Rheta! The tin you found is a real cutie, and I enjoyed learning the history behind it (as always). When we lived in England, I bought the tin with the horses and carriage on, and later sold it on Etsy. Small world 🙂 Thanks so much for linking your post up at Vintage Charm–

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  2. Thanks so much for the info on the Horner company. Had one of the circular Dainty Dinah tins in my family for as long as I can remember. My gran used it as a sewing box and my mum still does. Lovely little memory. Thanks again 🙂


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