History of Pantry: The room used as a storage for food and beverage in every household since the Middle Ages

Verica Sitnik

The room in which are stored beverages and food, and serves as subsidiary space for the kitchen is called a pantry.

The pantry may be used as storage for tableware, glassware, and silverware, also some households use this room to store linens or cleaning chemicals.

The origin of the word “pantry” comes from the Old French term “paneterie” which itself roots from “pain” the French for bread.

Storage room, the picture is created 1607.


Painting by Benjamin Blake (1757-1830), still life of game in a larder.


Painting of a boy in a pantry, made by Ignaz Raffalt, dates from 1837. 

In the late Middle Ages, households would have a room where bread was kept, and also there were similar places where meats were stored.

The person who was responsible for those rooms was referred to as a “pantler”. Pantries developed their use from early Colonial American “butteries” which were built in a sharp north facing corner of the houses.

In the latter part of the 19th century, in a middle-class English or American home, pantries were built adjoining the kitchen and dining room.

Pantry in the house Orduña del Castell de Guadalest. Author: Joanbanjo. CC BY-SA 4.0


Kommandørgård National Museum, storage room next to the kitchen. Author: Wolfgang Sauber. CC BY-SA 3.0

In large houses in Britain during the Victorian era, pantries were separate rooms dedicated for food preparation and cleanup.

The kitchen was the place where the food was prepared, and dishwashing was done, in a wooden sink lined with lead, in the pantry.

Sometimes this room was also used for cutting raw meat and cleaning fish. Large wooden cupboards were used as pantries in some middle-class houses.

An old abandoned pantry. Author: Mike chernucha. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Pantry area in a household, Toronto, Canada. Author: john antoni. CC BY-SA 2.0

There are different types of pantries, such as the butler’s pantry, cold pantry, and Hoosier cabinet. Hoosier Manufacturing Company first developed the Hoosier cabinet in New Castle, Indiana, in the early years of the 19th century, and become popular into the 1930s.

It was built to serve two rooms in one, pantry and kitchen, with a big storage space and working counter, and soon become an essential fixture in American kitchens.

July 16. 1921 Country Gentleman, Hoosier Cabinets. Author: Don O’Brien. CC BY 2.0


Hoosier Cabinet. Author: Peter Sheik. CC BY 2.0

A serving pantry, also known as a butler’s pantry, was a separate room in large homes, and traditionally was used for storage and cleaning of silver.

In Europe, the butler’s job was to keep the silver under lock and key, so he used to sleep in that room, and that’s why the room got the name butler’s pantry.

They were also used for a storage of the wine log and merchant’s account books. In the modern times, butler’s pantries are used as staging areas for serving meals.


The door connecting the Butler’s Pantry to the Formal Dining Room in a house from 1891. Author: Minnesota Historical Society. CC BY-SA 2.0


Butler’s Pantry, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. Author: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors. CC BY-SA 2.0

Butler’s Pantry, Wimpole Hall, managed by the National Trust. Author:  Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors. CC BY-SA 2.0

Before refrigeration was available, people used ice boxes to keep food cold, such as milk, eggs, and butter.

However, there was a problem with ice boxes because the chilled space was small, but the cabinet housing it was large. So the cold pantry was invented as a solution, also known as the “California cooler.”

An exterior of a house with vents for a kitchen cold pantry. Author: SDC . CC BY-SA 3.0


The woman is storing food in a pantry.

The room usually consisted of a cabinet with wooden-slat shelves to allow air circulation, on the north side of the house.

In the summertime, the cold pantry kept the temperature several degrees lower than the temperature in the house. Mostly cheesecakes, eggs, butter, pastries, and bread were stored in cold pantries.

Today, pantries have been making a huge comeback in American and English households since the late 1990s.