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Tea caddy

Tea caddy

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1780-1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sycamore wood, painted, with glued paper; silvered metal hinges

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Thomas Sutton, Esq., in memory of his wife

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Tea-drinking, introduced into Britain in the late 17th century, became widespread during the 18th century. Since tea caddies were placed on the table as tea was served, they were often highly decorative. A great variety of wooden caddies were made between 1780 and 1810 as tea became cheaper and more widely used. A. Hepplewhite & Co. published designs for both ‘tea caddies’ and ‘tea chests’, which were usually larger, in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide, 1788 (2nd edition 1789, 3rd Edition 1794). This caddy may have been bought as a blank and decorated at home because the decoration combines painted floral swags, cut-out paper flower shapes, and a print showing childen playing games glued to the lid.

Physical description

Hexagonal tea caddy, completely covered with fine white paper painted with coloured and gilded floral and classical swags interspersed with applied floral sprays of paper, possibly pieces of wallpaper; the flat lid covered with a coloured print of children at play. The inner lid is made of mahogany.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1780-1800 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Sycamore wood, painted, with glued paper; silvered metal hinges


Height: 11.7 cm, Width: 15 cm, Depth: 9 cm

Historical context note

Tea leaves were expensive, so were usually stored in lockable containers. Early tea containers were referred to as canisters, kept in locked boxes known as tea chests. Smaller wooden boxes with one or two fixed inner compartments for loose tea became popular from about 1780 onwards and by 1800 were generally known as tea caddies. The word 'caddy' is thought to derive from the Malay word for a measure of weight (kati) equivalent to about half a kilogram.

White wood boxes were supplied for penwork and other decorations. Possibly made in Tunbridge Wells.

Descriptive line

Hexagonal tea caddy covered with painted swags on paper. Gilt painted borders.




Painting; Collage

Subjects depicted

Play; Children


Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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