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Tea caddy

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, veneered in satinwood, bone

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.154:1 to 3-1930

  • 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 is veneered in satinwood with inlaid neoclassical decoration in the form of oval paterae, in coloured and stained woods on the front and lid. It has two lidded compartments inside for storing different varieties of tea.

Physical description

Rectangular tea caddy veneered in satinwood with cross-banded edges, with an oval patera on the front and top. The back and sides are plain, the bottom is lined with green woven material. The background to the paterae show the remains of green staining. The key escutcheon and knob on the lid are of bone, or possibly ivory. Inside are two compartments with wooden lids, one with a brass knob, the other knob missing. The inside of the lid has burr veneer with crossed stringing lines in a pale wood.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1800 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, veneered in satinwood, bone


Height: 11.5 cm, Width: 17.5 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.

Descriptive line

Rectangular tea caddy veneered in satinwood with oval paterae on the front and top.






Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; Household objects


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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