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Tea caddy - Jennens and Bettridge tea caddy
  • Jennens and Bettridge tea caddy
    Jennens & Bettridge
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Jennens and Bettridge tea caddy

  • Object:

    Tea caddy

  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jennens & Bettridge (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted papier-mâché

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messrs Jennens & Bettridge

  • Museum number:

    37:1, 2-1852

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125c, case 1 []

Object Type
Tea caddies were used to store loose tea leaves. They were placed on the tea table when tea was served and were decorated in a variety of fashionable styles. Tea caddies traditionally had locks because tea had originally been very expensive. This particularly elaborate caddy was given to the Museum by the makers and has never been used.

Materials & Making
The caddy is made of papier mƒch‚, a substance made by either gluing paper sheets over a mould, or pressing paper pulp in a mould. The article would then be dried in a kiln, hand-painted and varnished.

Jennens & Bettridge were the leading Birmingham firm of japanners, or makers of painted and varnished furniture and other objects. By 1851 they were the leading manufacturers of papier mƒch‚ in England, with premises in Birmingham, London and, between 1851 and 1852, in New York City, USA. The firm made items for Queen Victoria and exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, held in London. Their stand at the Exhibition included a tea caddy but we do not know if this is the same one.

Physical description

A tea caddy of papier-mâché, of octagonal form, with the smaller sides concave, the whole rounded and raised on a deep, shaped foot, the lid with concave sides and slightly domed top, following the contours of the body. The japanned decoration is on a white ground, with panels painted with flowers in imitation of Asian ceramics, with framing bands of gilded scrolling

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)


1851 (made)


Jennens & Bettridge (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Painted papier-mâché

Marks and inscriptions

Impressed 'Jennens & Bettridge, Makers to the Queen' with a crown above
Stamped on the base


Height: 15.5 cm, Width: 23 cm, Depth: 22 cm

Object history note

Shown at the Great Exhibition 1851 and purchased directly from the exhibition

Descriptive line

Japanned papier mâché tea caddy, by Jennens and Bettridge. English, 1851.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jones, Yvonne, Japanned Papier-Mâché and Tinware c. 1740-1940. Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2012 (ISBN 978 1 85149 686 0), p. 158, fig. 155
The following excerpt is taken from Jones, Yvonne, Japanned Papier-Mâché and Tinware c. 1740-1940. Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2012 (ISBN 978 1 85149 686 0), p.23-27:

‘Paper is believed to have been invented in China in the second century AD, and the Chinese art of making papier mâché objects is almost as ancient, but knowledge of paper-making spread only very slowly and it not reach Europe until the 12th century. Paper-mills were established in France in the late 15th century and soon after, French craftsmen began using paper pulp to make architectural ornaments, snuff boxes and other small articles. There were few paper mills in England until the late 17th century, so there was little pulp from which to make comparable articles, the paper imported from France being far too expensive to be pulped for the purpose.
By the 18th century, however, there were two quite distinct branches of paper mâché manufacture in England. One was allied to the making of paper hangings, and the other, to the japanning industry. Both branches took their lead from France and this, together with the name, has not only perpetuated the myth that papier mâché was French in origin, but also overshadowed its ancient eastern history.
Not only was the term papier mâché not recognised in 18th century French dictionaries, but the Journal de l’Agriculture du Commerce (1778) sourced it to England and to the first edition of Dossie’s book, The Handmaid to the Arts (1758). Its occurrence, much later in the French edition of the Paris Exhibition catalogue of 1855, may simply have been the result of the translation of texts supplied by English manufacturers. The term is, however, currently used in France today.
It has been suggested that the term derives from problems of communication between English employers and French émigré workers in the 17th century when papier mâché was probably taken to mean ‘mashed paper’ (or chewed paper)…. The crux was the cachet of a French sounding name and the penchant in some quarters if fashionable society in the late 18th century to look upon anything French as highly sophisticated.

Some of the advantages of papier mâché, gleaned from contemporary records, partly explain its attractions and may have been sufficient, at least until the mid-19th century, to outweigh what will be seen as its long and labour intensive production processes. Foremost was its suitability for japanning, which was much in vogue in the 18th century.
Furthermore, because it could be moulded into various forms, it required no joinery and was thus incredibly strong. As solid as wood, though less hard than most, it was said to blunt tools sooner, and although heavier in mass, its strength allowed it to be used in thin sections, rendering it perfect for small light objects….By the mid-19th century, it was found that it could be steam-moulded into any curve without fear of splitting. In short, it was considered superior to both wood and metal for being lighter, sounder, and admitting of a more beautiful finish’.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The lobed shape and coloured floral decoration with bands of repeating pattern were probably inspired by Canton enamelware made in China in the Qianlong period (1736-1795). This effect is much more rare than the more usual black and gold finish of papier-mƒch‚, imitating Chinese or Japanese lacquer. [27/03/2003]




Furniture; British Galleries; Household objects; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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