Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Tea canister

  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    1760-1765 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware, with a lead glaze stained with metal oxides

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mr Arthur Hurst

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 3

Object Type
Tea canisters were containers for storing tea-leaves. They are often called 'caddies' today, a name that derives from the Malay word for a measure of weight (kati) equivalent to about half a kilogram. In mid-18th century Britain tea not made in the kitchen, but in front of the family and guests by the lady of the house. Like other tea utensils, canisters are therefore often highly decorative.

During the 18th century, as its price gradually fell, tea ceased to be an expensive luxury and became more widely drunk. In 1784 import duties were drastically reduced. These changes were reflected in the increasing size of the containers over the course of the century.

Design & Manufacture
Ceramics with naturalistic moulded decoration were very popular in mid-18th century Britain. This cauliflower canister was made by pressing wet clay into a hollow two-piece plaster mould bearing the shape in reverse. The seam from the mould down the side of the canister is clearly visible. The hollow moulds for making this piece were formed using a convex master model of the shape. The master model would have been made in stoneware, probably by a specialist block-maker.

Physical description

Tea canister with leaf decoration

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


1760-1765 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Earthenware, with a lead glaze stained with metal oxides

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed with the initials 'JW' on the base


Height: 9.84 cm

Descriptive line


Labels and date

British Galleries:

Although Wedgwood made a number of improvements to earthenware glazes in the years around 1760, including a green colour introduced in 1759, he is best known as a supporter of Neo-classicism. Before adopting classical forms and motifs he made pottery similar to these canisters, with naturalistically-moulded decoration and rich colour effects. [27/03/2003]
Tea canister
Made at the factory of Whieldon/Wedgwood or Wedgwood, about 1754-64
Mark: signed 'JW' probably for Josiah Wedgwood
Lead-glazed earthenware

C.16-1940 Arthur Hurst Bequest [23/05/2008]

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Earthenware; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares


Ceramics Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.