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Tray

Tray

  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    1885 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Elkington & Co. (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Electroplate, with cast and applied handles and engraved ornament

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Elkington & Co. Ltd.

  • Museum number:

    M.244-1984

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 2

Object Type
Large trays were used for serving tea and coffee at social occasions in the home. Servants could bring the tea equipment into the drawing room on the tray so that the hostess could pour the tea there safely without fear of spillage. In 1888 Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management advised that at a weekly 'at home' tea, 'The tea equipage is usually placed upon a silver salver.'

The Victorian Tea Service
A complete tea service in one pattern and material was just one option for the Victorian household. Those consumers who could afford it were more likely to purchase a silver teapot, tea kettle and stand, milk jug and sugar bowl to use with porcelain cups and saucers. Domestic advice manuals advised the housewife to buy this sort of tea ware and cutlery as the minimum quantity of silver that a respectable household should own. Electroplated nickel silver (a cheaper, plated alternative ) was an accepted substitute for silver. The tea tray was one of the most expensive items of tea equipment. In 1896 the Goldsmiths' and Silversmiths' Company advertised 24-inch silver trays for £32, four times the cost of a silver teapot or coffee pot. Electroplated trays were a cheaper and socially acceptable alternative at between a half and a third of the silver price. In 1869 the manufacturers Elkington & Co. offered similar electroplated tea trays in their catalogue for £15.

Food & Drink
The Victorians introduced the formal afternoon tea, taken at about 4 o'clock, and by the 1880s it had become an institution. Weekly 'at home' teas were an opportunity for visiting friends and exchanging gossip. Only tea, bread and butter and cake or fruit were offered to guests at these gatherings. However, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management for 1888 lists a number of different events at which tea played an important role, from large social gatherings such as wedding teas and musical entertainment to smaller family teas.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)

Date

1885 (made)

Artist/maker

Elkington & Co. (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Electroplate, with cast and applied handles and engraved ornament

Marks and inscriptions

Engraved with unidentified coat of arms

Dimensions

Height: 9 cm, Width: 54 cm, Length: 82 cm

Object history note

Manufactured by Elkington & Co, Birmingham

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Large trays for serving tea and coffee could be expensive to buy. In 1869 the Elkington catalogue offered similar large trays (32 inches wide) for £36 each. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Date mark for 1885

Categories

Metalwork; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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