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Tea canister

Tea canister

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1717-1718 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Farnell, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Lt. Col. G. B. Croft-Lyons Bequest

  • Museum number:

    M.854:1, 2-1926

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52b, case 1 []

Object Type
Domestic tea canisters appeared towards the end of the 17th century, and probably originally derived their shape from East Asian stoppered porcelain jars with circular necks and domed covers. The word 'caddy' itself was adopted towards the end of the 18th century and seems to be a corruption of the Malay word for a measure of weight (kati) equivalent to about half a kilogram. Prior to this, caddies were more commonly called 'canisters'.

Tea caddies were usually made in sets of two or three to contain the two main types of tea: bohea (black) and green. Sometimes a larger caddy for sugar was added. The tea caddies were often engraved with an initial B or G to distinguish them and fitted in a wooden, lockable case (indicative of the price of tea at that time), which was sometimes covered in leather or shagreen.

John Farnell, the maker of this tea canister, was apprenticed in London in 1706 and entered his mark as an 'at large' worker in 1714.

Design & Designing
This example, a simple, faceted octagonal form with a moulded base and domed cap with little surface embellishment, is typical of early-18th-century canisters. By the 1750s a range of shapes and ornament appear, as canisters become the vehicle for extravagant Rococo embellishment. The slip-on cap doubled up as a measure, but they began to be replaced by hinged lids by about 1720.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1717-1718 (made)


Farnell, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Engraved with the arms of the Preston Blundell families
Hallmarked for 1717-1718


Height: 12 cm, Width: 8.75 cm, Depth: 6 cm

Object history note

Made in London by John Farnell (born in Wokingham, Berkshire active from 1714)

Descriptive line


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

Hayward, J F., Huguenot Silver, 1959, Pl. 46b

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This octagonal-shaped silver canister is typical of early 18th-century tea canisters. It is very similar to the one depicted in the painting on the left of 'A Family of Three at Tea'. The early shapes of silver tea canisters may have been influenced by the design of women's cosmetic boxes. [27/03/2003]




Metalwork Collection

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