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Tea canister

  • Place of origin:

    Bilston (or Wolverhampton, made)

  • Date:

    1780-1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin, bright-cut engraved and japanned, with brass handle

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Thomas Sutton, Esq., in memory of his wife

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 1

Object Type
Tea canisters were used to store loose tea leaves. They were called 'canisters' until about 1800, when the term caddy began to be used. They were placed on the table as tea was served and were therefore decorated in a variety of fashionable styles.

Ownership & Use
Tea was a popular drink even in middle-income households in the later 18th century although the price was high owing to import restrictions and duties. Tea canisters had locks to safeguard the valuable tea. All tea came from China until 1839 when Indian tea began to be imported. This canister has two compartments inside to keep different types of tea apart. Black teas were Bohea, Congou and Souchong, and the more expensive green teas Singlo or Hyson. Blending the teas was an essential part of the tea-making ritual.

Design & Designing
This metal tea canister is hexagonal, a popular shape for canisters and the angled sides would have shown off the sparkling effect of the metal in the incised patterns and the gold stars, border patterns and lozenge shapes. The inside is lined with metal foil.

Place of Origin

Bilston (or Wolverhampton, made)


1780-1800 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin, bright-cut engraved and japanned, with brass handle


Height: 11.11 cm, Width: 13.97 cm, Depth: 8.57 cm

Descriptive line

Tea canister of elongated hexagonal form, of tin, with incised decoration, decortated with red japanning and lacquering imitating gilding

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. 49, fig. 36

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This canister combines bright-cut engraving, a technique introduced to silver in the 1770s, with areas of paint and a final layer of varnish. The tin appears yellow because of the varnish. [27/03/2003]


Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; British Galleries


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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