teapot thumbnail 1
teapot thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Silver, Room 65, The Whiteley Galleries


1670-1671 (made)
Place of origin

Tapering cylindrical silver pot with conical silver lid and a straight silver spout pointing upwards, set at 90 degrees to the leather handle. A coat of arms and inscription engraved on the side.

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read Teapots through time Tea, the world's most consumed beverage after water, has a long and global history stretching across centuries and continents. Discover some of the finest examples of the most ubiquitous of all kitchen utensils: the teapot.

Object details

Object type
Titleteapot (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Silver, with leather handle
Brief description
silver and leather, English (London), 1670-71, maker's mark 'TL', the initials separated by a pellet, in a rectangular punch, possibly the mark of Timothy Ley (or Lee).
Physical description
Tapering cylindrical silver pot with conical silver lid and a straight silver spout pointing upwards, set at 90 degrees to the leather handle. A coat of arms and inscription engraved on the side.
  • Height: 33.75cm
  • Length: 21.1cm
  • Width: 17.9cm
  • Weight: 1507g (Note: Calculated from weight given on file, ie 48 Troy oz and 10 dwt.)
Marks and inscriptions
  • Assay and maker's marks stamped on the outer rim of the lid and the pot On lid, left to right, marks are: crowned leopard's head for town of London; maker's mark 'T L', a pellet between initials in a rectangular punch; lion passant (assay mark), very worn; date letter 'n' in a shield-shaped punch for 1670-71, very worn. On the pot, left to right, marks are: maker's mark 'T L', a pellet between initials in a rectangular punch; crowned leopard's head for town of London; lion passant; date letter 'n' in a shield-shaped punch for 1670-71, very worn.
  • This Siluer tea Pott was presented to ye Com[mi]tte[e] / of ye East India Cumpany [sic] by ye Right Honou[rabl]e / George Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle / A member of that Honourable & worthy Society and A True Hearty Louer of them 1670 (Engraved on the side of the pot, between the arms of Berkeley and the arms of the East India Company.)
  • Engraved on the side of the pot: the arms of George, first earl of Berkeley (1626/7-1698). Gules a chevron between ten crosses pattée, six in chief and four in base argent. Crest: A mitre gules labelled and garnished or, charged with a chevron and crosses patté as in the arms. Supporters: Two lions or, the sinister ducally crowned gules collared and chained gold (see Burke: 1878, sub nom. 'Berkeley (Earl of Berkeley)'). Motto: 'virtvte non vi'.
    Motto, Latin: 'By virtue, not by force'.
  • Engraved on the side of the pot, the arms of the East India Company. Mottos: 'Devs indicat' 'Deo Dvcente nil nocet'
    Mottos, Latin: 'God shows' 'With God leading, nothing harms'
Gallery label
  • TEAPOT Silver LONDON; hallmark 1670-1. Marker's mark: TL Inscribed: This silver tea potte was presented to ye Comtte of ye East India Company by ye Right Honul George Berkeley of Berkeley Castle. A member of that Honourable & Worthy Society and A true Hearty Lover of them 1670. With the arms of the East India Company and of Lord Berkeley M. 399-1921(Pre-2000)
  • Tea-Pot London 1670-71 Mark: TL, unidentified Engraved with the arms of the East India Company and Lord berkeley. The inscription reads: "This silver tea-pott was presented to ye Comtte of ye East India Company by ye Richt Honul George Berkeley of Berkely Castle. A member of that Honourable and Worthy Society and A True Hearty Lover of them 1670". Silver teapots were uncommon in the 17th century and the form was still evolving. This tea pot, of tapering cylindrical form, was modelled on the pewter coffee pots used in coffee houses. M.399-1921(1990)
Object history
George Berkeley, who commissioned this teapot, was born in around 1626, the son of George, eighth Baron Berkeley. His elder brother drowned in the English channel in 1641 and so in 1658 George inherited his father's estate. His inheritance was much diminished because of the spendthrift ways of his predecessors and the impact of the Civil War and so to compensate for this, he married in 1646 Elizabeth, the wealthy daughter of John Massingberd, the treasurer of the East India Company. Berkeley made significant investments in the organisation: in 1677, his personal estate was valued at £26,000 of which £8000 comprised East India Company stock. His gift of a large silver teapot to the Company in 1670 also indicates his close links with the Company, though he did not become a member himself until 1681. George, whose career as a politician involved him greatly in trade and colonial matters, was created Viscount Dursley and first earl of Berkeley in 1679. He died in 1698 (on Berkeley, see Warmington: 2008).
The teapot was transferred from the India Museum to the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A) in 1880, but the circumstances of its removal from the East India Company are not known (see Inventory: 1880, p.81a, no. 02,641). The teapot was subsequently transferred from the Indian Section to the Metalwork Section of the Museum in 1921.
Historical context
Tea and coffee were novel, fashionable and expensive beverages in mid-seventeenth-century England. Initially, the vessels used to serve them were similar in design, with a tapering cylindrical body topped by a conical lid, the straight spout set at a right angle to the handle. The handle was made of a non-conductive material such as leather, metal covered in leather, or wood. Were it not for the inscription on the side of this piece, it would be difficult to establish clearly whether it had served tea or coffee. The notably large size of this example is appropriate to a pot that was intended to serve the numerous members of the East India Company committee. The fact the pot is made of silver, rather than the cheaper pewter reserved for such vessels in public coffee houses (which also served tea), indicates not only the wealth of the person who presented it, but also reflects its use among a select group of people. (For the design and socio-historical context of vessels for tea and coffee, see Brown: 1995; Glanville: 1997, p. 67; Day: 2000; Schroder: 2009, II, pp.701-05.)
Maker's mark unidentified (not recorded in Jackson: 1989).
Bibliographic references
  • Watts, W. W. Catalogue of English silversmiths' work, with Scottish and Irish, civil and domestic, V & A Publication no. 132 M. London: Printed under the authority of His Majesty's Sationery Office, 1920.
  • Oman, Charles. Caroline silver, 1625-1688. London: Faber and Faber, 1970.
  • Burke, Bernard. The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time. London: Harrison, 1878.
  • Warmington, Andrew. Berkeley, George, fist earl of Berkeley (1626/7-1698). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008: http://web.archive.org/web/20230112112947/https://www.oxforddnb.com/display/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-2209
  • Oman, Charles. English Silversmiths' Work Civil and Domestic. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1965.
  • Glanville, Philippa. Silver in England. New York: Holmes & Meier; London: Unwin Hyman, 1987. ISBN: 0841911398
  • Reinders, Pim. Het 'koffy-gereedschap': Drie eeuwen koffiegerei. In: Reinders, Pim and Thera Wijsenbeek, eds. Koffie in Nederland: Vier Eeuwen Cultuurgeschiedenis. Zutphen: Walburg Pers; Delft: Gemeente Musea Delft, 1994. ISBN: 9060118774. A collection of essays published to accompany the exhibition held in Delft between 26 March and 19 June at the Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, the Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara and the Museum Lambert van Meerten, pp. 55-74.
  • Brown, Peter B. In Praise of Hot Liquors: The study of chocolate, coffee and tea-drinking 1600-1850. York: York Civic Trust, 1995. ISBN: 0948939095. Catalogue of an exhibition held at Fairfax House, York, 1 September - 20th November 1995.
  • Day, Ivan, ed. Eat, Drink & Be Merry: The British at Table 1600-2000. London: PhilipWilson Publishers, 2000. ISBN: 0856675199. This book accompanies an exhibition held at Fairfax House, York, February 26-June 4, 2000, Kenwood House, London, January 27-September 24, 2000, and Assembly House, Norwich, October 14, 2000-January 7, 2001.
  • Inventory of George Berkeley (PROB 4/ 8805) 1698
  • Sainsbury, Ethel Bruce, ed. A Calendar of the Court Minutes, etc., of the East India Company, 1635-1639[-1679]. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907-1938.
  • de Castres, Elizabeth. A collector’s guide to tea silver, 1670-1900. London: Muller, 1977). ISBN: 0584102895.
  • Clifford, Helen, 20th Century Silver, London: The Crafts Council, 1993.
  • Styles, John. 'Product Innovation in Early Modern London'. In: Past and Present, vol. 168 (August 2000), pp. 124-69.
  • Mitchell, David M. Silversmiths in Elizabethan and Stuart London. Their Lives and Their Marks. London: Boydell & Brewer, 2017. ISBN 9781783272389
Other number
02641(IS) - India Museum Catalogue Number
Accession number

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Record createdSeptember 10, 2004
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