Tea Caddy thumbnail 1
Tea Caddy thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Tea Caddy

1780-1800 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Tea-drinking, introduced into Britain in the late 17th century, became widespread during the 18th century. Since tea caddies were placed on the table as tea was served, they were often highly decorative. A great variety of wooden caddies were made between 1780 and 1810 as tea became cheaper and more widely used. A. Hepplewhite & Co. published designs for both ‘tea caddies’ and ‘tea chests’, which were usually larger, in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide, 1788 (2nd edition 1789, 3rd Edition 1794). This caddy may have been bought as a blank and decorated at home because the decoration combines painted floral swags, cut-out paper flower shapes, and a print showing childen playing games glued to the lid.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Tea Caddy
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Sycamore wood, painted, with glued paper; silvered metal hinges
Brief Description
Hexagonal tea caddy covered with painted swags on paper. Gilt painted borders.
Physical Description
Hexagonal tea caddy, completely covered with fine white paper painted with coloured and gilded floral and classical swags interspersed with applied floral sprays of paper, possibly pieces of wallpaper; the flat lid covered with a coloured print of children at play. The inner lid is made of mahogany.
Dimensions
  • Height: 11.7cm
  • Width: 15cm
  • Depth: 9cm
Styles
Credit line
Given by Thomas Sutton, Esq., in memory of his wife
Historical context
Tea leaves were expensive, so were usually stored in lockable containers. Early tea containers were referred to as canisters, kept in locked boxes known as tea chests. Smaller wooden boxes with one or two fixed inner compartments for loose tea became popular from about 1780 onwards and by 1800 were generally known as tea caddies. The word 'caddy' is thought to derive from the Malay word for a measure of weight (kati) equivalent to about half a kilogram.



White wood boxes were supplied for penwork and other decorations. Possibly made in Tunbridge Wells.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Tea-drinking, introduced into Britain in the late 17th century, became widespread during the 18th century. Since tea caddies were placed on the table as tea was served, they were often highly decorative. A great variety of wooden caddies were made between 1780 and 1810 as tea became cheaper and more widely used. A. Hepplewhite & Co. published designs for both ‘tea caddies’ and ‘tea chests’, which were usually larger, in The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide, 1788 (2nd edition 1789, 3rd Edition 1794). This caddy may have been bought as a blank and decorated at home because the decoration combines painted floral swags, cut-out paper flower shapes, and a print showing childen playing games glued to the lid.
Collection
Accession Number
W.83&A-1919

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record createdApril 11, 2007
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