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Tea canister

  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    1760-1770 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Salt-glazed stoneware, painted in enamel colours

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mr Wallace Elliot

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52b, case 1 []

Object Type
Ceramic tea canisters in the 18th century tended to resemble miniature versions of the japanned metal canisters from which loose tea was dispensed in grocers' shops. This particular example has been copied either from a simple metal can, or perhaps from a square tea chest, with only a small hole and pill-box lid to keep the contents fresh. The style of decoration suggests that it may possibly have been made at one of the Yorkshire potteries rather than in Staffordshire.

Retailers & Traders
Tea, coffee and chocolate were sold by pottery and porcelain retailers (known as 'Staffordshire Warehouses' and 'China Men') as well as by grocers. Until the repeal in 1784 of the huge tax on tea, the two most popular teas were very expensive: Bohea, a black tea, at prices from 16 to 24 shillings per pound, and Hyson, a green tea, at 14 to 20 shillings per pound - representing a week's wages for a master craftsman.

Ownership & Use
Such an elaborately decorated (and apparently unique) tea canister seems too good to have been used: it may, in fact, have been employed as part of a shop window display rather than in the home. Display rather than use would not have been compromised by the major crack that exists around the body. Caused by the repeated enamel firings, this crack is disguised by a meandering chain in yellow enamel.

Physical description

Tea canister and cover of salt-glazed stoneware. Rectangular with flat top and wooden cover. Painted in strong colours with small figures in landscapes and on the front in a panel surmounted by a mask and flanked by flowers, urns and scrollwork the inscription, 'FINE BOHEA TEA'; on the top a border of scrollwork and diapers.

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)


1760-1770 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Salt-glazed stoneware, painted in enamel colours


Height: 15.6 cm, Width: 10.2 cm, Depth: 8.9 cm

Object history note

From the C.H.E. Sönhsen Collection. Formerly the L.M. Solon Collection. Exhibited on loan at the Hanley Technical Exhibition 1890.

Descriptive line

Tea canister, salt-glazed stoneware, painted in enamel colours, Staffordshire, England, 1760-1770

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This large tea canister was designed to store what the lettering on the front describes as 'fine bohea tea'. This was a good quality black tea that was usually drunk with milk. The highly colourful tea-drinking scenes painted on it suggest that the canister was meant to be on view. [27/03/2003]
Tea canister
Made in Staffordshire, about 1760
Salt-glazed stoneware

C.69-1938 Wallace Elliot bequest [23/05/2008]


Stoneware; Salt glaze; Enamel


Painted; Glazed


Ceramics; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; Containers; Stoneware


Ceramics Collection

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