Ever since the arrival of tea into Britain from the mid 1600’s it has evolved its own traditions.
Ever since the arrival of tea into Britain from the mid 1600’s it has evolved its own traditions. Originally drunk in Coffee houses and first served as something of a curiosity it soon found popularity. When King Charles II entered into marriage with the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662, she was to bring the art of tea drinking to court and then to the wealthy upper classes. This started the development of tea equipage and the first known hallmarked silver tea pot dates from London 1670. As the serving of tea became more ritualized firstly sugar and then milk in the 1720’s were added to the tea. This led to the development of complete tea services as we know them today.
The early source of tea imports into Britain was from China and by the mid nineteenth century Chinese craftsman were producing silver tea sets made for the export market. This three piece Chinese export silver tea service was made by Wo Shing in Canton and dates from the 1860’s. Profusely decorated with domestic Chinese scenes and auspicious symbols they were labour intensive creations. No one knows how many sets survive or the variety of patterns that were made. Today they are enjoying rising popularity amongst Chinese collectors and are steadily rising in price.
Dating from the late Victorian era this five piece set was made in Scotland in 1898. It is in the ‘Indian style’ and was produced by James Murray who was based in Glasgow. This style was popularised after the Glasgow Exhibition of 1876. It consists of a tea pot, coffee pot, milk jug and sugar bowl as well as a tea kettle on stand. This has a burner underneath to keep the water boiling at the table.
The last set is a rare Art Deco silver tea service hallmarked for Sheffield 1935 by Joseph Rodgers & Sons. In ‘Design for Today’, November 1935 this set is illustrated. The accompanying description reads: “A tea service of original design by Joseph Rogers & Sons. Tea pot shown in the centre pours well and easily. On the right combined sugar and cream jug, the last drop of cream can be poured without upsetting the sugar.” Normally seen in silver plate this silver version carries the full set of silver hallmarks for Sheffield 1935 and the maker’s marks for Joseph Rodgers & Sons. There is no British registered design number as seen on the plated versions. This means it was probably produced before the registered design number had been issued. Currently it is the only silver version recorded and may well have been the prototype.
Today we have the luxury of looking back over 300 years and being able to see the stylistic development of tea sets as fashions changed. All three of these sets are unique in their own way but all with one purpose in mind – serving up a great cup of tea.