Collections case

You can see the following domestic items from Salford's collections in the collections case in the cafe/reception of Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

A Nice Cup of Tea - Teapots from Salford Museum's collections

Tea is often thought to be a traditionally British drink and although we have been drinking it for over 350 years the history of tea goes back much further. According to legend tea was first discovered in China over 4,000 years ago by Emporer Nun Shen when leaves fell from a tree into some boiling water resulting in a pleasant tasting and uplifting drink. Over the centuries the tradition of taking tea spread through China and into Japan.

Tea was first imported from the East to areas of Europe in the early years of the 17th century but it wasn't until the second half of the century that it became available in the coffee houses of London. Its popularity grew when Catherine of Braganza from Portugal mamed Charles II in 1662 and introduced the custom of drinking tea common among Portuguese nobility to the British court.

The traditional Chinese method for making tea was brewing it in open pans or in the cup. In the West the Chinese wine pots that were exported with the tea were interpreted as being intended for tea making. Whether they were or not remains a mystery but the Chinese began to export teapots to the West in the style which remains today.

The earliest British ceramic teapots did not appear until the 1690s. At this time Europeans were unable to manufacture porcelain which was an expensive and highly prized material and British teapots found it hard to compete with the more refined Chinese imports.

In the 18th century several factors contributed to the spread of tea drinking and British teapot manufacture. In the 1760s Josiah Wedgwood's cream coloured earthenware provided the first real rival to Chinese porcelain. In 1784 the tax on tea fell dramatically and in 1791 the East india Company stopped importing Chinese porcelain. Finally in the 1800s the potteries invented bone china, a hard wearing yet refined material which was easy to manufacture into many different types of pots.

The 19th century saw a deluge of teapots in many different shapes and designs along with the invention of the ritual of afternoon tea in the 1840s which is credited to the Duchess of Bedford. She found that she was in need of an afternoon pick-me-up between luncheon and dinner so took to taking sandwiches and cake with her afternoon tea. She invited friends and soon afternoon tea became established in middle and upper class households.

Our teapot display shows a variety of pots from the 18th to 20th century. Here are a few in detail:

Wedgewood Jasperware teapot, 19th centuryWedgewood Jasperware teapot, 19th century

Made of Jasperware, this pot is in the Neoclassical style which was inspired by the archaeological discoveries of Roman and Greek art in the 1760s. Jasperware is the type of stoneware first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s after years of experiments. The smooth matt finish could be coloured and then overlaid with fine white cameo relief portraits or classical scenes. Jasperware was originally made into cameos and ornaments but its popularity meant its range was entended to include items such as vases, plaques and tableware.

Measham teapot, 1882Measham teapot, 1882

This Measham teapot is inscribed with the words 'A Present from a Son 1882'. These pots were popular with canal people who would order a personalised pot on their way through Measham on the Ashby Canal and collect it on their next run. It was also associated with farm workers from Suffolk and Norfolk who after the harvest in their own counties would travel to work in the maltings or other brewery industries around Burton upon Trent. They bought Measham ware to present to their loved ones on their return.

Wedgwood SYP Patent teapot, early 20th centuryWedgwood SYP patent teapot, early 20th century

Known as the SYP or Simple Yet Perfect teapot this one was manufactured by Wedgwood, Patented in 1901, it was the brainchild of Sir Douglas Baillie Hamilton Cochrane, the 12th Earl of Dundonald, and the idea behind it was to stop the tealeaves stewing in the tea. To do this the tea leaves are put on a perforated ledge at the top which separates them from the hot water. To brew simply tilt the teapot backwards to rest on its handle allowing the hot water and tea leaves to mingle. When brewed to your taste set the pot upright again separating the leaves and liquid to prevent stewing.

War against Hitlerism teapot, c1940War Against Hitlerism teapot, c1940

This teapot is printed with the words "War against Hitlerism - This souvenir teapot was made for Dyson & Horsfall of Preston to replace aluminium stocks taken over for allied armaments 1939". During the Second World War people were encouraged to give up metal household items such as aluminium pans to be recycled for armaments for the war effort. In reality these items were of little use but the initiative did make people feel that they were making a contribution to the war effort. Dyson & Horsfall were a mail order catalogue company and this teapot was probably added to their catalogue as a replacement for aluminium teapots the catalogue had previously offered. It also recognises the company's own contribution through surrendering their own stock of metal products.

Midwinter Red Domino teapot, c1953Midwinter Red Domino teapot, c1953

This teapot is part of a tea set produced by Midwinter and designed by Jessie Tait. The design is called Red Domino and was part of the Stylecraft range produced in 1953. Midwinter Pottery was founded in Stock-on-Trent in 1910. From the 1950s they drew inspiration from American designers producing tableware in interesting shapes decorated with contemporary designs. These appealed to the younger generation who were keen to embrace the new and modern after years of rationing.