As spring turns to summer, or tries to, my wife and I find ourselves dusting the cobwebs off the rucksack and planning a walk or two in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. We are very much fair weather walkers, a little like hibernating animals waking from winter sleeps.
This years first walk was an unambitious gentle few miles around the Chatsworth estate. I packed the rucksack. Fortunately it is cavernous as I felt we needed raincoats, extra woollens, a bottle of water, a plentiful packed lunch, a large flask of tea, a mat to lay the lunch on, sweets to chew, two hats and a folding stool ( the stool ties onto the rucksack as I prefer it to the mat).
Needless to say, being the strongest of the two of us by a short head, I carried the rucksack. I think I may have overdone it with provisions because after half a mile I was pretty desperate to stop for lunch. We drank all the liquids, ate all the lunch, put on the hats and after a short rest continued.
With a much lighter load I was able to enjoy the countryside and as my wife chatted gaily away I let my mind wander. I thought about the tea we had just drunk, the history of it and that marvellous vessel the teapot.
Tea was introduced to Europe from China with the expansion of trade in the 17th century and was a great novelty to people used to drinking only beer and posset. Although it was extremely
expensive, a pound of tea cost the equivalent to a year’s wage for a maid, it quickly became very popular. It was originally drunk after dinner and was usually prepared personally by the lady of the
house. Those who were buying tea also had the means to buy silver and by the end of the 18th century tea wares had become a major part of the silversmith’s trade.
The earliest teapots date from the late 17th century but very few of these exist today. They were designed along the lines of the imported Chinese porcelain teapots. The pear shape came into
being early in the 18th century and was the dominant style in Britain.
From the 1730’s the compressed globular or ‘bullet’ shape became more fashionable than the the pear shape. Some teapots were very richly decorated with bands of engraved or chased scrolls,
strapwork and flowers around the body and the edge of the lid. One interesting variation on the bullet shape was the fully spherical teapot on a high foot that was a speciality of Scottish
In the 1770’s the availability of rolled sheet silver in thin gauge meant that silversmiths could produce teapots at a much reduced price. As rolled silver was easier to mould and shape, the oval
and circular teapot shapes became popular in line with the rise of the Neo-classical style. However such teapots were not as robust as those made from heavier gauge metal and splitting is
sometimes evident around the spout which was made from seamed sheet metal instead of being cast.
The 19th century saw many further developments in teapot design, not least the electroplated model. The whole century is a separate subject. What a collectable item the silver teapot is.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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