By Shannon Baxter
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, April 21 is National Tea Day! Whether you enjoy the classics of Orange Pekoe or Earl Grey; herbal teas with chamomile or mint, or want to expand your tea taste buds with trying green tea, today is a good day to sit back and enjoy a cup or two! The tradition of taking time out of one’s afternoon for a nice cup of tea and sweet treats has spread beyond the UK. Here at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum we will soon be preparing for our yearly summer teas.
Within the museum’s collection, we also have a wide array of various tea sets of all shapes and sizes. I as the Collections Assistant have only just started to scratch the surface (metaphorically!!) of our substantial collection.
Here is a peek at some of the teapots and teacup sets that I have come across so far.
This teapot has an example of low relief details on its sides, in this case in the shape of a bouquet of flowers. What is unique about this particular teapot is how its handle is made from a wicker material.
This teapot is from the Barker Bros. Ltd. They were situated within an area of the United Kingdom known as “The Potteries” which was a collection of towns and villages around Stoke-on-Trent that were hubs for pottery manufacturing. The vast majority of our ceramics thus far have come from this region. Barker Bros. in particular was in Longton, England.
This is one of our examples of a complete tea set. Shown here is the teapot, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and one of the teacups. Most of the ceramics have Maker’s Marks on the bottom of each piece. Normally this will have the name of the manufacturer, and the country it was made in. However, this particular tea set is interesting in the fact that the only mark on the bottom of each piece is a butterfly.
This is called a Demitasse cup. Rather than being used for tea, this was actually a cup for Turkish coffee or espresso! This is part of a series of ten cups, which were all made by Limoges. However, it was later hand-painted with the yellow and gold detail you see now.
This is a teacup and saucer that is part of a set of five. The cups originally belonged to Dr. Helen Creighton, and our records include that, instead of tea, these cups were likely used to enjoy hot cocoa!
This teacup is a personal favourite of mine. It is another example from the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industries. This is from Adderleys Ltd., and the pattern is “Geneva.” I personally love the fine detail around the sides, along with the beautiful stylized flowers!
This is just a small sample of the various unique ceramic artifacts that we have in our collection. Times have certainly changed from the use of these rather delicate and ornate looking teacups! Still, whether it’s fancy bone china or a hardy mug, I hope that this has inspired some of you to enjoy a nice cup of tea this afternoon!