Date Made/Found: 1790-1800
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate, wood, copper
Dimensions: Overall: 320 x 130 x 250mm (12 5/8 x 5 1/8 x 9 13/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1943.399
This unusual object works as both a tea and coffee pot. It dates from around 1795.
It resembles a modern percolator. The smallest container is a percolator with a strainer inside, and holds the tea leaves or coffee grounds. It fits on to the larger container in place of the lid, so that water may be poured in to filter through the tea or coffee. This pot fits on to the stand, which is kept warm via a copper receptacle for charcoal. The knob on the lid, and the handle, are wooden to protect the user from burning their hand.
A large piece like this one would have required quite a lot of silver and this be relatively costly. It is also quite unusual and the novelty value would no doubt have raised the price! Even in the wealthiest households it was deemed acceptable for large items to be plated rather than solid silver. This piece was most likely owned by a wealthy Sheffield family.
Coffee was first brought to England by Turkish traders. Like sugar, coffee was imported from Jamaica and also from America during the 1700s. It was initially very expensive. Coffee was generally drunk at breakfast in wealthy homes. The price of coffee had reduced during by the late 1700s and far more people could afford to drink it in their homes.
Tea was also initially very expensive and restricted to the wealthy. By the mid 1700s it was drunk by most of the population. Tea was thought to have medicinal properties and was seen as an essential staple for the poor. Domestic servants could even expect a tea allowance as part of their wages.
This object is part of the Bradbury Collection.