Date Made/Found: around 1785
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate, electroplate
Dimensions: Overall: 400 x 200 x 195mm (15 3/4 x 7 7/8 x 7 11/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1914.10
This is a tea urn made of Old Sheffield Plate, around 1785.
Tea urns were made in England from the 1760s. Urns for tea, coffee and hot water were placed on the sideboard at breakfast time in wealthy homes. The tea was dispensed through the tap on the front of the urn. An urn enabled the family and guests to serve themselves drinks over a leisurely breakfast as and when they desired. It might also be used at small gatherings, such as afternoon tea.
Tea was 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.
The urn has been re-plated using electroplating. This a method of plating pieces with a thin coat of silver through using electrolysis. It replaced Old Sheffield Plate as it gave a seamless finish and allowed a thinner layer of silver to be applied. Some owners had their Old Sheffield Plate smartened up with electroplate to hide areas where copper was exposed.
Purchased with assistance from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.