Teapot styles tend to parallel the styles of other objects, from buildings, to art works, to furniture and clothing. Since the era of Queen Victoria ushered in the Afternoon Tea (credited to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting), how appropriate to take a look at teapot styles from that period. Time to go exploring.
The Queen Victoria era is said to have lasted her entire reign (1837-1901 — longer than any other British monarch before or after her). Her domain spanned the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and Ireland, and those countries saw progress in industry, politics, science, and the military. She also had a tremendous influence on fashions, behavior in general, and especially in the elevation of tea to the status it has enjoyed ever since: not just a beverage but a true necessity for civilized living. The emergence of a merchant class helped, also, to propel tea time into a daily event. That meant that teapot makers had to kick into high gear, competing with each other for the most elegant and slightly ornate designs (though not as overdone as Baroque and Rococo).
A Couple Samples of Victorian Style Teapots
The elegance of the Victorian era has such appeal that it has lasted through the ages, with teapot makers even today producing teapots that are made in that style. These are a couple of examples:
- Violets Fine Bone China Victorian Style Teapot — Decorated in a lovely violets pattern, this Victorian Style teapot features more detail on the teapot handle and body. Violets are the “flower of modesty,” which was one of the womanly virtues promoted during the Victorian era.
- Sadler Queen Victoria teapot — Pays homage to the grand lady who inspired artists, statesmen, and tea imbibers of all classes. Made by the renowned Sadler company. Holds about 2 cups (about 20 oz), 6″ tall x 7″ wide. Not recommended for dishwasher or microwave use.
A Few Samples of Actual Victorian Era Teapots
Compare the above Victorian-style teapots with these actual ones:
- Antique Victorian English Sterling Silver Teapot — Images from nature abound on this excellent example made by renowned London Silversmiths John Hunt and Robert Roskell. From the rose/leaf décor on the rounded body to the stork feeding its nest of chicks and the various leaves decorating the handle, lid finial, and spout, this is a true centerpiece for a convivial tea time.
- Majolica Teapot with fish decoration — Dates from the Victorian era c. 1880 – 1900. Water and fish themes were quite popular as décor on pottery. This teapot shows a fish swimming over coral (or seaweed), has a coral design handle and spout, and sports colors of cobalt blue, aquamarine green and brown. The knob on the lid is a shell with the lid itself having a seaweed pattern.
- Samuel Alcock Victorian period teapot — Standing on four feet and with gilt patterning. Ornate handle and spout. Who wouldn’t feel regal pouring tea from a teapot like this one?
- Antique Victorian Royal Blue Ceramic Teapot-Pewter Top — Made in England during the Victorian era. Somehow, the “Aladdin’s Lamp” shape seems to keep popping up in teapot designs, including this one. The blue is quite eye-catching and would have really stood out in a Victorian era salon.
Stick with a basic black tea (Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon) for a more authentic tea time, or go more modern with a nice Chinese or Japanese green tea. You could also enjoy some Earl Grey.
Lots of choices!
A few Victorian era tea time tips:
- During the Victorian era, the phrase “to take tea” was used by the lower classes and considered by the upper classes to be a vulgar expression. They preferred “to drink tea.”
- Milk, sugar, and lemon slices were always on hand for use in teas according to individual taste.
- In the late 1880’s, certain hotels like The Ritz in Boston, The Plaza in New York, and others in the UK were noted for their tea services where Victorian ladies and their gentlemen would meet in the late afternoon for tea and conversation.
- Foods served at tea time were things like bread and butter, crumpets, wafer thin crust-less sandwiches, shrimp and fish pates, and small cakes. The idea was to stave off hunger pangs until dinner time, which was fashionably late (around 8 or 9 pm).
Break out those whalebone corsets, bustles, and high-collared dresses for the women, and striped pants and tailcoats for the men, and have a good old-fashioned Victorian tea time pouring from that special teapot!
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