Tea Services

The tradition of afternoon tea is credited to Anna Maria Stanhope, 7th Duchess of Bedford in her rooms at Belvoir Castle in 1840. By Victorian times, afternoon tea had become a social event with established etiquette and included service of cakes, sandwiches and assorted sweets. Tea gardens were also popular sites where men and women could meet freely in a socially acceptable manner. During the second half of the 19th century, tea consumption in Britain quadrupled and the custom was adopted by virtually everyone. There was an emerging need for tea sets which could be mass produced. Majolica manufacturers met that need with an astounding variety of fashionable styles.

Majolica teapots were produced either as stand-alone items or as part of a complete tea set. The sets were composed of the tea pot, sugar, creamer and sometimes a cup and saucer pair. Some also included a dedicated matching tray with a niche for each element. These elaborate sets were produced by Minton, Wedgwood, George Jones as well as other smaller manufacturers. Few complete sets have survived intact and the trays are particularly rare.

Of note are a number of novelty figural teapots produced by Minton. The most common of these are a Chinaman holding a Noh mask and a monkey dressed in chrysanthemum jacket holding a coconut. The rarest is in the form of a vulture with entwined python grasped in his beak. All are very popular collector items.

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