Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tea Ware

Dedicated to Norma, queen of teakies.

Tea first introduced to London in the mid 17th century created demand for affordable, refined heat resistant cups and other equipment worthy of this expensive brew. Initially small handless Chinese porcelain tea bowls were imported.
In 1700 large saucers appeared. Some poured their drink into the saucers allowing the tea to cool and drank directly from these.  

Pieter Gerritsz Van Roestraeten. Chinese Tea Bowls, 17th century (on familiar things)

Fashionable family sitting around a tea table 1727 Richard Collins (V&A) 

The tea bowls I came across at my recent trip to the V&A were so much smaller than I’d imagined, due to the exorbitant cost of tea I suspect.
17th Century Chinese Export Porcelain Tea Bowl. 
In 1750 Robert Adams inspired porcelain tea sets in which tea cups had handles. Adams tea cups were taller than their base and came with a saucer – there began the English tea service set – with matching tea pot, sugar bowl, milk jug and even tea spoons. The English welcomed the handle having found the tea bowls rather messy and liable to burn their hands.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries demand for new and cheaper teaware grew apace, driven by the growing fashion of tea drinking. We see the rise and fall of several types of ceramic. Europeans began to produce their own version of porcelain. The first success in England was at the Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory in 1743- 5. In the 1750s Wedgwood perfected the production of fine stoneware ‘black basalt ware’, popular for around 50 years.  Stoneware is water proof, so no glaze was required.  The 1770s brought Wedgwoods’s refined red stoneware Rosso antico,  affordable cream ware, shortly followed by pearlware.
Bone china was developed in England in the 1800s, by Joseph Spode, another name which keeps popping up. It was lighter and cheaper than porcelain and apparently better at carrying bright colours. It became and remains the posh tea cup of choice. 

1820 Spode London shape ( from spode history blog)

I’ve found a number of shards with small circular ‘stands’ , sometimes with a tiny design in the base. I suspect these are the bases of tea bowls, two I think are pearlware because of their bluish tint, the other porcelain.

Mudlarking Finds: Pearlware and Porcelain Tea Bowl Bases

Mudlarking Finds:Tea Bowl Bases
Occasionally I find the shallow curve of what I assume are saucers. The two with transfer ware I suspect are creamware the older middle hand painted example pearlware.

Mudlarking Finds: Saucer Fragments
This last group of fragments I’m guessing are also from saucers. In each case the middle of the base. This time their design is not so ‘tiny in the middle’. Each has a stand beneath, the curve of which is shallower than the tea bowls. A mixture of pearlware and porcelain.

Mudlarking finds: Pearlware and Porcelain Saucer Fragments

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