A Short History of the Teapot

Hi Everybody,

I’ve just come back from an exciting day out at the Malvern Three Counties Showground in Worcestershire. It was their Autum show and the main bulk of the exhibits were associated with plants, gardens, giant vegetables, flowers and of course quite a few pottery stalls. What intrigued me was the number of stalls that had teapots on them, considering most people just use a tea bag in a cup today. So I thought it would be interesting to do a blog about the history of the iconic teapot, which obviously started long before the tea bag was invented.

So, a long time ago, in a far-off galaxy – well China really, around 2737 BC – pans were used to boil tea leaves, which then evolved into wine ewers and eventually, in the 1500s, the Ming dynasty, the first purpose built teapots were made. These were from terracotta clay and the tea was drunk straight from the spout! However, like all good stories, a princess got involved, a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, who lived in the 17th century. She is credited with making tea drinking fashionable. In about 1690 Chinese teapot replicas started being produced in Staffordshire. Tea was an expensive product and only taken in posh households. These early British teapots were prone to cracking, due to the heat of the boiling water when it touched the clay and that is where the expression ‘warm the pot first’ came from!

Eventually, in the 1780s, the Worcester Pottery made teapots that didn’t crack, and they became best sellers. As the industrial revolution started, so did the mass production of teapots. The most famous teapot was the ‘Rockingham Brown’ teapot.

In the 20th century the teapot became a design icon, from novelty pots to sculpture teapots. There are tea pots in the shape of pineapples, they’re mentioned in Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatters party and are symbolic in many movies. For potters, making a teapot is often seen as one of the most difficult objects to make, because they have so many different bits that have to fit together. Most importantly, they must pour well and shouldn’t dribble. Some teapots even whistle, because they are tealighted!

Well, till next time…

Barry