History Of Silver Tea Caddies

Oval Silver Tea Caddy
Oval Silver English Tea Caddy

Tea was extremely expensive in the 18th century, and it was therefore natural that the containers to hold it should be made in silver. Early caddies are octagonal and have a detachable cap which doubles as a measure. The early ones in particular are sometimes lead-lined with sliding bases or covers for ease of filling.

At first caddies came singly, but in the 1720s pairs became common, one for green and one for black tea. At this date they can be found in a lockable case. In the smartest sets there is sometimes a set of teaspoons, sugar nips and a mote spoon, but not a caddy spoon as these do not appear until the 1780s. How people measured the tea between the demise of the detachable cap and the introduction of the caddy spoon is not known. Hinged lids on caddies are preferred to lids that lift off. The increasing availability of and fondness for sugar led to caddies being produced in sets of three; initially the sugar container looked like another caddy but soon evolved into a slightly different shape.

Caddies are found in a variety of shapes, but oval predominates at the end of the 18th century. The years from 1770 onward also see the introduction of the single tea caddy with an individual lock; fitted cases becoming increasingly rare as a result. As with other silverware, caddy decoration was at its most fanciful in the mid-18th century. Samuel Taylor was the main English maker at this time, specializing in circular richly chased caddies, which are particularly sought after today.

From the 19th century most caddies were made in wood, papier mache or a variety of other materials. The few silver ones that were made at the end of the century are fairly ordinary.

Bodies and lids should have a full set of hallmarks. Any detachable slides should also carry the maker’s mark and lion passant. Early 18thC detachable caps are usually unmarked.