Early Victorian tea set

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, 1840-45

This teaset, of unglazed red ware with silver mounts bearing London hallmarks, has long been associated with Queen Adelaide (1792-1849), wife of King William IV.

In England matching pottery and porcelain tea wares began to be made in the mid-eighteenth century as tea became cheaper. Before this silver and Chinese porcelain had been used from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century when tea began to be drunk at home by the wealthy elite.

Wedgwood and other potters in Staffordshire supplied a growing market from the 1760s as tea became affordable by a wider range of people.

Unglazed red pottery made in Staffordshire was originally based on Chinese red stoneware which came to Europe via Holland in the seventeenth century. Josiah Wedgwood I made a refined version of redware from the 1770s which he marketed under the name ‘rosso antico’. It was kept in production until the early twentieth century.

The mounts on this teaset, which are in the Second Rococo style, were applied by a silversmith working outside the factory to enhance the appeal of somewhat everyday pieces. By the mid-nineteenth century tea was being grown by the British in India for export to the home market.

The set belonged to the collector and dealer Isaac Falcke as early as 1856, when it was exhibited at the Crystal Palace, London. The pieces were mentioned in the Art Journal in that year, when their royal ownership was alluded to.

Its small size perhaps indicates that it was for personal use.

The set was given to the Museum by Mr and Mrs Isaac Falcke in 1909 with around 500 other pieces of Wedgwood from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries illustrating the varied production of this famous firm.


Early Victorian tea set

Listen now

Related products


A History of the World in 100 objects

By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series

Object details

Tallest piece
Height: 14.4 cm
Width: 17.5 cm
Depth: 10.7 cm



Room 47: Europe 1800-1900


    Presented by Mr and Mrs Isaac Falcke, 1909


    A. Dawson, Masterpieces of Wedgwood in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1984), second edition, 1995, p. 140, fig. 102, 103

    R. Reilly, Wedgwood, 2 vols (London, 1989) p. 493, fig. 831

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    A. Macfarlane, and I., Green Gold: the Empire of Tea (London, 2004)

    V.H. Mair, and E. Hoh, The True History of Tea (London, 2009)

    B. Dolan, Josiah Wedgwood, Entrepreneur to the Enlightenment (London, 2008)