The Teapot in the picture was made by a company called Price Kensington which from 1962 to 2003 were prolific manufacturers of everyday earthenware, tea and coffee sets, novelties and souvenirs. Up to 2003 all of their wares were made in England.
Originally Tea could only be bought by the rich as the Tea leaves were imported from China and India. The cost of doing this at the time was very expensive. because the British Government applied taxes on the import of tea from China and India.
However, since the beginning of the 19th Century tea drinking had spread through all levels of British society, and each British home, regardless of how modest, had its own Teapot. They would make tea with loose tea leaves (not the tea bags we use today!) in a China Teapot like the one in our picture.
While women in high-class drawing rooms and British national houses served tea in Josiah Spode’s new bone china teapots, the teapot of choice for ordinary people was generally the ‘Brown Betty’.
The vessels were initially made as everyday objects which can be used a few times each day and be easily replaced when broken. The ‘Brown Betty’ has turned out to be one of the most celebrated pieces of earthenware created in Staffordshire. Generations of Englishmen believe that this teapot makes the best pot of tea on the planet.
Reasons why the ‘Brown Betty’ is unique in the style of teapot are:
- The red clay which is only found in Staffordshire retains heat better than any other clay, which ensures your tea will remain hot for several “cuppas.” As boiling water is poured into the Brown Betty Teapot, its rounded shape makes loose tea leaves swirl gently around, creating a perfect blend.
- The Rockingham glaze, which is a dark manganese glaze, gives the Brown Betty its unique colour and doesn’t show tea stains over time – this was a definite advantage for Victorian housewives for easy cleaning; just rinse the teapot with warm water, after tea time and upend it in the dish drain to dry.
When it was originally produced, Brown Betty Teapots were thrown on a potter’s wheel, and the handle and spout were added after that. But nowadays, the slip-casting method is used, in which a suspension of clay in water is transferred into a mould. Once the teapot is set and formed its shape, it is taken out from the mould and left to dry naturally. Then the teapot is ‘fettled’ (removal of excess moulding material and casting irregularities) and put in the furnace for the first time.
Then the teapot is dipped into the Rockingham glaze and, once again, left to dry naturally. (The dipped pots are a lavender colour.) The teapot is then foot-wiped to remove any glaze from the bottom and is fired a second time to get the glossy brown chocolate-syrup-like surface that distinguishes Brown Bettys.
Over the centuries, several companies of Stoke-on-Trent have made Brown Betty teapots. Some people still have vintage teapots from the1940s and 1950s. True ’Brown Betty’ teapots will state “Made in England” on the base.