Wooden tea caddy

Object name: Wooden tea caddy box with a lock and a hinged top.

Object number: CHWJA:JAH405

Category: Object

Description: Wooden tea caddy box, with a lock and a hinged top. Two lidded compartments inside which contain granules of tea. Early 19th century.

Made: c1800

Context: Although the British Government had halved the taxation and duties on tea from a high of almost 120% in the 1780s, prices in the early 19th century remained high as the East India Company, who had been granted a monopoly on tea imports by the Government, artificially manipulated supplies to maintain prices. Tea was therefore stored in lockable tea caddies such as this one to prevent pilfering by the servants.

According to Jane’s niece Caroline, her aunt’s limited domestic tasks at Chawton included responsibility for the tea:

‘At 9 o’clock, she made breakfast – that was her part of the household work.  The tea and sugar stores were under her charge – and the wine. Aunt Cassandra did all the rest.’

This caddy was found in Chawton Cottage by tenants who occupied the house after Cassandra’s death, and is believed to have belonged to the Austen women.

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