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Anybody for a cuppa? A universal phrase we all understand. There is an eclectic collection of teapots in Whangarei Museum’s storerooms.
One teapot in particular caught my eye for its unusual shape. It is square with a thick brown glaze known as Rockingham. It was made sometime in the 1930s in the art deco style at the pottery works of George Clews in Leicester, England. This company was founded in 1906 and focused mainly on earthenware for domestic and hotel use as well as the ocean liner trade including an order for the “Queen Mary” 1936 and the ‘Mauritania” 1939. This square pot was known as the Cube and they were made with different glazes depending on their intended market. The dark brown Rockingham glaze was used for the domestic market whereas those used on the liners wore the shipping company colours. In the advertising of the time these pots were listed as, non-drip, non-chip and easily stacked items. No doubt a useful attribute in the hotel business.


Square teapot front


The art deco style originated in France in the mid to late 1910. The “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes” (quite a mouthful!) held in Paris in 1925 showcased the direction that trends were moving in Europe and America. Art Deco design represented modernism turned into fashion. The intention was to create a sleek and anti -traditional elegance. Simple clean shapes often with a streamlined look, geometric and stylized. Art Deco permeated fashion, jewellery, furniture, the stage, houses and many large buildings. Our own Napier city is a tribute to the to the 1930s and Art Deco movement. As aside to discovering more about the Cube teapot and the part that tea has played in world history since about the 16 th century, there was information about the advent of tea bags. I thought that they were a relatively new idea but found that they were in use in 1903. Thomas Sullivan, an English tea merchant, imported from New York tea samples in handsewn silk bags and discovered that people were using these bags to add directly to hot water and so it all began. Maybe its time we put the kettle on?


Square teapot bottom



Alison Sofield
Volunteer Whangarei Museum
22 April 2020