Hot water urn

ARTIST / MAKER: Francis Butty & Nicholas Dumee (maker)
DATE: 1759 (made)
PLACE: England (made)

Hot water urns were produced in England from the 1760s to make serving tea more convenient for the hostess. Urns eliminated the need to lift a heavy kettle; simply turning the tap drew hot water. Their inner workings were more complex and the assistance of a servant was still essential. To heat the water, charcoal was kept in a perforated silver container placed at the base of the urn. From the 1770s a heated iron plug was used instead and inserted into a copper tube that was soldered into the centre of the urn. When used in a drawing room with company, large silver urns were an obvious expression of wealth and taste. They were usually positioned on a sideboard or on a specially designed urn stand that had a pull out drawer or slide on which the teapot was placed.

The invention of the hot water urn, with its vase-like shape, was timely, coinciding with the rise of the neoclassical style. This urn is a particularly early example and was made in 1759 by the London silversmiths Francis Butty and Nicholas Dumée, who began working in partnership at some point after 1758. The floral swags and rocaille motifs are reminiscent of the Rococo style which was fashionable in Britain at this date. The urn is engraved with the arms of Meyrick of Goodrich Court impaling Mount.