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 maker of this impressive hot water urn, Edward Farrell, was renowned for producing extravagant sculptural plate often decorated with scenes inspired by 17th century Dutch paintings by David Teniers (1610-1690). Farrell often supplied plate to the retailer Kensington Lewis and was patronised by Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), to whom he supplied some of his finest work. Farrell’s output of tea and coffee wares, decorated with scenes from 17th century Dutch genre paintings, was prolific however urns such as this are rare. This urn features Dutch genre scenes on the base as well as a Teniers-inspired figure sitting on a barrel that forms the tap. The chinoiserie figures on the aprons between the feet of the urn are probably a reference to the urn’s connection to tea. The front of the urn features a hunting scene while the back depicts a battle scene.