Hot water urn

ARTIST / MAKER: Benjamin Smith II (maker) Could be by Benjamin Smith III
Green, Ward and Green (retailer)
DATE: 1823 (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 specially designed urn stand that had a pull out drawer or slide on which the teapot was placed.

This elaborate rococco example was made by Benjamin Smith (1764-1823), one of the finest silversmiths working during the first half of the 19th century. Born and trained in Birmingham, Smith moved to London and became the manager of royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell’s first workshop in 1802. Following his departure from the firm in 1813, Smith continued to supply pieces to Rundell’s and also to other firms such as Green, Ward, & Company. The urn is engraved with the arms of Thomas John Wynn, 2nd Baron Newborough (1802-1832), who was MP for Caernarvonshire (Wales) from 1726 to 1730.