Hot water urn

ARTIST / MAKER: Paul Storr (maker)
DATE: 1814 (made)
PLACE: England (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Silver and carved ivory

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 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 example by the renowned Regency silversmith, Paul Storr, is mounted on a square base supported by four paw feet and is decorated with neoclassical features such as palmettes, strapped leaf handles, gadrooned borders and a lion head tap. The front of the urn is engraved with the arms of Thomas Robert Hay-Drummond, 11th Earl of Kinnoull (1785-1866) who served as Lord Lyon, King of Arms, one of the Great Offices of State in Scotland, with responsibility for regulating heraldry in the country.