Silver kettles first appeared at the end of the 17th century and served to replenish empty teapots, which were small at this time. To keep the water hot, they were supplied with stands fitted with a spirit burner that warmed the underside of the kettle, allowing the silver to act as a heat conductor. The handles were usually made of wicker or wood, or with ivory disk inserts that provided insulation from the boiling water. Due to the weight of a full kettle, they were often positioned next to the tea table on a stand and used with the assistance of a servant. As such a large and impressive silver item, kettles became a focal point of the tea ceremony and an obvious expression of wealth.
This kettle and stand, made by Mortimer & Hunt, is decorated in the rococo style which underwent a revival in the early 19th century. With its ornate decoration and bulbous forms, rococo silver became very fashionable despite crtiticism by a Select Committee formed in 1835-36 to establish what should be considered ‘good design’. The firm of Mortimer & Hunt operated between 1839 and 1843, and was part of the evolution of an earlier firm created in 1822 when the renowned silversmith Paul Storr went into business with John Mortimer. John Samuel Hunt was a silver chaser and Storr’s nephew by marriage, and became a partner in 1839 shortly before Storr’s retirement. The firm later continued as ‘Hunt & Roskell’.