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 example was made by the Edinburgh silversmith, James Welsh. It was a commission on behalf of King George II by the Barons of the Exchequer and Edinburgh City Town Council for the 1757 Leith Races, the most important horse racing event in Scotland in the 18th century. It was presented to Joseph Dacre of Kirklinton, the owner of the winning horse, Princess Zamma.