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 large and impressive silver items, kettles became a focal point of the tea ceremony and an obvious expression of wealth.
Alongside teapots, pear-shaped kettles began to appear in English silver design by the late 17th century – inspired by Chinese export ceramics – and remained fashionable until the 1720s. This example, which was made in 1700-1703, bears the arms of Trafford and Assheton for Humphrey Trafford and Anne Assheton who were married in 1701. The kettle was passed to many members of the Trafford family and in the will of Elizabeth Trafford (d.1789) her important teawares are mentioned; ‘I Give and Bequeath… To the said John Trafford of Trafford my two silver tea Tables whereon are engraven the Arms of the Trafford family and three pair of silver Candlesticks and my Silver Tea Urn which Tea Urn and two pair of the said silver Candlesticks have the crest and the other have the Arms of the Trafford family engraved thereon…’.