The firm of Theodore Hyla Jennens and John Bettridge was founded in 1816, when they took over the Birmingham workshops of Henry Clay, Japanner to George III and the Prince of Wales. Jennens & Bettridge specialised in the production of papier-mâché products, including caddies, tea trays and larger pieces of furniture such as chairs and sofas. Some of their goods were displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, where they were awarded a prize medal. The firm was one of the most successful and prominent of its kind, and opened a showroom in Belgravia, London in 1837, with further showrooms established later in Paris and New York.
The use of papier-mâché flourished in England between the mid-18th and 19th centuries, when small domestic products, such as this caddy, were fashionable. Victorian papier-mâché was usually made by pasting layers of paper over moulds of the required shape, which was then oiled, baked at a high temperature, varnished, and dried in a stove. Jennens & Bettridge patented various decorative techniques, such as the mother-of-pearl inlay which can be seen on this caddy’s lid. The inlay was applied before the gilt decoration, followed by a final coat of varnish, further stove drying, and polishing.