Time for a brew at The Oxfordshire Museum

Taking Tea provides a fascinating journey through the story of the Great British cuppa, from colonialism to modern novelty teapots.

With objects from The Oxfordshire Museum collections, the Oxfordshire History Centre and Aberystwyth University Ceramics Collection, the exhibition runs until March 24.

Taking Tea at The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, features objects that show the growth of tea drinking in the county, including some of the first British teapots, early imported ceramics from China, tea caddies, tea cosies and adverts.

Photographs of people enjoying their afternoon brew have also been selected from the archives of the Oxfordshire History Centre.

The Oxfordshire Museum and Oxfordshire History Centre are run by Oxfordshire County Council and form part of our rich cultural service, supporting our commitment to thriving communities. We provide services that enhance the quality of life in our communities and protect the local environment.

Cllr Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cabinet member for Cultural Services, said the exhibition was a must for all enthusiasts of the Great British cuppa.

“It really is a wonderful exhibition with so many fascinating exhibits,” said Cllr Lindsay-Gale. “For so many of us the day wouldn’t be the same without a lovely brew and it’s captivating to follow the journey of how the humble cup of tea became such a part of everyday life in quintessential Britain.

“I’m sure visitors will love taking a step back in time and seeing how tea became such a popular beverage.”

Considered as the most British of pastimes, tea drinking has only been part of our culture since the 17th century.

It originated in China almost 5,000 years ago, along with the elaborate tea ceremony and later the teapot. The Japanese soon took up the drink and the ceremony but it wasn’t until European ships started trading with China that tea made its way to our shores.

The story of tea in Britain is tied up with the uncomfortable story of colonialism and the British Empire. The exhibition includes a display from Oxford University Museums as part of their ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ project that explores this in more detail. It is also thanks to colonialism that tea is cultivated in India as the British looked for a way of making their tea cheaper.

Once tea made it to Europe new innovations followed, including the tea cup, the tea bag and the glorious afternoon tea.

As it spread from the aristocracy to the working classes, it became an integral part of British society.

From the 1920s studio potters rose to the challenge of making teapots that were both functional and visually satisfying. In recent decades ceramic artists have increasingly used the teapot as a theme to explore ideas about art and craft.

The collection from Aberystwyth University shows how the teapot can also be a work of art, created by some of the finest ceramicists of the 20th century.

Visitors will also have the chance to get creative by designing their own teapot or an invitation to afternoon tea. They can sit down and read stories of some unusual tea parties and then have their own.

Where & When

The Oxfordshire Museum, Fletcher’s House, Park Street, Woodstock OX20 1SN Map directions

Museum opening times: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm. Sundays, 2-5pm. Last admission at weekends is at 4.45pm.

Picture credits: Teapots courtesy of the Aberystwyth University Ceramics Collection

Black and white images courtesy of the Oxfordshire History Centre