Tea party paraphernalia (19th century)

Currently housed in Newnham’s Senior Common Room.

Amongst the decorative art collections at Newnham are a number of items associated with the traditional college ritual of tea parties in student rooms. Several Victorian copper kettles survive from the earliest days of college life, together with a brass trivet for resting the boiling kettle.

Accounts left by students of earlier generations frequently include lively memories of tea, as well as cocoa, parties…

Archive photo from 1941

A photograph in the Archives shows a group of undergraduates in 1941 gathered around a tea table bearing cake and jam, with one toasting bread or crumpets on the coal fire in the grate.

Different articles of tea china from various later periods have emerged from cupboards, including a plain white tea pot and plate adorned with the College coat-of-arms. A jam or butter dish decorated with a coloured print of Clough gates has was presented to the collections by an alumna. And on display in the SCR is a wooden tea caddy (which even contains the remains of different sorts of tea leaves in its inner compartments), carved in a distinctively Arts and Crafts style, and proudly bearing the initials ‘NC’ engraved in a shield on its front.

The survival of these and other objects, some homely and some decorative, all help to tell the story of the College and preserve aspects of its distinctive character.