This delightful object was featured on a recent edition of BBC One’s programme, Bargain Hunt.
It comes from the collection of the Grey family who lived at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire, shown below. The property is now in the care of the National Trust.
As you can see it, the decoration on the tea caddy is made of filigree work – which can be known as rolled paper work or quill work. I’ve written about it before, here, as it was of course mentioned by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility: Lucy Steele, attempting to curry favour with the Middletons, in particular with Lady Middleton, creates a filigree work basket for the Middleton’s spoilt daughter, Annamaria:
“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23
The structure of the tea caddy is made from wood, and has internal compartments for two different types of tea:
But it is the outside decoration which is so stunning. The decoration on the lid of the caddy has sadly faded as it has been kept in sunlight:
You can see that only the slightest trace of colour remains in the rolled paper pieces:
However the side panels , which have escaped the ruinous effects of the sun, are a different matter. You can see from this series of photographs how very beautiful the decoration is. Do note that the individual side panels are differently decorated : one incorporates a print or engraving…
and some include pieces of mica, set behind some of the quilled decoration. Mica is a mineral known as sheet silicate which gives a very shiny effect. The term ”mica” is derived from the Latin word mica, probably and very appropriately derived from the verb by micare, which means “to glitter”.
You can also see that some of the quills were made from gold, foiled papers.
If you would like to see this object on the programme you can do so by accessing it here via the BBCs iPlayer for the next five days. You will need to access the programme at 20 minutes in, in order to see the item about Nunnington Halk. Sadly this is not, I fear, available to any of you resident outside the UK.
However, in spite of that restriction, I thought you might like to see another example of the type of work with which Lucy Steel was attempting to ingratiate herself into the Middleton household :)