Dictionary of English Pieces - Cabinets, Caddies, Canterbury


Cabinets with hinged doors, with or without drawers inside, were made in the later seventeenth century, and much attention was paid to their decoration. They were veneered with rare woods, inlaid with marquetry and embellished with plates of embossed silver. They were placed on stands of turned wood, and later on elaborately carved giltwood bases. Many lacquered cabinets were imported from the Far East, and placed on similar stands for use in English rooms.

Cabinets on stands did not retain their great popularity in the eighteenth century, but their place was taken by book and china cases with glazed doors. About 1800 low cabinets standing on the ground came into fashion, and many of these had marble tops and the doors were inset with panels of silk or with gilt brass trellis.


The caddy owes its name to a Chinese weight, a catty or kali, which equals about one and a third pounds. Much of the tea coming from the East was doubtless packed in amounts of one catty, and the name of the quantity became corrupted into that of the box to hold it. Although tea-caddies were made from different materials, many were of wood and it is proper therefore to mention them under the heading of Furniture. Few, if any, survive from before about 1740, but in 1752 Chippendale showed in his Director designs for a number of them, elaborately shaped and carved. Each succeeding designer influenced the shape, colouring and ornament of the tea-caddy, and the immense number of variations in pattern are too numerous to list. Many of them had silver containers inside a wooden outer case, others had removable wooden boxes. In the nineteenth century it was common to fit them with two boxes, one each for green and black tea, and a glass bowl; the latter described variously as for holding sugar and for blending the teas.


This is the name given to a low open stand with divisions, a drawer beneath and short legs, for holding music. They were made in mahogany from about 1800, and later in rosewood and walnut. No one knows how they got their name, but it is assumed that one was designed in the first instance for an Archbishop of Canterbury. They are very popular nowadays, not always for holding sheet music but for newspapers.

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