We have over two hundred ceramic teapots from the late 17th century to the present day which can be viewed online. Children's and other miniature teapots are not shown here, but souvenir teapots are included if large enough for use, and so are tea infusers, which it could be argued are simply teapots turned inside out.
Amongst the teapots are ones which are purely practical and others that reflect strong stylistic trends. They therefore embody two themes, utility and contemporary taste. Sometimes there is a tension between them. For example, utility may be best served by a plain-ended spout that re-absorbs drips, whilst fashion might demand tea from the gaping beak of a bird. In the best designs the two are reconciled, but in others it's clear that practicality has succumbed to art, or vice versa. The collection is richer for not taking sides, representing the teapot in as inclusive a way as possible.
With limited display space, only about half the teapots shown here are exhibited at any one time. The website not only provides a view of items not currently on show, but also uniquely good visual access to all the teapots, with many additional images showing makers' marks, decorative details, back views and even interiors.
Very nearly all the teapots that are on display will be found at the Allen Gallery in Alton, Hampshire. There they are divided by material and manufacturer, and so are shown with other items of stoneware, porcelain, etc, and amongst other work by, maybe, Wedgwood or Doulton. In contrast, this website gives an opportunity to explore the teapot in isolation, and to appreciate the extraordinary variety given by designers over three centuries to the same basic form.
Items not on display are stored in a secure and monitored environment at the Museum Service Headquarters. Unfortunately, access to this material has to be confined to individual researchers, who are welcome to view items by appointment with the relevant Keeper.