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A Victorian gift for Children – that has kept on giving joy through the years

During the Victorian era (1837-1901), toy pottery tea and dinner services became popular among children in both Europe and North America. These miniature sets imitated the elaborate and formal dining customs of the time, allowing children to mimic the social rituals of their parents and learn proper table etiquette through play. Here is an overview of the history of Victorian children’s toy pottery tea and dinner services.

Materials and Production:

Toy pottery tea and dinner services were typically made of materials like porcelain, pottery, or even tin.

Many of these miniature sets were hand-painted to resemble the intricate designs found on full-sized dinnerware of the Victorian period.

Some toy sets were mass-produced, while others were handmade and crafted with great attention to detail.

Educational Value:

Victorian society placed a strong emphasis on manners and social etiquette. Toy tea and dinner sets provided a playful way for children to learn and practice these important social skills.

Children could invite their friends or dolls to join them for a pretend tea party, allowing them to practice the art of conversation and proper table manners.

Popular Designs:

Victorian toy pottery often mimicked popular adult designs of the time. It was not uncommon to find miniature versions of popular patterns and decorative styles.

Blue Willow, a popular Chinese-inspired chinoiserie design, was often replicated in miniature for children’s tea sets.

Manufacturers and Brands:

Several well-known manufacturers produced Victorian children’s toy pottery. Companies such as Minton, Wedgwood, and many other Staffordshire potteries were known for their quality miniature sets.

For the more wealthier families sets were often personalized with the names or initials of the child, adding a touch of individuality to the play experience.

Role of Gender and Social Class:

Toy tea and dinner sets were often gender-specific, with girls more commonly receiving miniature tea sets and dinner sets. The level of detail and the quality of materials used in the toy sets varied based on the social class of the child’s family. Wealthier families could afford more elaborate and finely crafted sets.

Survival and Collectability:

Many Victorian toy pottery sets have survived over the years and are now highly collectable. Collectors appreciate them for their historical value, craftsmanship, and the glimpse they provide into the social customs of the time.

Their value varies based on factors such as rarity, condition, and manufacturer.

In summary, Victorian children’s toy pottery tea and dinner services served as both entertaining playthings and tools for teaching proper social behaviour. Today, they are cherished as artefacts that provide insight into the cultural and social values of the Victorian era.

Potters continued to produce the toy sets but as time went on, they were more for play than for learning.

Photos with thanks to  –

Pat O’Neil

Margie Myhr

Dan & Haya Sapira

Jackie Casey

Cindy Neff

Mike Vail

Mike Ferrie