During Queen Victoria’s reign, every home owned a teapot. Tea was no longer just for the aristocratic elite. Fads come and go but the Brown Betty has remained an English favorite. Its origins go back to 1695. This small unglazed red clay teapot became a daily use utilitarian teapot for the general public. Quality never goes out of style. Original Brown Betty are still made in Stoke-on-Trent in Straffordshire, England. The shape of the pot causes the tea leaves to be gently swirled around as the boiling water is added, thus some believe that the Brown Betty produces the most exquisite infusion and therefore the best teapot in the world. The genuine Brown Betty are made with local red clay from the Bradwell Woods area in Stoke-on-Trent, Straffordshire (Stoke –on-Trent is the historical home of English ceramics) and covered with a good Rockingham Brown glaze. The Rockingham glaze is a manganese brown glaze developed by the Marquis of Rockingham on his English estate. Stoke -on-Trent, Straffordshire, England is the UK’s pottery capital. Names like Spode and Wedgwood set up business there in the 1700s.
While I was doing some Brown Betty research on the internet, I found this on the Adderley Ceramics website (Adderley Ceramics is from Stoke -on-Trent, Staffordshire, England), I admit it, I pinched it so people would have some idea of the manufacturing process. I found this interesting since I studied art/pottery at university. Stage 1 making the molds – these are produced from a blend of plaster with (our secret ingredient) the mixture is then poured into a rubber case, left to set, and then released to form the mold which is dried ready for casting.
Stage 2 forming the casting slip – red terracotta clay (original recipe) is mixed in the bunger to the right consistency with (our secret ingredient) to form casting slip. This is transferred into the arc which is gravity fed through a custom made casting gun system into the Betty teapot molds. When the casting slip has set and released from the mold you have a Betty teapot in clay format which is left to dry naturally.
Stage 3 preparation of clay teapot – the Betty teapot is now ready to be fettled (removal of seams) and sponged to give an all over smooth surface.
Stage 4 first firing – the Betty teapot is now ready for the kiln first fire (temperature is a trade secret) when fired you have the Betty teapot in biscuit format.
Stage 5 dipping – the Betty teapot is now ready to be dipped into the Rockingham brown glaze with (our secret ingredient) which is left to dry naturally.
Stage 6 footwiping – when dry the Betty teapot is footwiped to remove any surplus glaze to prevent the teapot base sticking to the kiln bats during second firing.
Stage 7 – second firing.
Stage 8 – the brown betty teapot is now ready for packaging and dispatch.
No one knows for certain why Brown Betty is called Brown Betty. We know where the name Brown came from due to the Rockingham glaze. One thought is that Elizabeth was a popular name at the time and it possibly was shortened to Betty. Hence the name Brown Betty.
Don’t be fooled! There are imitations on the market. Things you should you look for if you decide to purchase a Brown Betty, a small removable Union Jack sticker on the teapot, should be stamped Made in England and have the manufacturers name on it, and a swing card attached to the teapot with the history of Brown Betty.