Must Visit Destinations in England For Tea Lovers

Afternoon Tea on a train in England

Britain is well known for its love of tea, so unsurprisingly there are a wide range of great places to visit where you can relax with a cuppa and maybe even learn something new about our favourite hot drink.

The English capital is jam packed with fab places to see, so why not consider booking trains to London to check them out? The world famous Ritz London is a must-do for lovers of Afternoon Tea but due to its popularity should be booked well in advance. There you’ll be able to enjoy a wide selection of sandwiches and cakes, as well as some of the finest teas around, for around £45 per person.

While you’re in town you could also head to see the last of the tea clippers – the Cutty Sark, where you can walk the deck and follow in the footsteps of those who sailed her to collect that precious cargo – TEA – many years ago. There’s a café onboard too, so it’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat.

Those with train tickets to London can also brush up on their history and pick up some souvenirs at the Twinings Tea Shop and Museum at 216 Strand, while others will no doubt be keen to attend the 2014 European Tea Expo, which will take place from April 24th to 26th.

But it’s not just London where you can experience tea, as Bedfordshire’s Woburn Abbey is said to be the place where the idea of Afternoon Tea was first conceived.

Although England has a long association with the beverage, the only tea grown in the country is at Tregothnan in Cornwall, and nearby Devon is known for its cream teas, so why not visit both places for a cup of English grown tea and a traditional Devon cream tea?

Great tea calls for a proper teapot and Teapot Island in Yalding, Kent is home to more than 6,700 of them, with many having unusual designs. You can even get a little hands-on and paint your own pottery to take home with you.

Speaking of teapots, you’ll find around 3,000 of them in the Twining Teapot Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, with some dating back to the 1730s. Or how about a visit to Stoke-on-Trent, known as the home of British pottery? You can learn more about all things ceramic there at the Gladstone Pottery Museum and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

And last but not least, if you happen to be a little further north in Yorkshire, be sure to stop off at one of the six Bettys Cafés located across the region in places including Harrogate and York.

 

This is a featured post.

 

Tea at 78 Derngate may be the best Afternoon Tea value in England

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and designer of both the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.  My interest in Mackintosh began many years ago when I learned about the furniture and interiors that he and his wife Margaret Macdonald created for The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow.  I haven’t made it up to Glasgow (yet) to see The Willow Tearooms, but I was fortunate enough recently to have been invited to see 78 Derngate in Northampton – the site of Mackintosh’s only domestic commission in England.

The modest house at 78 Derngate was a wedding gift in 1917 to Northampton businessman W. J. Bassett-Lowke from his father.  Not entirely to his liking, Bassett-Lowke hired Mackintosh to help with a renovation. The end result took portions of the house from modest to remarkable – a hybrid mix of geometric Mackintosh (the hall/lounge) and cosy Mackintosh (the dining room, below) – which is the Mackintosh style I favour.

 

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

The Dining Room, 78 Derngate

 

I highly recommend a visit to 78 Derngate in Northampton. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, and the house tours are led by knowledgeable guides. Exhibits, special events,  and educational activities are held there, and you will also find a gift shop. More importantly, I am happy to say, is that there is also a place for Afternoon Tea.

 

 The Bassett-Lowkes at tea, 78 Derngate

Tea in the Dining Room, 78 Derngate, the Bassett-Lowkes

 

A balcony tea at 78 Derngate

Tea on the balcony, 78 Derngate

 

 

Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room tea room 78 Derngate, Northampton

Tea in The Dining Room restaurant, 78 Derngate

 

The Dining Room restaurant at 78 Derngate provides home cooked fresh food for breakfast, lunch, dinner – and Afternoon Tea.  The space is very welcoming: lots of windows with a simple but classy ambiance.

But the real attraction of The Dining Room is the food. I have had many an Afternoon Tea – and the tea food here ranks tops.

 

Afternoon Tea savouries from The Dining Room at 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea scones and sweets, The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton
 

The full Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room is served on two – yes, two! – separate cake stands. The first arrives with savouries. On the day Mr. Tea and I visited, the first stand had sandwiches of egg; ham; and cucumber on the bottom tier; warm tarts and cheese scones on the middle tier; and coronation chicken filo cups on the top tier. All savouries – one of each per person – were freshly made and contained plenty of flavour and plenty of filling. We consumed it all, and it was superb!

At this point, we didn’t think we could eat another morsel, but when the second cake stand arrived – laden with warm scones; cakes (including a cupcake topped with mini-marshmallows which had been lightly toasted – scrumptious!); tarts; macarons; and truffles – we couldn’t resist giving it our best shot. Perfection on a plate is the only way I can describe it all.  There truly is more food here than two people can eat, but fear not – a takeaway box will gladly be provided.

At £16.50 per person, which includes unlimited tea or coffee, Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room has to be one of the best – if not the best – Afternoon Tea values in England.

The designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at 78 Derngate aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate is certainly mine.

 

 

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All Aboard! The Railway Refreshment Room

Alresford Railway Station

Alresford Railway Station, built in 1865

The golden age of train travel has always been fascinating to me. My grandfather was a train conductor out of Union Station in Chicago and I loved hearing his tales of stars and starlets sightings, and descriptions of classy men and women dressed to the nines as they boarded his train to exotic destinations for expensive holidays.

Today in England, train travel is as popular as ever – a necessity, really – although perhaps not quite as glamorous as it once was. The Victorian train stations that remain are filled with character and charm, and some still have a refreshment room.

Alresford Railway Station Refreshment Room

Refreshment room at Alresford Railway Station

By the mid 19th century, most medium and large railway stations in England had refreshment rooms. Before the creation of the buffet car, the refreshment room was a kind of  ‘tearoom’ where commuters and travelers could get a good cup of tea and something to eat, including buns and pastries. They were owned and operated by outside entities, the catering contractors Messrs Spiers and Pond being the most well-known.

Earlier this year, Mr. Tea and I traveled to Hampshire for a special Cream Tea aboard a heritage steam train called The Watercress Line.  The train left from the Alresford railway station, and above is a picture of its refreshment room.

Alresford Railway Station

Alresford Railway Station, interior

 

The Watercress Line Ticket

Ticket for special Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Table set for a Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

Table set for a Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

Cream Tea aboard The Watercress Line

 

Steam from the engine of The Watercress Line

Steam from the engine of The Watercress Line

 

Watercress fields, Hampshire, England

Our train passing watercress fields in Hampshire

Alresford, Hampshire is considered to be the Watercress Capital of the World. Back in the day, the Mid-Hants Railway used to transport Hampshire watercress to markets in London, and it affectionately became known as The Watercress Line.  Hampshire’s prolific watercress fields still produce that lovely peppery, tangy leaf vegetable, but these days The Watercress Line only delivers nostaligic train rides through those fields, leaving the market delivery work to lorries.

Watercress is popular here, and a traditional Afternoon Tea in England will always provide an egg and cress tea sandwich on the menu.

 

Watercress fields, Hampshire, England

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘P’

This was my very first trip on a steam train and although it was an overcast day, the ride through Hampshire’s lush, green watercress fields was immensely enjoyable.  Add to that a Cream Tea accompanied by the clickety-clak of the train’s wheels, and you have all the ingredients for a tea lover’s delight.

The Watercress Line offers themed railway trips throughout the year. Because of the tea/watercress connection, I highly recommend a trip on The Watercress Line if you are looking for a unique, English tea-related experience.

 

 

The railway refreshment room is immortalised in the film Brief Encounter, a love story about two people who meet at a railway refreshment room and, despite the complications involved, fall in love. A real refreshment room (Carnforth Station) was used during the filming. The Refreshment Room at Carnforth Station is now a popular destination for film buffs, and lovers of tea and trains.

 

See the Tea in England Facebook page for more pictures of my trip on The Watercress Line.

 

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Catherine of Braganza: England’s Portuguese Tea Princess Rests in Peace in Lisbon

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza, Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland (1662-1685). Lisbon, Portuga

The history of tea in England is a delicious blend of romance, intrigue, and adventure, overflowing with a cast of fascinating characters. Kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, sailors and soldiers, explorers, botanists and planters, businessmen,  politicians, and even the lawless all played essential roles in England’s rich tea narrative.

There is, however, one person in particular – a woman – to whom we tea lovers owe an especially deep debt of gratitude, for it was she who brought the tea-drinking custom to the English, setting a trend that continues to this day. Her name is Catarina Henriqueta de Bragança – Catherine of Braganza.

The irony of Catherine’s influence on tea drinking in England is that she wasn’t even English – she was a Princess from Lisbon, the daughter of King John IV of Portugal. But because Portuguese and Dutch traders had been bringing tea to Europe long before it would arrive on the shores of Great Britain, Catherine was already an established tea drinker by the time of her arranged marriage to England’s King Charles II.

 

São Vicente de Fora (church). Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora (church)
Lisbon, Portugal

 

Who got the best deal in the marriage contract between Charles and Catherine? England inherited Tangier and Bombay, trade privileges with Brazil and the East Indies, a quantity of luxury goods (including a chest of tea) that could be sold to pay off Charles’s many debts – and about £300,000 cash. Portugal inherited crack military and naval support against Spain (Rule Britannia!), and liberty of worship for Catherine (who was a Catholic about to reside in a Protestant country and Royal Court). Catherine inherited twenty plus years of marriage to an unfaithful husband (who had thirteen mistresses, including the orange-seller/actress Nell Gwyn), several miscarriages (she never was able to conceive), and isolation from her family and homeland.

In spite of it all, Catherine was a loving, devoted wife who remained faithful to Charles even as he continued to have children by his many mistresses. And in spite of himself, Charles honoured Catherine’s religious convictions, and made it clear to everyone that his wife would be treated with respect. When he felt that wasn’t happening, he would always side with her over his mistresses. What a guy.

As a Royal trend-setter (can you think of another Royal trend-setting Catherine?), Catherine’s tea drinking habits strongly influenced the aristocracy and tea gradually replaced wine, ale and spirits as the court drink.  In a few short years, tea drinking was universal among the English upper class. It eventually was being sold in markets, and the English East India Company made it a part of their regular trade.

 

São Vicente de Fora (monastery). Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora (monastery)
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The life of Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland, isn’t altogether tragic, for there were happy times during her life here. And in fact, she remained in England for some years after her husband’s death in 1685.

While there is tea, there is hope. ~ Arthur Pinero

It is conjecture, I know, to think that Catherine may have sat and contemplated her life situation at times over soothing cups of tea, but that is exactly what tea drinkers do, isn’t it. Not long after Charles’s death, she described her role as Queen of England as being a sacrifice ‘solely for the advantage of Portugal’. I would like to think that tea was a solace for her, supplying strength and hope during those sacrifice years.

When Catherine did finally return to Portugal – home – she was very active in politics, and became regent for her brother Peter II. She was loved and adored by the Portuguese.

She died in 1705.

 

São Vicente de Fora. Monastery cloisters. Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora
Monastery cloisters
Lisbon, Portugal

 

As soon as I realised that we were going to be in Lisbon for the day on our recent cruise, I knew that I had to visit the burial site of Catherine of Braganza.  After doing some research and map reading, I was delighted to discover that her tomb, located at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, was but a short taxi drive from Lisbon city centre.

This is not particularly a tourist destination and is a bit off the beaten path – which makes it all the more enjoyable. We were the only ones there on this day, and it was very satisfying to admire its beauty and tranquility accompanied only by the sound of birdsong.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, entrance. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza (entrance)
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The  church and monastery are situated at the top of a steep hill overlooking Lisbon. Catherine is buried there in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, which is the final resting place for the majority of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal and their families.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, entrance. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza (entrance)
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The majority of the tombs line the sides of the pantheon, and are simple marble boxes with spaces for four tombs. If the tomb is of a monarch, it has a gold crown placed on top.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza (top left). Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza (top left)
Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza. Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Denise at Catherine's tomb.

I stand here on your behalf, dear reader, and in honour of Catherine, who introduced us all to the enchantment that is drinking tea.

 

Catherine is represented in the Tea in England blog banner by the locket hanging from the teapot balloon. The heart-shaped locket is engraved with the words RexCII & ReginaC (Charles II and Queen Catherine), and is an illustration of the original antique.

 

 

Portrait of Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza
By or after Dirk Stoop
Oil on canvas, circa 1660-1661

Afternoon Tea at Sea

Afternoon Tea aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is, without a doubt, the consummate English experience –  and Afternoon Tea at sea, aboard the historic British ocean liner Queen Mary 2, should be at the top of every tea lover’s to-do list.

Mr. Tea and I recently returned from a 10-day cruise to Spain and Portugal aboard Queen Mary 2. This was our first trip to the Iberian Peninsula, and our second cruise with Cunard, having previously sailed from America to the UK on their transatlantic voyage. We fell in love with Spain and Portugal (I’ll be blogging about Lisbon’s English tea connection later), but first I thought you might enjoy seeing the the Afternoon Tea experience on Queen Mary 2.

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Bust of Queen Mary, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

A bit of history: The Cunard Line was founded in 1839 by Samuel Cunard. The first Cunard ships carried transatlantic mail. In the dark days of war, troops were transported around the world on Cunard, and for a very special moment in time, immigrants rode the waves with Cunard on their way to a better life. (In 1914, my grandfather emigrated to America from Austria aboard a Cunard ship.) Cunard eventually became the name in prestige transatlantic passenger travel – Queen of the ocean liners.

Getting there is half the fun. – Cunard’s motto

I’m not sure how long Cunard have been serving Afternoon Tea aboard their passenger ships, but they certainly know how it’s done. And although they are now British-American owned, Cunard believes that retaining the Afternoon Tea tradition reinforces their British heritage.

 

Waiter pouring tea, Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is served at 3.30 every afternoon on Queen Mary 2, with the exception of embarkation day, and there are three location options: 1) Kings Court: a casual, buffet style tea; 2) Queen’s Grill Lounge: for passengers traveling in the suites; and 3) the Queen’s Room – which is where we enjoyed our teatimes.

The Queen’s Room is the largest ballroom at sea and can hold 562 people. It is formal, but comfortable and relaxing.

 

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

 

When everyone is seated, white gloved waiters emerge carrying pots of tea and silver platters with sandwiches, scones, and cakes.  Bottomless cups of tea? Endless sandwiches, scones, and cakes? Bliss!

 

White gloved waiters preparing to serve Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea sandwiches being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea scones (and clotted cream) being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Wedgwood china on the table and Twinings tea in your cup further emphasize Cunard’s strong British ties. Speaking of Wedgwood, my mother-in-law purchased a Cunard teapot (below) for me as a surprise birthday present. (Yep, you can buy them onboard.) What a lovely memento of our trip and time together!

 

Denise's birthday pressie: Cunard teapot by Wedgwood

 

We had a wonderful holiday sailing with Cunard on Queen Mary 2, even if we did overdo it a bit with daily Afternoon Tea.  But I suppose indulgence is what a holiday is all about – and what could be more indulgent than Tea with the Queen?

 

Queen Mary 2

 

(See the Tea in England Facebook fan page for more Queen Mary 2 Afternoon Tea pictures)

 

Abbey ruins tea

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Netley Abbey, built in the 13th-century, is the most complete surviving Cistercian monastery in southern England. It was home to Cistercian monks who came to England from France in 1128.  After the Dissolution (1536), it was given to a nobleman who converted it into a great Tudor mansion. Two hundred years later, it lay in ruins – grand, glorious ruins – and became a place of inspiration for the great Romantic writers and poets like Thomas Gray, author of Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.  Jane Austen visited Netley Abbey (she lived in the area), and so did England’s notable artists Turner and Constable, who each painted its stunning landscape views. Netley Abbey, owned today by English Heritage, still draws visitors; I was one of them last week-end. Tea connection? Wait and see.

 

ABBEY

For nearly three hundred years, a very small group of monks, brothers, officials, and servants called Netley Abbey home. The monks were of the Cistercian order. Walter Daniel, writing in The Life of Aelred in 1166, described them:

“…these remarkable men, famed for their religious life, were known as White Monks after the colour of their habit, for they were clothed angel like in undyed sheeps wool, spun and woven from the natural fleece. Thus garbed, when clustered together, they look like flocks of gulls and shine as they walk with the very whiteness of snow. ”

 

Sub-Vault of Reredorter, Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Cistercians lived a very simple life: study, prayer, and manual work. They rejected wealth and the wearing of undershirts and trousers,  were vegetarians, and followed strict rules of silence. To avoid worldly temptations, Cistercian abbeys were built in remote locations.  Although a bit hard to imagine today, Netley was at that time very isolated and surrounded by dense woods and heathland, so the perfect place for the White Monks.

The monastic community at Netley were highly respected by their neighbours. They were never known for scholarship, wealth, оr particular fervour, but they did have a reputation for generosity tо travellers аnd sailors, аnd fоr the devout lives they led. Contrary to some of the things we hear about the modern church, reports indicate that the abbey hаd а peaceful аnd scandal-free domestic life.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

MANSION HOUSE

At the suppression of the monasteries in 1536, Henry VIII granted Netley to Sir William Paulet, who turned the buildings into a great Tudor courtyard house.  After the Civil War, it belonged to the Earl of Huntingdon who turned the nave of the church into a tennis court, the choir into his private chapel, the chapter house into a kitchen, and other parts of the Abbey into stables. Grand Designs would have loved this!

 

East window of the church, Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

RUINS

In 1704 the owner of Abbey Mansion started selling off bits and pieces as building material. Can you believe it?! Early on, when one of the demolition workers was killed (making way for what they called “The Curse of Netley Abbey”), work quickly stopped and the structure was left alone to fall into, well ….. ruins.

The Romantic writers, painters and poets of the day, always in search of picturesque inspiration, were deeply attracted to Netley Abbey. It’s not difficult to see why. But not everyone who visited Netley Abbey in the 1700s was there for the scenery.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England“The ruins are vast, and retain fragments of beautiful fretted roofs pendent in the air, with all variety of Gothic patterns of windows wrapped round and round with ivy … they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise.
Oh! the purple abbots, what a spot had they chosen to slumber in!”

- Horace Walpole, from The Castle of Otranto

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Pregnant with poetry … one need not have a very fantastic imagination
to see spirits at noon-day’ but was it all imagination’
– Thomas Gray, poet, describing Netley Abbey

 

TEA

Tea in mid 1700s England was all the rage – everyone wanted tea. But its popularity, coupled with an exorbitant tax, meant that tea was prohibitively expensive, available to only a few.  The demand for affordable tea simply could not be met by legal means.  The answer? Meet the demand by illegal means – smuggle it in! Tea smuggling was so effective, that virtually all the tea consumed in England at that time was black-market, smuggled tea. The south coast of England became a smugglers paradise, and Netley Abbey was a known location for stashing contraband tea.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Was tea hidden in this nook?

 

A hundred or so years later, Netley’s tea tradition took on a more genteel character when the abbey became a popular place for local people to come for tea, dancing and music.  There was even a Rondo for piano-forte written by William Sheppard entitled “Netley Abbey”. Large events called Fetes Champetres (basically, a chic garden party) were being organised here on a regular basis. A description of the event in the 1840s records:

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

On Mondays, the Fountain Court presents a singular scene of gaiety. It has long been the custom for people from Southampton and the neighbourhood to meet at the Abbey on that day, and to hold a kind of festival. Tea and other provisions are furnished by the inhabitants of a neighbouring cottage, and this is followed by music and dancing.”

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

This was my first visit to Netley Abbey – but it won’t be my last.  My dream would be to arrange a beautiful summer afternoon tea here, accompanied by the reading of Netley Abbey poems by the Romantics, and the Netley Abbey Rondo playing in the background.   Surrounded by the ghosts of 12th-century monks, 18th-century poets, 19th-century Victorians, and perhaps a personable smuggler or two, I can’t think of a more tantalizing tea party.

 

(For more pictures and related information about Netley Abbey, visit the Tea in England Facebook Fan Page.)

Tea and the Tower

Tower of London

The Tower of London is the number one paid-for tourist attraction in London – about two and a half million people visit every year. Mr. Tea and I have often been a part of those numbers over the years. We both like history, especially Royal history, and always enjoy a trip to the Tower. Having our heads intact when we leave is an added bonus.

 

Archer sculpture, Tower of London

You can easily spend an entire day at the Tower of London (Top Ten Things To See and Do at the Tower of London). I especially enjoy viewing the Crown Jewels; stunning doesn’t even begin to describe their beauty. My favourite thing at the Tower of London is the prisoner graffiti in the Inner and Outer Ward Towers (many prisoners carved graffiti into the walls during the 1530s-1670s).

 

The Bloody Tower, Tower of London

With such a gruesome, violent history, you wouldn’t think that the Tower of London could have any type of connection with something as gentle and gracious as tea. But it does.

In the late 19th century, the area surrounding the Tower of London (Tower Hill), was bleak and boring. Although the Tower was a tourist attraction, facilities for those tourists were rare. Influenced by its nearness to the docks, the neighbourhood was dominated by oppressive Victorian offices and warehouses.  One of those was the unsightly Mazawattee Tea warehouse.

 

From the Tea on Tower Hill Information Panel, Tower of London

Mazawattee Tea was, at that time, one of the most important and most advertised tea firms in England. Its owners were making a small fortune in the tea industry. Their thriving offices and warehouses and vaults were located in a large building at the top of Tower Hill. The building was so tall that it blocked all the good views of the Tower – including views from All Hallows church, its next door neighbour. The vicar was not amused. A Tower Hill “improvement plan” was hatched. (Can you see where this is going?)

To make a long story short, the idea was to purchase and demolish the worst eyesores and generally give the area a good tidy up. A charitable trust was formed and monies raised. Improvements were gradual, and then the war intervened. During the blitz, many of the target properties purchased by the trust, yet still standing, were damaged – including the Mazawattee Tea warehouse.

 

Tower Vaults, Tower of London

By 1951, the entire Mazawattee Tea warehouse had finally been destroyed – but its vaults remained. Today, they are known as the Tower Vaults shops.  If you have ever visited the Tower of London and done a bit of shopping at Tower Vaults, you have consequently been “inside” the historic Mazawattee Tea warehouse.

 

From the Tea on Tower Hill Information Panel, Tower of London

 

Tea and the Tower – an astonishing blend.

 

 

Tea and twirling teacups at the county show

Vegetable exhibit

Growing up in the rural farmland of Illinois in the American midwest, the annual county fair was a much anticipated event. I have fond memories of  elephant ears and caramel apples, riding the thrilling Tilt-A-Whirl, stock car races, farm animal competitions (remember Charlotte’s Web ?), and my favourite: the cooking and crafts tents. The county fair was just plain FUN!

After I moved to England, I was so happy to discover that the county fair/county show was alive and well on this side of the pond (where the whole idea probably originated anyway). Mr. Tea and I have now been to several of these (Egham Royal Show and Royal County of Berkshire Show) and mark our calendar with the dates every year. We arrive promptly at opening time, and try to see and do  everything we can before early afternoon when the crowds begin to swell.

Come on, let’s go for a walk and I’ll show you around, where you will see:

 

Pasties

Hearty food like pasties,

 

Meat sandwiches

Baps,

 

Ice cream trick

and – of course – ice cream!

 

Cake table

There are cakes to be judged,

 

Winning Victoria Sponge

and prizes to award.

 

Miniature flower arrangement

Flowers to evaluate,

 

Winning dahlias

and more prizes to award!

 

Greyhound in Need charity

One of the most enjoyable things about county shows are the interesting exhibitors, like Greyhounds in Need, a charity dedicated to the welfare and rescue of greyhounds.

 

Natural wicker coffins

This was a rather unique exhibitor, a company that manufactures “environmentally friendly biodegradable coffins from sustainable resources”. I think they are beautiful.

 

National Hedgelaying Society

Yes! Save the hedgerow! The NHLS is committed to conserving hedgerows through traditional skills. Their patron is HRH The Prince of Wales.

 

How to thatch

I always wondered how a thatched roof is constructed.

 

The Band of The Brigade of The Gurkhas

There is music,

 

Horse rider

and animals,

 

Games booth

and fun, wonderful things for the kiddie winks:

 

Merry-Go-Round

Carousel

 

Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy Show

 

Coconut Shy

Do you know about the Coconut Shy?

 

Children's cricket game

The ECB Cricket Factory teaches children (and adults) about the sport. (Note to self: Next time, give this one a go. Am hopeless at understanding cricket!)

 

Pimm's o'clock

But besides this ↑, the best part of the county show for me,

 

Tea sign

is this,

 

 

Tea sign

this,

 

 

Yorkshire Tea booth

this,

 

 

Denise at the Mad Teacup ride

and THIS!!!!!!!!!!

“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”