8th
Feb
2013

Posted in Reference

Generally speaking, electrical items have made our lives easier and more comfortable. Who wouldn't be without their automatic washing machine, fridge freezer, television or CD player? But in their quest to give us ever more convenient lives and to simultaneously make a bob or two, some inventors have offered up items that we quickly consign to the no longer needed pile. Still using your shower radio, Sodastream or Teasmade? Probably not, though the Teasmade has undergone one transformation after another since the late nineteenth century, so keen have its inventors and redevelopers been to exploit the gap in the market for early morning convenience.

It was Samuel Rowbottom from Derby who first applied for a patent for what he termed his 'Automatic Tea Making Apparatus' in the early 1890s. His invention, which used a clockwork alarm clock, gas ring and pilot light, does not seem to have been commercially produced, but the central concept which involves steam from the boiling water forcing the water out through a tube and into the waiting teapot is still the one used today.

It was in the 1930s, once a growing number of homes were connected to the grid, that the Teasmade became a viable appliance.  The inventor, William Hermann Brenner Thornton, working with the electrical appliance manufacturer Goblin Ltd, brought out a succession of models through the 1930s. Unsurprisingly, production ceased during the war years; hard to justify the need for a machine to produce an automatic cup of tea prior to rising from bed in the morning, when guns, tanks and aircraft were the order of the day.

However, the Teasmade's zenith was yet to come and in fact it was the 1960s and '70s that were to prove the heyday of the appliance. Indeed, my own grandparents became the proud owners of a Teasmade in the late 70s and enjoyed many a cuppa in the comfort of their bedroom. However, once the sheer novelty had worn off, they soon reverted to getting up and going down to put the kettle on. Like so many before them, they quickly realized that the advance preparation necessary probably outweighed the potential benefits. In addition, the gurgling and hissing of a Teasmade in action lead many to wonder whether the built in alarm clock wasn't an entirely redundant feature for all but the very heaviest of sleepers.

Yet perhaps we shouldn't mock, for the Teasmade has been born again of late, popular with the retro followers among us and with that group of diehards, who never tired of their Teasmade in the first place and clamoured for a new model when their original finally stopped chugging along. John Lewis received so many calls for the product to be stocked that it was reintroduced. Other shops and online companies also sell the machine in their electrical goods range, with both retro and modern styles available. Perhaps, as long as our nation's fondness for tea continues, so the Teasmade will endure.  

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