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Staffordshire pineapple teapot

First brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus after his second visit to the New World in 1493, pineapples only reached Britain in 1632. The first reliable crops of English-grown pineapples are thought to be those raised by the Dutch gardener of Matthew Decker (1679–1749) in his gardens at Richmond in c.1714–16. 

In 1716, on the occasion of George I’s visit, Decker famously served pineapple at dinner; and in 1720 he commissioned a painting of one of his prize pineapple plants, described as ‘worthy of the royal table’. This painting was later inherited by Decker’s grandson, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam, founder of the Fitzwilliam Museum, who in turn bequeathed it to the University of Cambridge at his death in 1816.

From the 1720s onwards, pineapple cultivation became a popular hobby for wealthy gentry and choice specimens often formed the pièce de résistance of fashionable desserts. Between October 1759 and March 1760, during the 4th Duke of Bedford’s Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, his confectioner, Thomas Bridgeman, purchased numerous pineapples, some costing as much as 2s. 6d.4

Around the time that the Duke was being served pineapple, a fashionable lady would have been serving tea from her amusing earthenware pineapple-shaped teapot, another product of eighteenth-century pineapple mania, this time from the Staffordshire potteries.