When a person woke up in the morning, there were always four things next to the bed that started the day off well: one’s spouse, the alarm clock going off correctly, a bed lamp and a nice, hot cup of tea, freshly brewed. Today we might add two more elements: a radio and a telephone.
Thanks to the Teasmade History Page, we know that in late 1891 Samuel Rowbottom of Derby applied for a patent for his Automatic Tea Making Apparatus, the patent being granted in 1892. It used a clockwork alarm clock, a gas ring and pilot light, proudly displayed by Rowbottom on an exhibition stand. Although there is no evidence that he commercially produced his tea maker, the principle of the tea maker has remained the same since his first patent was filed. The tea-making apparatus boiled water in a specially designed kettle, and once boiled, the water was forced through a tube by steam pressure into a teapot.
In April 1902 a patent for a teasmade was registered by Frank Clarke of Birmingham. He called it "An Apparatus Whereby a Cup of Tea or Coffee is Automatically Made", basically a kettle and a methylated spirits burner attached to an alarm clock. However his original machine and all rights to it were actually purchased from Albert E Richardson, a clockmaker from Ashton-under-Lyne.
But this machine really became practical only with the availability of electric clocks in the 1930s. In May 1932 George Absolom and his Automatic Utilities Company applied for a patent on his invention, an electric automatic tea maker. The patent was passed in 1933 and the invention was then manufactured and marketed as the Teesmade.
The Goblin Company applied for a registered design using the name Teasmade, but this was not accepted by the Patent Office. Yet for some reason, when Absolom's Automatic Utilities Company was wound up, Goblin Company took over and Teesmade became Teasmade. Goblin must have been very happy; a similar electric tea-maker was patented by William H B Thornton in association with Goblin in 1933, shortly after Absolom's patent.
1949 version of Teasmade
Note that the plywood tray, to hold the cups and saucers, is part of the structure
It was available in two versions, the Alarm Model and the Day Model, and buyers could choose from a cream, green or blue finish. A kettle with a tube leading into a teapot was heated by an electric element switched by an alarm clock. The kettle sat upon a spring-loaded pad with a switch, so that when steam pressure pushed the boiling water into the pot, the pad rose and cut the power to the element.
The Day Model had no clock and was operated by a switch as required. A businessman could successfully transplant his tea lady with a teasmade costing £3/15/0!
The Alarm Model with its synchronous alarm clock cost £5/15/6. It came with two earthenware cups, saucers, a cream jug and a sugar basin. An advertisement for it can be seen in the Hobday Brothers electrical catalogue, complete with a matching tinted lampshade. The clock was a synchronous Goblin Electric Alarm Clock. The Alarm Model was complete with original yellow teapot. Either model could be enhanced with a tray, two cups and saucers, cream jug and sugar basin (in the Hobday catalogue this costed an extra 10/6).
Goblin's first advertising for Teasmade
Production of teasmades was halted in 1939 due to the outbreak of war, and did not resume until 1947. In the late 1940s, the body was still plywood, but the tilting platform was now made of cast aluminium, rather than wood, and hinged on the teapot side.
The kettle was square, made of dimpled copper with a chromed finish, and had four bakelite feet. The kettle was made in a top and a bottom half, and had a central seam.
A new-style diagonal teapot with a curved handle was introduced in the early 1950s. This new teapot style continued in use until 1970, with minor changes. Throughout the production years the clock surround was square and chrome finished, but the clock face seems to have changed from square to circular, and then back to square.
Examples of teasmades going back to 1902 are on display at the Science Museum in London, in The Secret Life of the Home exhibition area.
The Director of the British Museum, who had told world history in a Radio 4 series called 100 Objects We Have Made, probably did not include a teasmade. Shame... my life improved far more from hot tea next to my bed each morning than my life improved from a Sutton Hoo helmet, a David Hockney drawing or Hoa Hakananai'a Easter Island statue.