If you know some 19-year-old in either the Learner or the Larner families who has a birthday coming up soon, I know just the gift!

Here is a mahogany tea caddy with an inscription describing it as a birthday gift in the U.K. in 1892. The inscription reads: “J.A. Learner, Dec. 4th 1892. Roughton Norfolk. A birthday present from his Great Uncle. W. Learner. Trunch. In his 92nd year.” Trunch and Roughton are both small towns in Norfolk, about five miles apart, and the Norfolk census says that William was living in Trunch in 1891 in a four-room house on Warren Road. He was a “retired farm steward.” (I edited the dark image of the text to make it more legible.) The J.A. Learner is James Arthur, born Dec. 4, 1872, in Trunch, so the caddy was a gift for the young man's 20th birthday.

J.A.’s father, also James 1836-1923, was born in Trunch. He worked at Trunch Brewery and then became an innkeeper, finishing up at the New Inn (which is still open and has great reviews) in Roughton, a village about fives away from Trunch, and that was where he and his family were living in 1892. J.A.’s grandfather was Thomas (1802-1892), a farm worker. Thomas had a brother named William (1804-1893: the ages don’t exactly match but he was baptized in 1804, maybe born earlier), so William was James Arthur’s great-uncle. William was born in Trunch and was a farm worker but his father Isaac was a carpenter as well as farmer. William married but had no children and that was perhaps why he was a good uncle. His niece lived with him after his wife died.

This is the church graveyard entry for her: (22) 06.03.1881 MARY LEARNER 70 In affectionate remembrance of Mary wife of William Learner died 6th March 1881 aged 70 years Over 30 years she bore affliction sore With patience and with pain Till the Lord was pleased to give her ease And called her with him to reign. And his marker reads: (23) 10.09.1893 WILLIAM LEARNER 92 In loving memory of William Learner who died Septbr. 10th 1893 aged 92 years Now our brother's task is o'er. Now the battle day is past. Now upon the further shore Lands the voyager at last. Father, in thy gracious keeping Leave we now thy servant sleeping. The parish records show how the name changed from Larner to Learner, and when William’s death was recorded the vicar wrote in, “died on a visit to Roughton” so he was visiting James Arthur’s family and staying (I assume) in the family quarters above the restaurant about a year after he gave him the caddy, which is quite nice.

It’s hard to estimate the age of the caddy. The handle on top is certainly eighteenth century, and probably the brass plate around the keyhole, but the hinges are not, and there are signs of repair around one of them. William’s father was a carpenter, so he would have passed along some of his skills to his son, and Great-Uncle William was probably fully able to make the caddy himself in 1892, using some old parts that were lying around. On the other hand, maybe William simply repaired a treasured family caddy in preparation for giving it to James. By the way, I’m calling this a tea caddy but there are slots for missing vertical dividers inside, so this might have been a letter holder or a small container for miscellaneous personal items. It is the size of a tea caddy: nine and three-quarters inches across, five and three-quarters inches deep and six inches high. It has light normal wear and no key.

P.S.: Many thanks to Val Dagley in Norfolk, who provided me with the family history for this item.

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England • English
Boxes, Tea Caddy Spoons

Laureate Antiques

Mahogany Tea Caddy 1892 Learner/Larner Family Inscription, Made in Trunch, Norfolk, part 18th Century


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