You may wonder the links between the Lunar Society and tea and how it can have any impact on my story A Gentleman’s Folly.
I’ll try to explain.
The Lunar Society was founded and established in the mid 18th century. One of the founders of the Society was Matthew Boulton a Birmingham entrepreneur and to my mind a genius of his time who history seems to have sidelined. That’s another story though.
The first meetings were held in Soho House, Matthew Boulton’s home or in the house belonging to Erasmus Darwin.
The fame of the Lunar Society, first known as the Lunar Circle, quickly grew and many of the great minds of the period joined. Some of these were
Benjamin Franklyn. (Yes, that one!)
And there were more. These were businessmen and what we might think of as scientists, naturalists, doctors, geologists and inventors.
The meetings of the Lunar Society always took place at the time of the full moon as that made getting home easier because of the extra light. There were no street lights in the period and some of the men would have to travel over heathland where Highwaymen lurked.
The group shared their knowledge on many subjects, wrote regularly to each other and all this activity helped escalate discoveries in many fields of industry.
Now, how does this tie in with my story A Gentlemans Folly you are asking.
It’s all to do with the tea cups. In parts of the story you will find Katherine drinks from tea dishes or bowls. Something like this pair of dishes.
Tea cups with handles weren’t invented until 1750. A very clever potter called Robert Adams devised a stronger form of porcelain. Not content with adding handles to the cups, he invented tea sets with all the necessary pieces sold together.
Following this, a form of tea set wars began, every pottery in Europe wanted to cash in on the tea craze. The search for a finer and stronger material to use continued, Meissen in Germany, Le Mioges in France and Spode in England all sought to grab a share in the top end of the market.
My link to the story comes through my understanding of this change in tea ware and the work I know Josiah Wedgewood undertook to improve glazes for pottery. He wrote in detail to Matthew Boulton of his experiments. Their corespondance is preserved, along with much other detail of Boulton’s business, in the Boulton papers housed in the Library archives in Birmingham. If you think about it, these things in the 18th century were the equivelent of our must haves today. That is why they appear in my story A Gentleman’s Folly.