Silver Plated Shell Casing Tea Set

Today we are looking at a set of milk jug and sugar bowl made from old shell casings. These are often referred to as ‘trench art’, but they are a commercially made rather than a craft produced item. The pieces are made from the brass bottom portion of a shell casing, that has been modified and silver plated:

Hexagonal bakelite handles have been fitted to the pieces:

This design seems to have been made in the late 1940s or early 1950s by a number of companies, including Roberts & Belk of Sheffield. One (rather pretentious) website selling a full set with tray and coffee pot describes the design as having:

The straight lines, and the design of the set, are minimal to the point of austere, and reminiscent of some of Dr Christopher Dressers designs (the ebony handles are surely a nod to Dresser).  The pieces also bring to mind the Ilinka Karasz Tea & Coffee service by which forms part of the Met Museum collection.

Returning to my pieces, turning them over shows that they are made from World War II 6 pounder shell cases:

The stampings indicated that they are electroplated silver and made in Britain, but the lack of a manufacturer’s name suggests they are a cheaper copy of the design above, produced to meet demand for a fashionable item but not by a prestigious maker. Regardless, these are interesting examples of repurposing of surplus military items to meet a post-war need or fashion.

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