History of Afternoon Tea

Since the dawn of smartphones (with the capabilities of instant messaging, email and facetime), communication that is instantaneous is expected, if not, demanded. Our world has gotten even more fast-paced and impersonal than it was just a few short years ago.  Many of us yearn for personal interactions and attempt to slow the world down a little and enjoy the special moments and friendships we have built.  One way to do this is the beloved Afternoon Tea.

Believe it or not the stereotypical British tea time is somewhat of a misnomer.  While the British do enjoy afternoon tea and scones, the tradition of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was later popularized in England around the 1800’s.  Since the custom was first introduced in Britain around 1840, the English have practiced this cherished afternoon tradition with tea and small finger sandwiches.  At first, the tea time was meant to ward of late afternoon hunger before dinner, but it eventually evolved into social events meant as a time to share stories and gossip between the ladies of the Victorian Era. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.Tea Receptions could be either intimate affairs with a handful of special guests or larger events with hundreds of visitors sharing Afternoon Tea together.

Today, Afternoon Tea is a beautiful tribute, of sorts, to a slower and easier time.  It is a great time to meet with friends, celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday, baby shower or upcoming wedding.  Afternoon Tea is no longer just a “bridge”  between meals, but also a time to slow the world down and enjoy the company of good friends and good food.  We must hold on to these traditions in our “rush, rush, rush” world we live in.  Stop in soon for this wonderful tradition at the Wenham Tea House..

A Little History of our beautiful town – Wenham, Massachusetts . . .

Have you ever heard the adage, “Don’t blink or your might miss it” used to describe small towns? Well, if you have ever used this old saying to describe our little hamlet of Wenham, Massachusetts, then you might be missing out on the town’s rich history dating all the way back to the earliest European settlers to explore our state.  Wenham may be only a little over 8 square miles, but within that area you can find the sights, sounds, and the feel of quintessential New England all in a beautiful little package.

Wenham, meaning “home on the moor,’ was first settled by the English directly from Suffolk County, England, in the 1630’s. The land was bought for a nominal sum from the Native Americans working the land in the area. For years, artifacts from these early Native Americans were discovered around Wenham and are still displayed at the Wenham Museum in the town’s center. Once considered a section of Salem, Wenham separated and incorporated on its own in 1643.  Settlers first established homes near what is now called Wenham Lake.  Stone walls can still be seen marking property lines from the late 1600’s. A short drive around the town allows visitors to see many historical buildings such as the Wenham Museum and Claflin-Richard House or the Newman-Fiske-Dodge House.

Wenham has played its role in several key points of Massachusetts and American history such as the Salem Witch Hysteria, the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. For example, Sara Good, a Wenham native, was one of the original women to be hanged during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. During the colonists revolution against the English rule, fifteen or more Wenham men served as Minute Men during the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the Civil War. the fields now known as Pingree Field was the location of barracks, mess halls and training fields for two full regiments of Union soldiers.  And finally, during the Industrial Revolution, Wenham Lake Ice made quite the name for itself as far away as Europe.

Wenham Tea House also has a special place in the history of our little town.  The Wenham Village Improvement Society, a group of Wenham women, purchased Mr. Henry Hobb’s harness shop as a home for a tea house and exchange for selling ladies’ handiwork, jams and jellies. The Tea House and Exchange, established in 1912, has continued through the years as the successful fundraising arm of the Wenham Village Improvement Society. Currently, the Wenham Tea House is one of the oldest Tea Houses in the country. We are proud of our spot in the history of our wonderful little town.  Come visit us soon so we can show off our town’s rich history..