History of Afternoon Tea

If you remember a few weeks ago we were talking about the launch of Afternoon Tea in our lovely Tea Rooms, some of you might have been already. We really hope you enjoyed it and, if that is the case, you have a lot of jealous staff here at Beamish!

As promised, here is the follow-up post I talked about, telling you a little bit more about the history of Afternoon Tea.

The concept of Afternoon Tea can be traced back to the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, in the 1840s, who complained of feeling hungry between lunch and dinner. As a member of the aristocracy, there would have been a large gap between the two meals of the day, with dinner usually being served around eight o’clock. She began by having a light snack and a pot of tea privately in her boudoir, but soon started inviting friends to her home at Woburn Abbey to share in this new activity and, by the 1880s, it became very fashionable for other noble ladies to socialise over a small meal at a similar time between four and five o’clock. This also became a chance for the people of high society to show off their exquisite clothes and the skills of their chefs. Therefore, gradually, the light snack that the Duchess of Bedford used to sate her hunger gradually became an extravagant feast of sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

By the time we get to the 1900s, which is the setting of our Town, the idea of going to the mansion of the local aristocratic duchess for tea and finger sandwiches would have been a tad out of the ordinary for a vast majority of people, especially in our industrial North East, so the popularity of tea rooms was bigger than ever.

From the late 19th century to the Second World War, tea rooms were the most socially acceptable place for young women to meet their friends to share the local gossip over tea and cake, and ‘tea dances’ were continually popular when the element of music was added.

If you fancy a taste of Beamish Afternoon Tea at home, please enjoy a recipe for our Shortbread Biscuits, one of the yummy additions we have added to ours in miniature!

What you will need:



4oz butter

2oz caster sugar

6oz plain flour



Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth.

Sift in the flour until completely mixed.

Roll out your dough until around half an inch thick.

Cut out into any shape you like. 

Bake on a buttered baking tray at Gas Mark 5 for around 10/15 minutes depending on size and thickness.

Happy Eating!