Chafing dish

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is a chafing dish made by the English manufacturer John Aynsley & Sons Ltd between 1912 and 1918. It is made from glazed porcelain set in a tin-plated copper base. When filled with hot water the metal base kept the child’s food warm. The phrase ‘chafing dish’ comes from the old English and old French words ‘chaufen’ and ‘chaufer’ (modern French ‘chauffer ‘) meaning ‘to heat’. Chafing dishes have existed since at least the 1480s, and have been used in religious rites and medical practice as well as the cooking and serving of food.

The dish is decorated with transfer images of teddy bears. Teddy bears became very popular very quickly at the beginning of the 20th century. Images of teddy bears began to appear on all sorts of objects. The idea of bears behaving like humans took hold and resulted in images such as the ones on this chafing dish. The sporting activities of such bears included cricket, football, skating and golf.