The ceremony of drinking tea came into England from the Orient through trading channels with Holland or Portugal and by the end of the 17th century 'that excellent drink called by the Chinese Teka, by other nations Tay or alias tee' became all the rage. It was at this time that special tables for holding tea equipage were first made. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the price of tea had dropped dramatically, the many once-fashionable tea houses were considered common and members of English society began to entertain their friends at home, often in special tea-rooms sometimes decorated in the prevailing Chinese taste. This created a new market for the accoutrements of the ceremony.
Patterns for related tray-railed 'China Tables' featured in Thomas Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, London, 2nd ed., 1755, pl. XXXIII, and the present lot features elements of both Chinese and Gothic pattern that were popularised by Chippendale. Related tiered pillared legs feature on a suite of drawing-room seat furniture supplied in the late 1760s to Padworth House, Berkshire (see Major C. W. Darby-Griffith, 'Padworth House II', Country Life, 23 September 1922, p. 376, figs. 11 and 12.
A table of similar form was sold anonymously Christie's, New York, 18 October 2005, lot 421 (£54,000 including premium).