Take a suitable closed vessel and put a tube in it. When you boil water in the vessel, the steam pressure will eventually push all the water out, via the tube, into the waiting tea/coffee pot. Back in 1891 that wasn't so easy. Electricity wasn't available to most people, so the water heating had to be done using gas. For this apparatus to work there had to be a gas pilot light lit at all times - on your bedside table? Health and safety peeple might have kittens if we tried to sell something like that these days, but for its time, Samuel Rowbottom's Automatic Tea Making Apparatus - formally patented in 1892 - was remarkable. It is widely regarded as the first Teasmade-type product that actually worked.
It seems that even in the 19th century, product development followed much the same path as it does now; someone invents a cool device and the next guy puts a clock in it!
James Alfred Greenhalgh was awarded a patent for this device in 1893. The principle behind the water boiling was essentially the same as the one by Samuel Rowbottom. However, this model benefitted from a mechanical clock that would start the water boiling process at a time determined by the user.
Apparently, it was never a commercial success and the models that were made were given away as prizes in a draw at Howarth's Mill in Salford
However, we're only up to 1893 and all the basics are almost there - except the reading light of course.
Fast forward to 1932 when Mr George Absolom developed this device that he called a "Teesmade" (the first time the term was used as far as we know). It was powered by electricity of course and the user could connect a reading lamp of their choice.
Note the tilted, spring-loaded teapot/boiler arrangement. This operated a switch once the water had been transferred from the boiler to the teapot. Marvelous!
It is now 1936 and Goblin (previously known for making vacuum cleaners) bought the rights to the automatic tea making device developed by Brenner Thornton and William Hermann. They marketed the product simply as The Teasmade - and the legend that most people are familiar with was born!
Prouction stopped during the war and resumed again in 1947
Goblin continued to enjoy great success with the Teasmade over many years and developed a number of iconic designs that reflected perfectly the style of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The early 80s saw turbulent times for many long-established British manufacturers - especially in the field of small domestic appliances. Successful British electronics company BSR had already acquired Bullpit & Sons (Swan Brand) and in early 80s they also acquired Goblin. Swan already had an enviable pedigree in the manufacture of domestic appliances, so it was decided that the Swan name would be applied to the Teasmade - even though some of the parts were still made at the Goblin factories. Eventually all the manufacturing was done by Swan. The tanks were still being made at the original Swan factory on Camden St, Birmingham as late as 2006.
The legendary Swan D01 model didn't have a reading light. Instead it featured a nice picture frame where you could insert photos - presumably so you could see a nice picture of your aunt Mavis when you woke up?
The current top of the range Swan Teasmade features an LCD clock with auto dim feature. There's a built-in AM/FM radio and even a socket to plug your iPod in!
We still have the reading light of course. Sadly there's nowhere to put that picture of your aunt Mavis, but you can be sure we're working on it!