A cruet set is an object that could be found on many dining tables from the 18th century. They were particularly popular in the Victorian era and contained ‘cruets’, meaning small container. These containers held condiments including oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard, and were varied in design. We’re excited to share with you a delightful cruet set from c. 1900s from our collection at Hurstville Museum & Gallery.
Cruet sets are thought to have originated in France before making their way to England. They became a centrepiece of Victorian and Edwardian tables, with a standard set containing at least four different vessels. Additional condiments were sometimes added, taking the total number on offer up to ten.
The cruet set in our collection is a revolving, silver-plated stand with space for five vessels, similar to the one pictured in this advertisement from Mick Simmons store in Haymarket in 1904.
In Australia, cruet sets were quite fashionable in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. They were a popular gift, with a Mr and Mrs W E Martens receiving not just one but three sets as wedding presents in South Australia in July 1907. They were also good choices as Christmas gifts, with this advertisement from 1915 boasting a wide range of styles and sizes. The store offered breakfast, lunch and dinner sets, with space for four to six bottles at varying price points. These elaborate table settings became more affordable with the introduction of electroplating in the 1800s. This meant that middle class families could now afford silver-plated goods as centrepieces for their dining table.
Gradually cruet sets grew out of fashion and were replaced by fruit stands as centrepieces, however they can still be found on some tables today. Have a look for the salt and pepper next time you are dining out, you may find them housed in a cruet set of their own!
“Advertising” The Northern Herald (Cairns, Qld. : 1913 – 1939) 17 December 1915, p. 25., viewed 28 January 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147491257
“Advertising” Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930) 10 April 1904, p. 7., viewed 28 January 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127799770
Atkinson, Rachel, “Condiments and Cruets – What are they?”, AC Silver Blog, last updated 16 October 2015, viewed on 28 January 2021, https://www.acsilver.co.uk/acsnews/2015/10/16/what-is-a-condiment-set/
Byer, Beverley, “Changes in Cruet Styles Throughout the Centuries”, Delishably – Food and Drink, last updated 12 December 2019, viewed on 28 January 2021, https://delishably.com/cooking-equipment/Changes-in-Cruet-Styles-throughout-the-Centuries
Resor, Cynthia, “Castor Sets from 1889 Catalog”, Teaching with Themes – Social history through primary sources, last updated 2018, viewed on 1 February 2021, https://teachingwiththemes.com/index.php/primary-source-images-texts/food-featured-images/castor-sets-1889-catalog/
“Wedding Presents.” Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 – 1918) 13 July 1907, p. 4., viewed 28 January 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95336997