Dinner, during the 18th century, was served between 7pm and 8.30pm and an extra meal called ‘luncheon’ was created to fill the midday gap.
But as this meal was very light, people were left feeling hungry. Legend has it that it was Anna Maria, the 7th Duchess of Bedford of Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire who stumbled upon the idea of afternoon tea. Apparently she would ask her main to bring all the tea making equipment to her private boudoir at around 5pm so that she could enjoy a cup of tea with a slice or two of bread and butter.
She found this afternoon tea such a perfect refreshment that she soon had friends joining her in her room for this new social activity. Ladies did not go to afternoon tea gatherings to eat but to meet their friends and catch up on gossip.
Once the trend had been set, all the fashionable society started holding afternoon tea parties for every type of occasion. Drawing room afternoon teas soon turned into groups of 10 or 20 visitors. Then came the tennis teas, croquet teas and picnic teas.