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Tea chests were large wooden boxes reinforced at the edges, usually with metal strips, and as their name implies, their purpose was for transporting and storing tea. In the 1940s and probably before, shops weighed out customers' tea directly from these tea chests and into paper bags. So, as tea was so widely drunk, there was no shortage tea chests and they tended to be regarded as throwaway items. Consequently tea chests were popular as storage and packing crates in homes and for moving house. Even as late as the 1960s, when my family moved house, the removal company brought along empty tea chests for us to pack into. Apparently it wasn't worth their while to bother to collect the empties afterwards.