Steeped in History: Afternoon Tea at Vaucluse House

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Melissa Dive


Immersed in notions of modernity and tradition, this dissertation will offer an insight into the transformations and tensions that arose as Australia evolved into a modern nation. By using the Vaucluse House Tearooms as a springboard, it will present an argument surrounding the interactions between the two concepts through the unique lens of afternoon tea. In doing so, the author contends that despite tensions between modern and traditional ideals, both concepts co-exist, shattering the notion that contemporary societies ‘weaken’ tradition (Gross 1992). Furthermore, this paper draws upon the work of Dugalic (2011) in suggesting that although the nature of afternoon tea is inherently traditional, it could be seen that Vaucluse House Tearooms have transformed this concept over time in order to create better relevance in contemporary society. This has led to the site’s core enterprises incorporating modern functions and a variety of foreign tea. Ultimately, it will argue that an understanding of contemporary society enables Vaucluse House Tearooms to embrace and harness modernity, which in fact, preserves and reinvigorates traditions. This will seek to demonstrate how contemporary society is structured and progressed through the fusion of both tradition and modern frameworks (Dugalic, p. 1) and promote a deeper meaning to the Tearoom’s complex, and enriched history.

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