09 January 2017

Spode and a Mystery Teapot Stand

Teapot stand, bone china, pattern 522 c1804
This pretty oval 'dish' is in fact a teapot stand. It is 8 inches long. I found it some time ago on a bric-a-brac stall at the regular Saturday antique market in Leek, UK. It is essentially a morning market so arriving after lunch means that you can only dash about watching as delightful looking objects disappear unsold back under mounds of old newspaper and into cardboard boxes. A sort of panic sets in just in case you are missing something interesting.

On the cobbles by one stall was a higgledy-piggledy pile of plates, dishes and saucers. Racing against the moment they would be hauled from my view into their packaging I spotted what I thought was a pretty Edwardian dish with painted cornflowers. I extracted it quickly and carefully from its pile and knew instantly from its look and feel that it was about 100 years older than my first thoughts and was an early 19th century teapot stand. 
Part tea service, bone china, New Oval shape, pattern 893 c1806. Note the stand under the teapot
In the early 1800s a teapot stand was an integral part of a tea service and would be the correct shape and pattern to match the teapot. It was not really a separate item bought on its own. It is only as time has passed that services were split up and teapot stands often lost and not recognised as such.
'Combed' underside of the stand more usual of early 1800s than early 1900s
I liked it enough to buy and it was mine for a few pounds. At first I just thought of it as a mystery pot made by an unknown potter and didn't even consider it might be made by Spode. Back home, with the grime carefully removed from its surfaces, I began to wonder if, from its style of pattern and its feel together with the quality of manufacture perhaps it could be...

The underside of a piece is always important to scrutinise to see if there are any clues to a manufacturer. The backstamp was simply 522 handpainted in gold. As a process of elimination I checked my Spode notes and found pattern number 522 recorded as a 'missing number' - ie there is no paper record in the Spode archive showing what it was like. In fact patterns 518 to 522 are all 'missing'.
Teapot stand backstamp, pattern number 522 painted in gold
There are over 75,000 patterns recorded on paper in the Pattern Books in the Spode archive. It is the first 5,000 or so patterns in the Pattern Books which date from the Spode period (up to 1833) so, if recorded, this is where 522 would have been.

Why was this pattern missing from the Spode record? There are several possible reasons one of which could be that the records on pieces of paper may have been physically lost. The patterns were originally on loose sheets and only later bound into books.

I was lucky to find further clues to the manufacturer of my stand as some years ago I had been contacted by a collector and Spode enthusiast and provided with a photograph of this 'missing' pattern on a sugar box (sometimes referred to as a sucrier).

Identifying unmarked pieces it easier when the piece is holloware rather than flatware like my teapot stand. Holloware ware shapes are usually more particular to a manufacturer than a surface pattern, which could have been produced by several different manufacturers. The sugar box in Old Oval shape matched the pattern on my stand and had the same gilded 522 mark. The shape was unmistakably a Spode shape confirming the pattern as (almost certainly) Spode by its owner, an authority on unusual Spode objects and hunter of 'missing' pattern numbers.

An image of the sugar box in pattern 522 is below but unfortunately doesn't show the distinctive handles of Old Oval shape. So I include an image of a complete Spode Old Oval sugar box with its lid in pattern 477 where you can just see the gilded handles. Also note the gilded pattern on the shoulder is the same as that on the 522 sugar box.
Sugar box (detail), pattern 522 c1804. Note how the gold has worn.
Spode sugar box & lid, bone china, Old Oval shape, pattern 477 c1804 (I love this pattern with its panels of flowers interspersed with gold stars)
So it seems I had actually unintentionally found myself a piece of Spode from c1804. I think there must always be the caveat that there is no absolute proof but all the clues lead to this being pattern 522 missing from the Spode records. Delighted!

I thought it would be fun to look a bit more closely at the design. The pattern is handpainted and gilded and at first glance looks simple but is actually quite complex. It comprises a series of borders around a centre of hand painted cornflowers and gilded leaves.
Teapot stand, border detail
Working from the outside the design starts with a gilded edge; then a zigzag stylised leaf border also in gold; a yellow band with a gilded line either side; and then a really pretty stylised garland of green leaves, red dots and pink flowers. Then follows a border of linked gold dots which frames the central design of cornflowers and gold leaves. In some way it reminds me of the delicate designs of sprigged muslin dresses of the same period.
Teapot stand cornflower and leaf details in centre
This piece would have been fired in the Spode bottle ovens at least 4 or 5 times - a biscuit firing, a glost firing and then several firings for the 6 different colours and finally the gold. The gold would then have to be burnished to bring out its lustrous shine. Tools with tips of agate or bloodstone were used for this skilled job. You can see some by clicking HERE>

So here was the proof that my chance find of a teapot stand, which at first I had thought an anonymous, pretty early 20th pattern, was in fact a pretty early 19th century pattern from Spode.

17 December 2016

Spode and a Victorian Christmas Pattern

Copeland, small plate, Christmas design, pattern number D5208 (detail of top border) c1868
Earlier in this festive season I posted new information about Spode's famous 20th Century design Christmas Tree. But there are other Christmas designs produced by the Spode company under its various ownerships going back to the early 1800s. Go to my Spode & Christmas page for more information.

The now iconic image of a Christmas tree does not seem to appear in any of the Spode designs until 1938. From research in the Spode Pattern Books over the years I became familiar with Christmas and seasonal designs. Recorded on paper, these are production records. I admit to rarely having seen actual pots decorated with these festive patterns.

So I really am grateful to Paul Hanson of Philadelphia who kindly shared another of his Christmas pieces with me. It was he who found new information about Spode's Christmas Tree pattern detailed in my previous blogpost.

I was delighted when the images arrived as it is one of my favourite Christmas designs from Spode, then under the ownership of W. T. Copeland & Sons.
Copeland small plate, Christmas design, pattern number D5208 c1868
Here we go back to the Victorian era. This lovely seasonal plate, which is 6⅞ inches in diameter, is decorated in pattern number D5208. This pattern number was first recorded in about 1868 although the overall design was registered a year earlier.

Its design is pretty, charming and festive with cheerful seasonal messages on pink ribbons. Have you spotted the 'cartoons' amongst the entwined branches with holly leaves and berries? The designer seems to have had a good sense of fun. I like the dancing 'cartoon' which feels a lot more modern than mid-19th century.
'Cartoon' detail - perhaps a bit scary?
Dancing 'cartoon' detail
Other images used in this design record a parade of food and drink including a giant pudding topped with holly carried on a large dish but this scene is not featured on this plate.

The pattern is printed in outline and then hand coloured. Hand coloured is the phrase which was generally used in the Spode pattern books now in the Spode archive. Women and girls did the hand colouring ie painting over a printed outline; men and boys were allowed to paint. Both sexes served long apprenticeships for this specialist skilled work.

On the back of Paul Hanson's plate there are several backstamps.
The green printed mark of 2 entwined Cs back-to-back and Copeland underneath is the company mark, usually, but not always, used on bone china. It was in use from about 1850-1890. I am not sure if this plate is bone china or not as I have not seen it 'in the flesh'. In the absence of a datemark I think this plate dates from about 1868 when the pattern was first recorded.

The black printed diamond shaped mark is a registration mark giving coded information about when this design was registered with the British Patent Office. This one is for October 26th 1867 and has the registered number 212881. In Robert Copeland's book 'Spode & Copeland Marks & Other Relevant Intelligence' it is described as 'Mug & saucer design A Merry Christmas to you'.

The National Archives now have some registered designs online for many different companies and I have to admit I surprised myself when I found it - click here.

On the National Archives web page there is no illustration but there is a written record which says it is for a plate. It also says 'earthenware'. Once a design was registered it did not prevent use of that design by the company in different ways from its original registration such as on on different shapes, in different colours and on different pottery bodies.

The red number is handpainted and reads D5208 followed by dots. The D5208 is the pattern number and the dots probably a workman's mark ie that of a paintress.
Pattern number handpainted in red
Happy New Year!


05 December 2016

Spode, Christmas Tree and New Information

As Spode's iconic 20th Century pattern, Christmas Tree, is one of the most commercially successful patterns ever produced by the company I always try to write something about it at this time of year.

I have already written a lot about Spode & Christmas. The subject even has its own page on this blog - click here>.
Plate, Christmas Tree, pattern number S2133 1939
So I do wonder sometimes if I am going to find anything else to say but that reckons without my dear readers. Thank you to those who have sent me information and images to add to the story.

This time I am indebted to Paul Hanson of Philadelphia who not only has given me new information about Spode's Christmas Tree pattern but has also shared details of a delightful Victorian Christmas plate. The latter is worthy of its own blog post which I will do at a later date.

What's new about the history of Christmas Tree pattern?

It was always thought that, although there was no documentary evidence, after the initial introduction of the pattern in 1938, the inscription on the reverse 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas' usually followed by the date, was omitted.

This is part of what I wrote in 2010 on this blog:

"After the revision of the design a ten inch plate was produced with the wording 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas 1938' printed on the back of the plate. The salesmen were swamped with orders. The inscription was discontinued after 1938 but over the following years Christmas Tree pattern developed into whole table services and extra serving pieces." Click here for the full 2010 blog post.

However Paul Hanson, a collector of Christmas Tree pattern, has a plate with 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas 1939' on the back.
Backstamp with 1939 greeting, the factory mark &the pattern number
Whether this was a special commission from Spode for the American agent or for an individual customer is not known. But I love it when new information comes to my attention as it all adds to the history of Spode patterns, designs, shapes and customers, the full story of which was rarely recorded in its minutiae at the factory.

I have also seen a backstamp on a plate in this design which includes the greeting but the date omitted. This was on a plate which had an impressed datemark for 1940 or 1941. The datemark was hard to decipher.
Backstamp on a Christmas Tree plate dated 1940 or 1941
Thanks to Paul Hanson and other collectors for sharing their knowledge and images.
Detail of Christmas Tree pattern with Santa, toys & baubles