When Harold Holdway was first asked to draw a Christmas tree he had to be rather inventive, as he had never seen one! In his first sketch all the presents were suspended from the tree. He amended it when Mr. Thompson, who liked the design, explained that in the US presents were heaped on the floor around the bottom of the tree with only shiny decorations on the tree itself. Harold also had no idea what they put at the top of the tree which is why the Spode Christmas tree has a Santa instead of a fairy.
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 the Christmas Tree pattern developed into whole table services and extra serving pieces.
Interestingly Plummers of New York who stocked the original Spode Christmas Tree pattern also had it reproduced very closely and applied to less expensive ware by Barker Bros. of Longton, Staffordshire. Plummers sold both versions. The success of the pattern has inspired many other companies to produce similar designs over the years. But remember the Spode Christmas Tree pattern is the original.
Here's a great statistic - in the last quarter of 1999 Spode's Christmas Tree was recorded as the largest selling casual dinnerware pattern in the USA.
Some variations of Christmas Tree pattern are detail below:
the original pattern printed underglaze, handpainted onglaze with green band - superseded by S3324 in 1959 for underglaze decorated
As S2133 but with crimson band
As S2133 but on Marlborough shape
As S2134 but on Marlborough shape
As S2134 but band in 1339 red in place of crimson
12 inch round Chelsea dish, Christmas Tree centre of S2133, edge in Christmas Tree green
12 inch round Chelsea dish, Christmas Tree centre of S2134, edge in Christmas Tree crimson
Pattern all underglaze but green line in place of the green band
Zieler bowl all underglaze with green line and holly border
As original pattern but all underglaze. In 1962 the decoration changed from printed to waterslide onglaze but still banded underglaze
As S2134 but underglaze and underglaze pink band
As S3324 but omitting the band (cancelled)
Spode factory closes
Produced by the Portmeirion company
You can see details of some backstamps to help date pieces of Christmas Tree on a newer blog here.
In August 2011 I found this for more on Christmas designs and not just from Spode: http://vignettedesign.blogspot.com/2010/12/setting-table-with-christmas-dinnerware.html
With thanks to Robert Copeland, the Holdway family and Eddie Orpe