13 November 2013

Spode and a Beautifully Marked Pheasant

I was recently speaking to the Ashbourne Antique and Collectables Society in Derbyshire. After the talk I enjoyed looking at and talking about pieces of ware, from all sorts of pottery manufacturers, brought in by members for discussion. One was a fine dessert dish I immediately recognised as from the Spode factory by both its shape and design. The owner, Evelyn Cox, has kindly given me permission to show it here.

I liked this piece not just for its design but also for the fact that it is a brilliant example of a well-marked piece; in fact an extremely well-marked piece - a curator's dream! There are 7 different backstamps each of which tells a story.
Pheasant pattern dessert dish
Backstamps on the Pheasant dessert dish
Pheasant pattern was first introduced by Spode in about 1816. An early version of the pattern has pattern number 2240 and another version, dating from c1822, has pattern number 3438. It is a pattern based on Chinese porcelain designs of the period.

Over the years there have been many versions of this well-loved pattern: on bone china, stone china and earthenware. Some of the versions of this design were produced by Spode as exclusive to particular retailers. This meant that if you needed more to extend your service or to replace damaged items you had to go back to this particular retailer - a good bit of marketing.

In 1905 an earthenware version of Pheasant was introduced with pattern number 2/5660. This was initially exclusive to Waring & Gillow, a London department store in Oxford Street. Later the exclusivity was removed and the pattern became more widely available.

The history of  Waring & Gillow can be found on the National Archives website by clicking here

Records do not indicate a date when Pheasant pattern was withdrawn from production but my research found it does not appear in catalogues in the 1950s. It may well be a pattern that had its demise during World War II.

Backstamps marked up for explanation below
  1. A printed mark: the Spode company backstamp in a style usually associated with a date of about 1906
  2. A printed mark: the Waring & Gillow backstamp printed from a hand engraved copper plate, like the Spode company backstamp, but at extra cost to the retailer.
  3. An impressed mark: a number, in this case 24, which is a workman's  mark. This identified the man who made the piece in the clay and was applied before the first firing. This would identify who had made the piece to allow for correct payment for work as well as a sort of quality control.
  4. A painted mark: the pattern number 2 over 5660 (here upside down) and underneath that a workman's  mark. In this case the cipher of the paintress who had completed the hand colouring over the printed outline of the pattern. Again, as in 3 above, this would identify who had worked on the piece to allow for correct payment for work as well as quality control.
  5. An impressed mark: a letter over 2 numbers indicating this is a datemark. It is difficult to read but says F over 09. This is the date for February 1909.
  6. An impressed mark: COPELAND over a Crown (here upside down). This indicates Crown body which is a white earthenware. A mark which rarely helps you to date a piece as it was used from about 1860 to 1969.
  7. A printed mark: a number, in this case 16, which is a workman's' mark. This is the number of the printing team which had worked on the piece to identify who had made the piece to allow for correct payment for work as well as a sort of quality control. The outline of Pheasant pattern is printed underglaze prior to the hand colouring onglaze.
These 7 marks then help to tell the story of this piece. We now know it is white earthenware, it was made by workman 24 and then fired; then printed by team 16 who added not only their number but the Spode mark and the retailer mark. It was then 'hardened on', then dipped in glaze and then fired again; then the hand colouring started sometimes with firings between each colour. 

The paintress added the pattern number for this version of Pheasant with her cipher below. All this helps to understand just how many skilled hands a piece of pottery passed through prior to its despatch to the retailer and then to the end user.

This Pheasant dessert dish is a serving piece and was almost certainly part of an elegant Edwardian dessert service of dozens and dozens of pieces. It actually follows the style of shape in use in the Regency period in the early 1800s.

More about backstamps can be found on my How Old Is My Spode? page.