Nowadays hot water cans are often separated from their original context and their original purpose is forgotten. They are seen perhaps as ornamental items but were vital if you wanted more than an ice-cold wash on a cold winter's morning! This hot water can is transfer printed in blue in a pretty pattern called Aster. This pattern was introduced by Spode in about 1832 and was originally called Chinese Plants. Many of Spode's earliest patterns, of the late 1700s, were strongly influenced by designs from 18th century Chinese porcelain. This influence continued, following the vagaries of fashion, for the rest of the company's life until it closed in 2009.
|Hot water can, earthenware, Aster pattern, backstamp c1889|
So what was the purpose of a hot water can? Imagine the days before a plumbed-in bathroom. If you are well-to-do you have a toilet set in your bedroom. Items varied depending on wealth, personal taste and the date but usually you would have a ewer, basin, chamber pot, slop pail, toothbrush box, soap box and a sponge box (the last 3 items are for some reason often confused today). Some of these items were available in several sizes and other items were available too such as urinals and bedpans.
|Catalogue page, hot water can centre, 2 designs of slop pail above & below. Bottom left toothbrush box; 2nd from bottom right a toothbrush vase. c1900|
|Metal hot water cans lined up ready to take to the bedrooms, Erdigg|
Many toiletware patterns are recorded in the famous Spode pattern books. There is also a separate set of pattern books specifically for toiletware patterns dating from about 1907 to 1938 in the Spode archive. The pattern prefix is T.
On my Spode ABC there are a few more images on the T page under Toiletware - click here.
|A glimpse of the Spode Toiletware pattern books with red bindings c1907-1938|
|Hot water can, earthenware, pattern 2/2164 c1883|
|Catalogue page (detail) 'Ewers and Bowls' c1867-1881|
|'Composition of Sets' c1902-1910|