11 December 2011

Spode and Christmas Tree Backstamps

Plate, 'Christmas Tree' pattern 1986
It's that time of year again... so click 'Christmas Tree' to swot up on this famously popular 20th century pattern from Spode. And for more links you can visit also my Spode & Christmas page. First introduced in 1938 for the US market, 'Christmas Tree' was in production until the close of the Spode factory in 2009 and was still produced in 2011 under the Spode brand from Portmeirion.
Fig 1 Backstamp 1920-1957
The mark in Fig 1 shows the backstamp which will appear on older pieces of 'Christmas Tree'. This style of backstamp was used from about 1920 to about 1957. It will appear on other patterns too but only on Spode's earthenware. Watch out - there are several versions of this backstamp from different dates. They are listed in Spode and Copeland Marks and Other Relevant Intelligence which can be consulted for full information on Spode backstamps.

The backstamp in Fig 1 shows that it was not applied to the pot very well. The pattern and the backstamp were printed from a hand engraved copper plate via thin tissue paper. The pattern was then hand coloured. When this particular backstamp was applied a crease was accidentally made in the tissue from which it was printed and so the word COPELAND was distorted. This backstamp can be used in conjunction with any impressed datemarks to find an even more accurate date.

A similar backstamp with a date letter in the top left hand corner was used until 1963 - these are often hard to decipher. To be honest I don't bother with them.

The Spode company name changed from W T Copeland & Sons Ltd in 1970 when it became Spode. (Ownership had been out of the Copeland family since the mid-1960s).
Fig 2 Backstamp 1986
The backstamp in Fig 2 has a lot of detail:

  • the Spode company name
  • the country of manufacture
  • the pattern name
  • a red workman's mark
  • the pattern number S3324 
  • the K following the pattern number is the datemark for 1986.

Fig 3 Candlestick 1980
Not a backstamp but something to look out for, Fig 3 shows a candlestick of early 19th century design decorated with Spode's Christmas Tree in 1980.

Spot what's missing!

Yes - the Christmas tree... this is a small piece so no room for the tree. But even with just mistletoe and holly it is still recognisable as the famous Spode pattern. Fig 4 shows the record of the Hand Candlestick available in at least 3 sizes (the 4th is not filled in with detail) from Spode's 1820 Shape Book.
Fig 4 Hand Candlestick 1820


  1. Pam, what shape did Spode originally assign to Christmas Tree? And would you know when the huge variety of specially designed items (such as the pierced plates, tree and star shaped dishes, fluted bowls, and so on) first came onto the market? I am assuming many of these are more recent introductions from the 1980s and 90s.

    Though the tree itself (and the story behind it) is fascinating, much of my satisfaction about owning Christmas Tree actually comes from the variety of shapes which can look spectacular when assembled on a table. (My collection dates from 2000-2006.) Even the novelty pieces have that indefinable Spode stamp of
    quality, proportion, balance, and understatement.

  2. Hi Tom and thanks for your question - have a look at my blog on 1st December 2010 which gives you a bit more information on original shapes and some other changes. Then when I have had time to think a bit more (!) I will comment on the newer shapes...

  3. As promised further thoughts on Christmas Tree in the modern era have been made! It is not all that helpful to collectors as research has not been done to give a definitive answer... but please see my blog on 16th December 2011 'Spode, Christmas Tree in the Modern Era and the Pattern Books' for my comments.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.