25 May 2012

Spode and Royalty

June 2012 saw the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II so I thought it would be nice to look at a few more Spode/Royal associations.
Backstamp, 1806-c1811
The royal connection with Spode began in 1806 when the company was awarded its first Royal Warrant by HRH the Prince of Wales, later HM King George IV. He was supplied with beautiful pots both as prince (surface patterns, shapes and even a backstamp incorporating the Prince of Wales feathers was designed) and as king. As well as beautiful patterns on bone china, 'architectural' ceramics for Brighton Royal Pavilion were also specially produced for this royal client. And Spode made the enormous service for his Coronation in 1821 in Frog pattern. (Click the pattern name for some remarkable statistics about the size of the service on my Spode ABC.)
Frog pattern as used for the Coronation of George IV, 1821
Many will be familiar with items made by Spode to commemorate royal occasions. The first royal commemorative items made by Spode were for the Golden Jubilee of HM Queen Victoria in 1887. Since then items have been produced in a variety of styles, shapes and prices from simple printed earthenware mugs to costly handpainted bone china mugs, plates and vases, some produced in limited editions and items in sprigged stoneware too. Some items would have been specially commissioned, for example by china retailers, or councils - remember those mugs you were given as schoolchildren?
Diamond Jubilee Jug 1897
Royal commemoratives include those made for the 'Coronation that never was' of HM King Edward VIII who abdicated in December 1936. Spode had already prepared various items for this event including a three-handled loving cup and a lion-handled mug. The same shapes were used to commemorate the Coronation of HM King George VI in 1937. An interesting variation of the three-handled loving cup was also commissioned for this Coronation by the President of Stoke City Football Club to present to other members of the First Division of the Football League. Decorated with heavily gilded handles in the form of a Stafford knot, it depicted a scene of a football match, the players wearing the red and white shirts of Stoke City. Only 30 were made. 
Miniature bone china teaset on tray
For the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 Spode produced a variety of pieces to mark the occasion. One exquisite item was a miniature bone china teaset on a tray. Only 108 were made due to economic restrictions in the pottery industry still in place after the Second World War. You can see it here (in a not very good snapshot) with the tray which is about the size of a dinner plate.
HRH Princess Margaret's design for her Spode teaset
The Royal Family also chose to buy from Spode for their more personal and household use, including, since 1849, tableware used on the Royal Yacht. Spode made a 'toy' china teaset for the young Princess Elizabeth - one cup and saucer inscribed with 'Elizabeth', and 'April 21st 1932' - her 6th birthday. HRH Princess Elizabeth and her sister, HRH Princess Margaret, played with the china in a cottage in the grounds of their Windsor home. HRH Princess Margaret went on to design her own stylish pattern for a tea service in conjunction with the company which Spode made exclusively for her own use in 1960. It was possibly based on Spode archive material. You can see it here in a magazine article and it shows her gift for good design.
Spode literature for Golden Jubilee
For the Golden Jubilee in 2002 Spode led other pottery manufacturers to produce an exclusive dessert service for presentation as the industry gift for HM Queen's personal use. As curator I helped with the initial historical research into dessert wares for the project. The designers came up with an exquisite design on an elegant and new shape. Also in 2002 a wide range of commemorative items were produced for the Golden Jubilee. 
Part of the 2002 dessert service on display at 'The Potters Club', Stoke
Since 1806 the factory and its owners and workers have welcomed many royal visitors from all over the world. The skills of the Spode potters would be viewed by the royal party, some trying their hand at potting before viewing the splendid showroom.

On his 1806 visit HRH Prince of Wales was accompanied by his brother, the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV). Although HM Queen Victoria never came to the Potteries, in 1897, her Diamond Jubilee year, the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) enjoyed a visit to the Spode works whilst staying at Trentham Hall in Staffordshire. In 1900, the Duke and Duchess of York also visited, returning again in 1913 as HM King George V and HM Queen Mary. In 1941 during the Second World War, Spode employees were delighted to welcome the late Queen Mother with her husband HM King George VI. HRH Princess Margaret visited in 1954. HM King Charles III when he was HRH Prince Charles was the most recent Royal to be welcomed to the Spode Works on March 2nd 1998 to open the then new Museum & Visitor Centre (closed 2009). Like his predecessor, HRH Prince of Wales in 1806, he was able to admire the traditional skills of manufacture and the attention to detail for which Spode was world-renowned.
2nd March 1998 Prince Charles shakes hands with the author of this blog
1941 Royal visit to Spode, Ronald Copeland, right, with the Royal party