13 June 2012

Spode and a Soup Plate

It can be frustrating to the collector to find a piece of Spode with no backstamps or perhaps with illegible or ambiguous marks. The Spode company did not use backstamps in its very early history in the mid to late 1700s but by 1800 several were in use, rapidly increasing and amounting to 300-400 by 2009 when the company closed.

You can find more out about Spode backstamps on my How Old is My Spode? page but I thought the back of the soup plate shown here was fun to look at as it has, well, everything.
On the left of the image is the backstamp known as Frank's Boat Mark (we don't know who Frank was). This is the manufacturer's mark. It is one of many versions in use by the Spode company under the ownership of W T Copeland. The firm continued to use the Spode brand as can be seen in the 'Copeland late Spode' wording incorporated in the backstamp. In this case 'late' means formerly.

So strong was the Spode brand, even under new ownership, that it was still important when this pot was made over 100 years after the founding of the company. The mark is printed in brown and includes not only the pattern name, Ivanhoe, but also 2 registered numbers.

Registered number 180288 actually registered the design of the backstamp - not the pattern or shape - with the British Patent Office on 11th September 1894. The other registered number, 382297, is for Ivanhoe pattern and this design was registered on 29th October 1901. Ivanhoe was produced in several versions on both bone china and earthenware.

The name of the pattern is Ivanhoe in whatever version it was produced but each variation was also recorded with its own unique pattern number. Here the number painted in red - 2/4973 - tells us it is an earthenware pattern (indicated by the prefix of 2). This pattern number was first recorded in the Spode Pattern Books in about 1902. The cipher in red below the number is a paintresses' mark.

The impressed 13 in the middle of the soup plate is probably another workman's mark indicating who made the actual clay piece but the details of this person are now lost. The workmen's marks allowed tracking of who was involved in the manufacture for purpose of both quality and payment of wages.

Another impressed mark to the right of the printed A. T. Wiley & Co Ltd is M over 03 (or 08) and indicates a date of manufacture for the clay piece of March 1903 (or 1908). The piece may have been decorated some time later.
Impressed datemark of M over 03 or 08
Impressed backstamp for Crown body
A third impressed backstamp at the top of the main image is a crown but appears upside down so it is shown again on its own the right way up. The impressed crown has the word COPELAND in an arc over the top. It is difficult to see. Marks such as these were applied by hand at speed during manufacture and, in this case, it seems the worker, probably our number 13, has applied the stamp at an angle meaning that the beginning of the word is hard to read. He only had one chance of getting it right! This particular backstamp is not very useful in helping to date pieces as it was in use from about 1860 to 1969. But it does tell us that this is Crown body which was a white earthenware.
Soup plate, Ivanhoe pattern
The last mark is another printed mark, again in brown, for a specific retailer in Montreal, Canada. It is for A. T. Wiley & Co Ltd. This version of Ivanhoe may have been exclusive to Wiley. They would have paid extra for their name to be added to the pieces which involved making an extra engraving at Spode from which it would be printed. These specialist retailers worldwide, but in particular in North America, were important customers of the Spode company and were where most would view and then buy their Spode wares.

On this one item we have printed, painted and impressed marks; marks for the body, date, workman and woman, manufacturer and retailer. The information added together from all the marks tells us that it is from the Spode company under the Copeland ownership; made around 1903 (or 1908) in white earthenware in Ivanhoe pattern. For the contemporary purchaser they would know to go back to A. T. Wiley for replacement and extra items and the pattern number would make sure they got the correct matching version of Ivanhoe when re-ordering.

Remember this is just one soup plate in what could have been a very large dinner service comprising hundreds of pieces. Detail of the design can be seen here too and the pattern was printed and then hand coloured. The reasoning behind the Ivanhoe name seems to be lost in the mists of time but it would probably all have made sense in the early 1900s.