09 January 2017

Spode and a Mystery Teapot Stand

Teapot stand, bone china, pattern 522 c1804
This pretty oval 'dish' is in fact a teapot stand. It is 8 inches long. I found it some time ago on a bric-a-brac stall at the regular Saturday antique market in Leek, UK. It is essentially a morning market so arriving after lunch means that you can only dash about watching as delightful looking objects disappear unsold back under mounds of old newspaper and into cardboard boxes. A sort of panic sets in just in case you are missing something interesting.

On the cobbles by one stall was a higgledy-piggledy pile of plates, dishes and saucers. Racing against the moment they would be hauled from my view into their packaging I spotted what I thought was a pretty Edwardian dish with painted cornflowers. I extracted it quickly and carefully from its pile and knew instantly from its look and feel that it was about 100 years older than my first thoughts and was an early 19th century teapot stand. 
Part tea service, bone china, New Oval shape, pattern 893 c1806. Note the stand under the teapot
In the early 1800s a teapot stand was an integral part of a tea service and would be the correct shape and pattern to match the teapot. It was not really a separate item bought on its own. It is only as time has passed that services were split up and teapot stands often lost and not recognised as such.
'Combed' underside of the stand more usual of early 1800s than early 1900s
I liked it enough to buy and it was mine for a few pounds. At first I just thought of it as a mystery pot made by an unknown potter and didn't even consider it might be made by Spode. Back home, with the grime carefully removed from its surfaces, I began to wonder if, from its style of pattern and its feel together with the quality of manufacture perhaps it could be...

The underside of a piece is always important to scrutinise to see if there are any clues to a manufacturer. The backstamp was simply 522 handpainted in gold. As a process of elimination I checked my Spode notes and found pattern number 522 recorded as a 'missing number' - ie there is no paper record in the Spode archive showing what it was like. In fact patterns 518 to 522 are all 'missing'.
Teapot stand backstamp, pattern number 522 painted in gold
There are over 75,000 patterns recorded on paper in the Pattern Books in the Spode archive. It is the first 5,000 or so patterns in the Pattern Books which date from the Spode period (up to 1833) so, if recorded, this is where 522 would have been.

Why was this pattern missing from the Spode record? There are several possible reasons one of which could be that the records on pieces of paper may have been physically lost. The patterns were originally on loose sheets and only later bound into books.

I was lucky to find further clues to the manufacturer of my stand as some years ago I had been contacted by a collector and Spode enthusiast and provided with a photograph of this 'missing' pattern on a sugar box (sometimes referred to as a sucrier).

Identifying unmarked pieces it easier when the piece is holloware rather than flatware like my teapot stand. Holloware ware shapes are usually more particular to a manufacturer than a surface pattern, which could have been produced by several different manufacturers. The sugar box in Old Oval shape matched the pattern on my stand and had the same gilded 522 mark. The shape was unmistakably a Spode shape confirming the pattern as (almost certainly) Spode by its owner, an authority on unusual Spode objects and hunter of 'missing' pattern numbers.

An image of the sugar box in pattern 522 is below but unfortunately doesn't show the distinctive handles of Old Oval shape. So I include an image of a complete Spode Old Oval sugar box with its lid in pattern 477 where you can just see the gilded handles. Also note the gilded pattern on the shoulder is the same as that on the 522 sugar box.
Sugar box (detail), pattern 522 c1804. Note how the gold has worn.
Spode sugar box & lid, bone china, Old Oval shape, pattern 477 c1804 (I love this pattern with its panels of flowers interspersed with gold stars)
So it seems I had actually unintentionally found myself a piece of Spode from c1804. I think there must always be the caveat that there is no absolute proof but all the clues lead to this being pattern 522 missing from the Spode records. Delighted!

I thought it would be fun to look a bit more closely at the design. The pattern is handpainted and gilded and at first glance looks simple but is actually quite complex. It comprises a series of borders around a centre of hand painted cornflowers and gilded leaves.
Teapot stand, border detail
Working from the outside the design starts with a gilded edge; then a zigzag stylised leaf border also in gold; a yellow band with a gilded line either side; and then a really pretty stylised garland of green leaves, red dots and pink flowers. Then follows a border of linked gold dots which frames the central design of cornflowers and gold leaves. In some way it reminds me of the delicate designs of sprigged muslin dresses of the same period.
Teapot stand cornflower and leaf details in centre
This piece would have been fired in the Spode bottle ovens at least 4 or 5 times - a biscuit firing, a glost firing and then several firings for the 6 different colours and finally the gold. The gold would then have to be burnished to bring out its lustrous shine. Tools with tips of agate or bloodstone were used for this skilled job. You can see some by clicking HERE>

So here was the proof that my chance find of a teapot stand, which at first I had thought an anonymous, pretty early 20th pattern, was in fact a pretty early 19th century pattern from Spode.