Chelsea Porcelain

We have had our kitchen modernised. Actually we have had it practically rebuilt. To carry out this exciting rebuild has cost five or six times the price of our first house. Obviously we bought that house many moons ago and everything is relative, but I sincerely hope we will never need another kitchen.

Our previous kitchen incorporated a formal dining area, accessed through an arch and furnished in oak and it contained a pair of my late parents Chelsea figures, a gorgeous pair, but heavily restored. The new kitchen is all kitchen, apparently this is the way to live these days, so I wonder what will become of the Chelsea figures.

Chelsea Porcelain is very clearly divided into four periods defined by the marks used. The first period; the triangle period (1745-49) saw pieces marked with an incised triangle. Wares from this period have a glassy white body due to a proportion of crushed lead glass in the soft paste that can appear to have ‘pinholes’ in it when held to the light. Designs tended to be based on silver work with particular Rococo influence.

By the raised anchor period (1749-52) marked with an applied anchor on a small oval medallion, there had been some improvement in the quality of the glaze with less translucency. Many designs had a Meissen influence and scenes from Aesop’s Fables were popular. A small red or occasionally brown anchor defined the Red anchor period (1752-56) which saw fashions favour decorative tableware with designs such as fruit, animals and vegetables becoming popular. Figures from this period are particularly notable; the best produced by Flemish modeller Josef Willems. Finally the Gold anchor period (1757-69) where the small anchor was now painted gold saw an increased use of gilding and coloured grounds, the return to Rococo designs and many more elaborate figures produced.

In 1769 the factory was sold to William Duesbury of the Derby Porcelain factory and until 1784 produced Chelsea-Derby porcelain. In 1784 the Chelsea workshops were demolished with the majority of the moulds destroyed.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Josiah Wedgwood

One of the most inspirational men of the 18th century and there were definitely many, was Josiah Wedgwood. How exciting it would have been to sit down and chat about his experiences and experiments.

Throughout his life Wedgwood experimented relentlessly with different materials and methods of manufacture. However, the enormous success of his factory was due not only to his artistic abilities but also to his realisation that the market needed to be expanded to cater for all levels of society.

From 1754 to 1759 Wedgwood worked alongside the potter Thomas Whieldon making experimental and tortoiseshell wares. Wedgwood never practised as a potter himself due to a leg injury and rather than being at a disadvantage this enabled him to work on developing pottery bodies and glazes and meticulously documenting his discoveries.

By 1759 he had set up his own business at the Ivy House Works in Staffordshire where he was making Redware, Whieldon type ware with translucent lead glazes, Blackware, salt glazed stoneware and Creamware.

In 1767 he formed a partnership with Liverpool merchant Thomas Bentley and opened a bigger factory called ‘Etruria’ ( after Etruscan pottery which inspired some of the factory’s production). During the next decade, right up until Bentley’s death in 1780, the company expanded and firmly established its position at the forefront of the market.

It was in the 1760’s that Wedgwood’s famous blue Jasperware was produced. A fine ground, unglazed stoneware, typically decorated with classical figures. One could say it was his signature dish.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Cornish Kitchenware

This summer, being the summer of staycation for many, seems to be the summer of grandparentscation for all Dowses and their offsprings. There is a saying, well known I believe, that it is possible to get “too much of a good thing”. I think we may have reached that point, especially as two of our Cornish Kitchen Ware jars have bitten the proverbial dust during these many “…cations”.

True Cornishware was produced by T.G. Green of Church Gresley in Derbyshire from the 1920s onwards. The name is said to have come from one of the employees who, on returning from holiday in Cornwall, saw the new range and said that the blue was like the Cornish skies and the white was like crests of Cornish waves.

By the 1980s Cornishware had declined in popularity and the rights to make it were sold to Cloverleaf of Swindon and in 2001 to Mason Cash and Co.

Maker’s marks on the base aid identification and dating. Early marks from the 1920-1940s are printed in green. Most original Cornishware bears a printed mark in green or black, showing the church at Church Gresley and is crossed by the words ‘Cornish Kitchen Ware’.

Named jars are more collectable than plain jars and rare names like ‘Lard’ and ‘Meal’ are even more desirable. Always check the name is not a later addition. Although blue and white is the most common colour others were produced. Red is by far the rarest, because it was produced as an experiment in the 1960s and never went into full production.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Paste Jewellery

Sometimes, in the world of Antiques, the imitation can be as collectable as the original. Not as valuable, but certainly as collectable. Look, for example, at Old Sheffield Plate and look also at Paste Jewellery.

Paste Jewellery, or ‘false diamonds’ as it was sometimes known, came about due to the experiments of an Englishman, George Ravenscroft, back in the 17th century. He was frustrated by the nature of glass used in jewellery, which being so soft was easily worn down. He began experimenting with new compounds of flint, potash and lead oxide and produced ‘lead glass’, a material that was hard enough to cut and polish like a gemstone.

However, it was not Ravenscroft who gets the credit for popularity of paste jewellery, that honour lies with George Frederic Strass, a Parisian jeweller in the 18th century. Strass played with the concept of lead crystal further still until he could imitate diamonds which when mounted in silver settings could rival the genuine.

Strass’ jewellery took the form of its original counterparts with pastes set in silver or silver gilt, usually backed with tinfoil to increase sparkle and many were decorated with strips of gold or gold beading for an extra touch of glitter.

Although paste Jewellery continued to be popular up until the 1930s, it became somewhat ‘cheap and cheerful’ and lacked the beauty and finish of the 18th century examples.

Antique paste jewellery is popular in the salerooms when it is embraced for what it is; elegant, beautiful jewellery in its own right, not merely a copy of real diamonds. It is marvellous to handle, versatile and enriching to wear and a perfect expression of the period in which it was constructed.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Telephones

As a small boy, growing up in mid twentieth century England, we were lucky enough to be a household with a telephone. I was never allowed to answer it though as it was an adult only instrument. We were, I remember, on a party line. I knew this because even though my sisters and I were threatened with ‘serious consequences’ if we answered the telephone, I often picked it up when no was around and sometimes heard our neighbour chatting on the other end. That was a serious thrill.

Later teenage years, after suitable tuition on method and politeness, brought the grown up responsibility of answering incoming calls. Fascination and intrigue quickly evaporated after that.

It was Alexander Graham Bell who set the ball rolling in1876 when he patented the speaking telephone. Since then all manner of designs for this amazing invention have been made.

An early design for the telephone was the ‘candlestick’ model made with a separate mouth piece and ear piece, synonymous with Al Capone.

It was however, the invention of Bakelite that saw the development of telephones take a new direction, beginning with ‘pyramid’ phones which are now Art Deco icons. Commonly made in black, the rarer green, white and red versions make much more at auction.

All Bakelite telephones show their date and manufacturer on the base” and their value increases if they still have their original chrome dial, plaited cord and pullout drawer in tact.

Like most things, the telephone also had it designers styles; the first of these is largely credited to the ‘Ericofon’. It was the first one piece telephone and was developed by Ericsson in the early 1950’s. It came in fourteen different colours but pink and orange still are the rarest and most collectable.

The production of the ‘Ericofon’ was world wide. The British one piece telephone, the ‘Trimphone’ and the Italian version ‘Grillo’ never achieved the success of the ‘Ericofon’ and very few are available on the auction market today. Obviously though, this only increases their value if you are lucky enough to find one. The value of a telephone lies in the desirability of the model and the rarity of the colour.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Wine Bottles

As I mature, slowly, with what I hope is a modicum of grace, into early middle age, I think the records need to be set straight. I have the eyesight of a healthy child, because I wear prescription glasses. I never get out of breath, because I never run anywhere. I never forget a thing, because I write everything down and when my wife isn’t in the car I drive like an adolescent.

Something else which matures particularly well is wine. This is a well discussed topic and matured rare wines are a great attraction in the saleroom. But what about the bottles.

Early wine bottles were made from darkly coloured glass, which had a hint of brown when held up to the light. This glass is known as ‘Black Glass’ and was used in wine bottles between 1650 and 1800. These early bottles are very collectable as they represent the earliest stages of consumerism in Britain. Due to their age there is usually surface deterioration, ranging from severe pitting to simple dullness. However, unlike many collectables, damage is acceptable in these old black glass wine bottles, so rare examples in very poor condition still produce good results in the saleroom.

Although not mass produced until the early 1800s, the production of glass was increasing throughout this early period with many glass houses opening up and different manufacturers gaining recognition for certain styles and shapes of bottle.

The commonest shapes in these early wine bottles are the ‘globe and shaft’, the ‘onion’ and the ‘mallet’, with rarer shapes, such as the octagonal being more collectable. More collectable still than the rare shape is the sealed bottle. These are bottles applied with a seal during manufacture which bears a family crest, a date or initials.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Suzie Cooper

Recently, during a house contents valuation I was conducting for Probate purposes in Clay Cross, near Chesterfield, I came across one of the most extensive collections of Susie Cooper ceramics I have ever seen. I have always been a take it or leave it sort of chap when it comes to Susie Cooper, but when i saw her talent en masse I have to say my opinion changed to one of admiration.

Susie Cooper was one of the most successful designers of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, she joined local potter A. E. Gray & Co. Ltd to gain the experience she required to attend London’s Royal College of Art. Initially Cooper was a production line painter, but her talent was quickly spotted and instead of going to London she became a designer at Gray’s.

Cooper was influenced by many artists, but her contribution to the company was highly personal. Gray’s used the factory mark “Designed by Susie Cooper” to identify her work and this early work of flowers and chintzware is still very popular with collectors.

By 1929 Susie Cooper had left Gray’s and set up on her own in premises at the Chelsea Works, Burslem. Products made after her departure from Gray’s are marked “A Susie Cooper Production”. However, in 1931, after interest from Wood & Sons, she moved to a larger studio at their Crown Works and products were then marked with the familiar leaping deer, that is most often associated with her.

The 1930s were the most dazzling years for Cooper and the high demand for her work led to her use of lithography at a time when most firms were still using mechanical decoration.

By the late 1930s Susie Cooper was producing up to 200 new designs a year, featuring banding, polka dots and stylised flowers. Patterns that were both modern and timeless such as “Patricia Rose” and “Endon” were the key to her success, appealing to a far wider audience than the work of many of her contemporaries.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Breakfast Wares

Between us, my wife and I have five siblings. We are in the fortunate position of, not only being on speaking terms with all of them, but actually being on very friendly terms with all of them. Having spent, what seems like a lifetime dealing with deceased estates I have sadly met many families where this is not the case. I always find it very sad when families are no longer friends.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a very famous family had a very famous disagreement. Let me take you back to 1894 and introduce Dr John Kellogg, who ran a sanatorium. Amazingly and completely by accident he created the corn flake as he attempted to improve the diet of his patients. Sensibly he applied for a patent that same year and all in the proverbial sanatorium garden was rosy.

Now, those wonderful flakes of corn became so popular that Dr John’s brother, Will Keith Kellogg, set up the Kellogg Company to produce Corn Flakes and sell them to the general public. Then, unfortunately, it happened. In 1906 Will and John fell out over sugar which Will wanted to put in the Cornflakes and unbelievably this led to a life time rift and the success of the company was left to Will Kellogg.

Even though the Cornflake craze didn’t happen overnight, slowly and by the 1930s a change in breakfasting habits was definitely happening. The great British public now required new ceramics to enjoy the first meal of a new day. Cereal bowls, toast racks, teapots and for the lucky ones, all on a tray to be served in bed.

These breakfast wares are popular collectors items today, especially investable designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper. The rarer the pattern, the more exciting the purchase.

What a shame it was that the Kellogg brothers couldn’t have stayed friends and marvelled together how their simple flakes of corn were influencing Britain’s pottery designs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Belleek

The brown patches on our lawn are getting bigger. Other gardeners in the village seem to feel now is the time to seed, so in an attempt to cover our patches, I have decided to do the same. Along with general DIY, gardening and lawn management are not really my forte, so we shall be watching my project with interest. Fortunately the neighbours cannot see it, so failure, which is reasonably likely, can stay within the family.

I mention my lawn because it links beautifully to this weeks topic. The country known to have the greenest lawns is Ireland and Ireland is the home of the wonderful and under collected Belleek porcelain.

Image courtesy of Belleek Porcelain

The Belleek porcelain factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland was established in the village of Belleek in the late 1850s by three men. John Caldwell Bloomfield, to whom the land had been left, and two businessmen Robert William Armstrong, an architect from London with an interest in ceramics, and a trader from Dublin, David McBirney. As well as local workers and apprentices the partners hired fourteen experienced men from Stroke-on-Trent.

The partners always wanted to make fine porcelain, but the early pieces to come out of the factory were items such as floor tiles and tableware. However, following a few failed attempts they succeeded in making a certain amount of parian by 1863. Belleek is popular for it’s parian wares. They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes to enhance the cream colour of the porcelain itself. The intricate baskets produced by the factory are some of the most popular items with collectors.

By 1865 the company already had a growing market in Ireland and England and was beginning to export items further afield to the United States and elsewhere. Queen Victoria was even a customer.

Although the factory is still in operation today, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Tea Caddies

Isn’t it funny how our habits change as we age. As a young man the only hot beverage I ever consumed was coffee, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk. As I graduated into middle age, the coffee became a little weaker and a cup of tea was occasionally taken at breakfast time. As I progress further on life’s path, tea is pretty much the order of the day, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk.

When tea was introduced into Europe in the 17th century it’s popularity rocketed, unheard of profits were made and tea caddies were born. The caddy was such a useful item as it could be kept in the drawing room under the beady eye of the mistress of the house and it could be locked.

Early imported tea was prohibitively expensive for all but the richest in the land, so early caddies were more often than not beautifully made and extremely expensive. The first examples were imported Chinese porcelain and styled like a ginger jar. They had a sliding top enabling tea to be poured in and a rounded cap facilitating easy measurement of a portion.

As tea drinking progressed through the 18th century it’s popularity increased and so did the tea caddies that kept it safe. Originally blue and white Chinese porcelain they were now to be found in wood, Sterling silver, brass and copper. By far the most commonly seen in the salerooms today are the wooden examples. These are a delight to collect, from the plain rectangular to the sumptuous casket. The slightly larger examples had three sections and were fitted with a central blending bowl to mix and blend.

As the 19th century progressed so the price of tea came down. This meant the lock on the caddy disappeared and gradually the tea went from the drawing room to the kitchen and the poor old caddy disappeared for ever.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.