23 June 2015

Spode, Copeland, Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington

In 2015 many commemorations, battle re-enactments and discussions have been taking place connected with the Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington for the 200th anniversary year. I felt it was time to bring in the Spode connection...

The soup tureen, cover and stand, illustrated here, is in 'Wellington' pattern. Part of a dinner service, it was printed from finely engraved copper plates. But the Spode-Copeland-Wellington connection is much more than just that of a pottery factory manufacturing, marketing and selling dinnerware associated with a famous military man.

William Taylor Copeland owned the Spode factory when 'Wellington' pattern was first produced. The late Robert Copeland wrote: 'It was probably a friendship between the Duke of Wellington and William Taylor Copeland that led the latter to honour the Iron Duke by reproducing scenes from Wellington's military victories reproduced onto dinnerware'. How well the two knew each other I do not know but Copeland was a young Lord Mayor of London in the 1830s and also served on committees for good causes patronised by the Duke.

Different shapes within a dinner service depicted different scenes of Wellington's military victories. The exact date of introduction of this pattern is unknown but possibly about 1839. Actual pieces are rare so it may not have been produced for long, ending soon after the Duke's death in 1852.
Print from a damaged copper, 'Wellington' pattern, 'Passing the Douro'
Most of the military scenes used are only known from copper plates from which the pattern was transfer printed and not from Spode pieces. The copper plates are often damaged as they could be reused when a pattern was no longer in production. The plain back could be prepared for a new engraving but this 'destroyed' the original engraving ie it could no longer be used for printing. This happened to the copper plate for one of the scenes used for the pattern depicting 'Passing the Douro'. It is illustrated here as a 'pull' (or print) from the copper plate not on an object. Although damaged, the copper engraving is still an important historical record.
 'Wellington' meat dish (centre), snapshot Spode museum showcase in 2003
The snapshot of a Spode museum showcase case shows, centre, a meat dish in 'Wellington' pattern depicting the 'Battle of Salamanca'. This version is printed in brown, recorded as pattern B907 and made in 1847 under the Copeland and Garrett period of the factory. Then from left to centre a parian bust of Admiral Lord Nelson, c1848; a parian bust of the Duke of Wellington, marked 'Comte d'Orsay Sc. 1852', made in 1891; and right are 2 handpainted plates celebrating the laying of the Transatlantic Cable in 1866 - but that's another story...

21" Gravy dish, 'Wellington' pattern depicting 'Retreat of the French Army from Arroyo to Molinos'

Robert Copeland's paper was published in 'Country Life Magazine' in 1984. It was entitled 'Pursuing the Potters' Tribute: the Spode Wellington Service'. Items made in this design are known to have been exported via the Hudson's Bay Company to North America.

Extract from 'Country Life Magazine' 1984
There are other connections between Spode, Copeland and Wellington.

A bust of the Duke of Wellington was made by the Spode company in about 1824. About 24 cm high it was made from red earthenware, glazed and then coloured to look like bronze. The back had a special backstamp: 'Wellington Spode and Copeland, Fecit'.
Bust of Wellington, Spode and Copeland, c1824
Backstamp on the Spode and Copeland bust
A parian figure was also produced by the company around the time of the Duke's death in 1852 showing him seated. Parian figures were often produced as pairs. Not a matching pair but two associated subjects which were usually referred to as 'Companions'. The Spode company perhaps did not see the irony of choosing Napoleon as Wellington's companion on one occasion...
Seated figure of Wellington, parian, Copeland, c1852/3 (Copeland ref S195)
Seated figure of Napoleon, Companion to Wellington, parian, Copeland, 1853 (Copeland ref S113)
1873 trade catalogue featuring listing for Wellington and Napoleon
Other parian items were produced too. A statuette of the Duke of Wellington standing was made in about 1845 under the Copeland & Garrett ownership of the company (1833-1847). See Robert Copeland's book 'Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain' ref S193.

Later, in about 1848, under the Copeland ownership, a figure described as 'Duke of Wellington Equestrian Statue' was made although one has never been seen - so far...

Three parian busts were produced: one in 1846; and two in 1852 in different sizes. The bust in 1852 was from an original by Count D'Orsay. It is understood he had offered it to Minton's who had refused but Copeland accepted his terms.
Bust of the Duke of Wellington, parian, Copeland & Garrett, 1846 (Copeland ref B92a),

Bust of the Duke of Wellington, parian, Copeland, 1852 (Copeland ref B92),

'Pursuing the Potters' Tribute:  the Spode Wellington Service' by Robert Copeland, 'Country Life' published 1984

'Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain' by Robert Copeland (details on my booklist)

'Spode/Copeland Transfer Printed Patterns found at 20 Hudson's Bay company Sites Part of a series on Canadian Historic Sites' by Lynne Sussman (details on my booklist)

13 May 2015

Spode and Cracked Ice and Prunus

Barrel Scent Jar in Cracked Ice and Prunus pattern c1821
Spode's early 19th century pattern Cracked Ice and Prunus was derived from an 18th century Chinese porcelain design. The design represents the coming of spring. The elements of the design show cherry blossom petals (prunus) falling on to the background of thawing ice.
To the left of the Barrel Scent Jar is a covered dish in Chinese porcelain
The earliest record of the design in the Spode pattern books, in the Spode archive, is pattern number 3667 first recorded in about 1821. The pattern was printed in underglaze blue in an all-over design known as a sheet pattern. It is known on plain shapes and on moulded edge pieces such as Gadroon shape. Early examples can be found in earthenware but the design was also used on stone china which Spode II developed to match Chinese export porcelain. Dinner and some teawares were produced; decorative and unusual shapes are rarely seen at this period in the early 1800s.
Specially commissioned service printed & hand coloured border, central coat of arms for Smallpeace of Whitby, c1830s
The design was popular during the Spode period up to 1833 and was produced later by Copeland & Garrett (the name of the company from 1833-1847).

In the early 1900s the pattern was revived as rim decoration with plain centres, for example on Camilla shape with pattern number 2/6663. It was also combined with various other patterns which were used as the centre design such as Peacock, Trophies, Chinese Figures and Vienna Bird.
Tableware from 1938 earthenware catalogue
Trophies Marble on Gadroon shape 1820s/1830s
The pattern was produced on both bone china and earthenware in the 20th century. There were various other versions with the 'cracks' gilded or the prunus painted. A toilet ware set was produced on the elegant Queen Anne shape. In one form or another it was in almost continuous production through to the 1930s.

The names Marble and Mosaic have also been used for the design and are thought to refer to the use of the background of Cracked Ice without the prunus blossom. A version of Tumbledown Dick pattern uses Marble or Mosaic as the background to the bird and foliage design and a variant of Willis pattern has it as the rim border decoration.
Tumbledown Dick pattern on Marble sheet c1823 (detail)

30 April 2015

Spode, Desserts and Pyramids

Snapshot of the 1996 Spode Museum's dessert cabinet with services from c1800 - c1828
'...a Pyramid of Syllabubs and Jellies'
One of my favourite manuscripts in the Spode archive is the 1820 Shape Book. No matter how many times I look at it there is always something new to discover in this delightful little book. Although specifically dated many shapes recorded in it were definitely in use at an earlier date.

This 1820 book is a technical book which records shapes produced by the Spode factory. These are beautifully handpainted onto the pages but not to scale. The book records the name of an item, the sizes in which it was made, its throwing and its turning measurements. Written as a production record, as well as informing about pottery manufacturing techniques of the early 1800s, it also tells us about social history, design history, original names of items, unexpected parts of teasets, multiple sizes of cups and chamber pots, and long-forgotten objects.

And it helps with research into one of my favourites: food history. After all, no food then no pots...? Dessert wares were particularly fine; produced in the most expensive, fashionable styles; and sold to the wealthiest of customers.

Whilst Curator at the Spode Museum, I came across a page in the Spode 1820 Shape Book entitled 'Pyramids with a Sexagon Pedistall Prest to Suit' (sic).

What on earth is one of these?

The note at the bottom reads '...the 4 lifts at top are thrown together'
On page 97 of the original document the 'Pyramid' is perhaps an item which has not previously been given much thought. At a glance it resembled a jelly mould to me so I sent an image to Peter Brears, who was researching moulded food for the 2006 Leeds Foods Symposium. Peter, a Museum & Historic House Consultant, is a well-respected and well-known Food Historian. He is also expert at cooking the old recipes, humble or grand, studying table settings and providing re-creations for famous houses, museums and occasions.

Ever practical, and generous with his knowledge and research, he kindly corrected me that this was not a jelly mould and went on to explain how this item may be used. He also pointed out 'they're huge!' He drew out a paper plan for me derived from measurements in the shape book. The size is nearly 18" high. The details and the plan from this correspondence are in the Spode archive.

Initially even Peter was unsure how the piece was used and, after drawing the life-size paper model, suggested they were for the dessert table perhaps draped with ivy and flowers. Then by chance, whilst he was researching what went in supper sets (again on my behalf) he noticed the following in Dr William Kitchener's The Cook's Oracle (4th Edition London 1822 pg 485): 'Mille Feuilles or a Pyramid of Paste' which has ½" puff paste cut in discs, from plate size down to the 'size of a shilling'. These were then baked (which would raise their thickness to a couple of inches) and mounted one on another with layers of different jams in between to form a pyramid 'of light brown colour'. This is just the same shape as 'Spode's Pyramids with a Sexagon Pedistall Prest to Suit'.

I was able to read more of the description in an 1825 edition and found The Cook's Oracle details continued that on the top you could place a 'bunch of dried fruit' and 'spin a caramel of Sugar over it'. This entry confirms the use of the pyramid for the decoration of a dessert table. Peter pointed out that Kitchener's book was very popular and its publication date of 1822 ideally coincides with Spode's ceramic version in the 1820 Shape Book.

A Pyramid of Paste, The Cook's Oracle, 1825
As mentioned the 1820 Shape Book records technical details of items made by the technique of throwing. The words 'Sexagon Pedistall Prest to Suit' (sic) show that the 'pedistall' was made using the technique of pressing clay into a mould. Only the thrown parts of the pyramid are illustrated in the record of the piece in the Shape Book.

I have never seen one of these pyramids, or even bits of one. You can only wonder how many were made and, more crucially, do any survive and would they and their component parts even be recognised? Were they left in beautiful, undecorated, very white and translucent Spode bone china; or decorated more elaborately with handpainted designs and gilding?

From Whiter's book with another centrepiece a 'Beaded Pyramid Stand' on the left
You can see more detail of another Spode dessert pyramid, 'Beaded Pyramid Stand, by clicking Spode Exhibition Online then click 'Browse the book' and 'jump' to page 122. Beaded refers to the decoration on the edges of the various levels of the stand; it is the pillars supporting the levels which were the pieces made by throwing and detailed in the Shape Book.

19th century dessert services from Spode were often spectacular and comprised many, many pieces -  sometimes hundreds - made for rich families. The illustration at the top shows dessert services in the Spode Museum collections on display in the late 1990s. Also shown here is a dessert serving dish from about 1825. Every piece in the set would have had a different butterfly and flower centre all hand painted. Another piece from the set, which is in the V & A collections, can be seen by clicking here. Pattern 4485 illustrated below is a design which features fruit and flowers in different variety and combination on every piece of the service.

Spode serving dish from a large dessert service, Felspar Porcelain, c1825
Jane Austen mentions slightly different dessert pyramids in her novel 'Pride and Prejudice' but nonetheless it is an indication of these display shapes for the dessert table. 

"The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party - for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table."

Dessert plate (note the point of the plate faces the diner) pattern 4485 c1828