20 July 2014

Spode and Coronation Celebrations July 1821


On 19th July 1821 there were celebrations for the Spode workers on the occasion of the coronation of HM King George IV. I love the fact that there is a written record of these festivities for this important occasion - the details were noted by one of Spode II's managers.

In a small notebook, amongst detailed recipes for ceramic colours, glazes, stains and bodies are a few personal notes and memos including the record of the festivities organised for the large Spode and Daniel workforce. (Henry Daniel ran a specialist, high quality and technically brilliant decorating business, painting and gilding Spode's wares, to Spode designs. It operated on the Spode factory site.)

The Spode celebrations were held on the very day of the coronation and details are below. Note the difference in what the 'Men and Boys' got and what the 'Women and Girls' received for the party! But a day off, being fed and watered, must have been a rare thing in the pottery industry at this time and emphasises how important this occasion was. Some of the Spode workers may even have met one of their most important customers, now King, when he visited the factory as Prince of Wales in 1806.

"As under the Quantity of people Employ'd at Mr. Spodes and Daniels on the 19th July 1821, the Men and Boys had Dinner & Ale at the Talbot & King's Arms, and all the Women & Girls had Tea on the Manufactory, this was on the King's Coronation George the 4th.

277 Men         
115 Boys           Mr Spode's
 78 Women Total Number 488
 18 Girls           

73 Males           Mr Daniel's 192
119 Females

680 Total"

Spode II as 'Potter to HM King George IV' was one of the suppliers of table wares for the coronation banquet. The tableware pattern which was chosen was Frog pattern and you can find out more about it by going to the F page on my Spode ABC - click here. There are details of the quantities used - a note in the Spode archive suggests nearly 7,000 dinner plates alone... The large workforce of 680 must have been excited to get another royal order and participate in various ways in the manufacture of the pieces for the coronation banquet.

The manufacturing techniques and the type of decoration and gilding employed for this service in this pattern means the pieces were fired at least 5 times. Making pottery is not an exact science and something could have gone wrong at any stage.

Cover Dish (vegetable dish), Frog pattern 3248 c1821

12 July 2014

Spode and Golf 2014

It's that time of year and a lot of golfing is going on. Major championships are taking, or about to take place, for both men and women.

There are surprisingly long associations between Spode products and golf, so this is a reminder of these Spode connections to this royal and ancient sport.
Beaker, sprigged stoneware, c1899
Enjoy the image of a beaker, also known as a drinking horn, made by Spode under the Copeland ownership. And to find more about Spode & Golf click here for my dedicated golf page where you can see the oldest known Spode piece specifically connected to the sport and specially commissioned as a prize in the Regency period. Here is a glimpse:


... and also click here for more images of pots connected with golf.

You can find something of the surprisingly long history of golf by clicking here for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews founded in 1754.

Carriage clock, bone china, probably 1990s

24 June 2014

Anyone for Tennis?

One of the most famous tennis tournaments started this week - Wimbledon 2014.

Spode made beautiful and specialist wares for use at tennis parties which were all the rage for the well-to-do in the late 1800s.

If you think you know what a 'tennis set' is, think again...

Here is a beautifully painted and gilded bone china tennis set from the 1870s. It is the best quality bone china from Spode, under the Copeland ownership. It is hand painted to resemble a leaf, gilded, and the gilding on the saucer is chased. This is a very high quality and technically brilliant object made by the Spode factory at this time. The design is made specifically for tea and dainty sandwiches!

Tennis set from the Met Museum c1871
Many patterns are recorded for tennis sets in the Spode archive in the pattern books. They are mostly in the D Books at the height of the fashion in the 1870s. Often a pattern number, prefixed with D, will appear painted on the base of the pieces.

You can find out more about Spode and Tennis by clicking here.

And click here for another image of a tennis set.

13 June 2014

Spode and Football

It's World Cup 2014 and time to link Spode and football together!


My favourite football item from the Spode factory is a large architectural slab depicting a scene from a football match. It was made in the 1870s by Spode under the ownership of the Copeland family. There seem to be a lot of clenched fists and little attention to the ball but I do like the outfits. This is just one of a set of large slabs depicting sporting scenes which would have been set into the walls of a room of a grand house. It is handpainted in blue by R. J. Abraham who was one of Spode's premier artists. The monogram of WTC can be seen to the lower left indicating W. T. Copeland and the artist's monogram to the right.

Manufacturing large slabs in this size (about 2' X 2'6") and firing them flat, with no warping and cracking, shows how technically accomplished the Spode factory was. They were fired in the bottle ovens at this period.

A few other football-themed wares were made by the company over the years including a large three-handled mug which was commissioned for the Coronation of HM King George VI in 1937 by the President of Stoke City Football Club. (The club is often referred to as 'The Potters').

This large mug was commissioned to present to other members of the First Division of the Football League. It was decorated with heavily gilded handles in the form of a Stafford knot and depicted a scene of a football match, the Stoke City players wearing their famous red and white shirts. Only 30 were made. I believe there is one in the Stoke City Football Club collection and, in view of its purpose, perhaps surviving in other club's collections too.


Postcard of Spode's last bottle oven, now gone. Many such ovens were on the Spode factory site. 

23 May 2014

Spode and Margrave - the old and the new

Margrave brings traditional and modern design and techniques together. This pattern was produced on Spode's Royal College shape, which itself has become something of a 20th century design classic, although it was not particularly commercially successfully worldwide. If you go to my Spode ABC you will find more about Royal College shape on the P-R page.

Margrave has pattern number Y7983, introduced in 1959 and designed by Michael Kitt, a student at the Royal College of Art.

Coffee can, Margrave pattern on Royal College shape, 1960-1970
I haven't seen this pattern very much but a few years ago I snapped up a bargain of 5 coffee cans for a few pence. There were no saucers and you may well ask who wants 5 coffee cans with no saucers? Well I did... they are such an elegant pattern and shape. I found them perfect to hold and serve syllabubs as a dessert, using an 18th century recipe, so again mixing old and new!

I now have 4 as one has gone off to live at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.

The design is interesting as here is a modern, new shape from Spode in 1959 yet the surface pattern is based on something much more traditional. The deep gilded border is in classical style and reminiscent of the border patterns recorded in the Spode pattern books of the early 1800s. This classical gilding can be seen in a design of spectacular gilding, done in two different ways, on an oil lamp of about 1815. It is from the V & A collections where it is oddly described as a vase! The lamps are usually seen as a pair.

Oil lamp with classical gilding c1815
Margrave is a pattern on Spode's bone china, beautifully white and translucent. Although well into the 20th century it uses the traditional technique of groundlaying for the application of the green. (Find more about groundlaying on my Spode ABC). The gold band of classical design is applied by transfer, rather than by hand as in the antique oil lamp, but the rest of the gilded detail is by hand.

Translucency
Spode's bone china in the 20th century is still very fine and the translucency can be seen in the image (ignore the blurred woodland in rear of the photo!). Through the top of the cup you can see the gold band, the green band and even a hint of the backstamp.

The backstamp in this style is dated to between 1960 and 1970 denoting that the piece was fired in the new Gibbons open-flame, gas-fired tunnel kiln of advanced design. The kiln was named Jubilee to mark 50 years of the Federation of Stoke-on-Trent. 1960 saw the old coal-fired bottle ovens fired for the last time at Spode as the company embraced both the new technology and the desire to rid the industry of polluting smoke from the ovens.

Printed backstamp, 1960-1970; handpainted pattern number in red
I am not sure if my image of my cup does justice to its elegant profile so here is a coffee pot in Royal College shape in plain white, known as Apollo, from the V & A collections. I have also added a page of items available in Royal College shape from a 1959 china catalogue. 


08 May 2014

Happy Birthday Josiah Spode II

Naive portrait Spode II 
on a Spode ceramic plaque
Josiah Spode II was born on May 8th 1755.  He was a master potter, hugely successful businessman, entrepreneur, inventor and innovator... and pretty good at marketing too.

In 1806 he welcomed the Prince of Wales to his factory for a tour around the works. After the visit he was awarded his first Royal Warrant and was styled 'Potter and English Porcelain Manufacturer to HRH the Prince of Wales'. When the Prince of Wales acceded to the throne in 1820, Spode was again awarded the Royal Warrant, becoming potter to HM King George IV. Several styles of stationery were used by the firm including this accolade - for the London business often known as Spode & Copeland.

Letterhead used by the company for their London business
portrait of Spode II, looking very fine in his hunting costume, can be see by clicking here. This is the source for the naive painting of him on a Spode ceramic plaque.

The oil painting is on the wonderful Your Paintings website and is from the collection of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. They also have another portrait of him which you can see by clicking here (ignore the date of his birth!).

After learning the trade of a master potter under his father, Spode II left Stoke for London in 1787. Here he set up home with his young family and, importantly, began the Spode business in the capital city. Spode II returned to Stoke at the death of his father in 1797 to run the factory. He grew the business further and built himself a mansion nearby. It is his legacy that leads to the company being described thus 'The Spode factory was without doubt the most important factory in the 19th century'.
The Mount - Spode II's new mansion completed 1804
His home, The Mount, still survives not far from the Spode factory in Stoke. It looks particularly splendid on a vase (made by his own company, of course) thought to date from about 1825. The vase is in the V & A collections.