05 October 2014

Spode and Incense Burners

In the early 1800s Spode produced a variety of different shaped incense burners. The function of an incense burner was to delicately perfume a room. Perhaps the room was stuffy or the smell of food needed to be dispersed after a grand meal or maybe, as people didn't wash themselves and clothes in the way we do today during this period, the delicate scent of burning incense was necessary. These were items for the well-to-do who could afford both incense and a special little burner in a beautiful and fashionable design.
Cottage incense burners. L: probably Spode, bone china. Mid & R: Spode Felspar porcelain, early 1800s
Spode's designs included charming little cottages in the style of cottage ornés - rustic buildings of picturesque design. The smoke from the incense seeped out of the chimney. All the little flowers and leaves were made separately from clay, by hand, then carefully applied before firing, glazing, firing and painting and then of course firing again. The Felspar porcelain backstamp illustrated is a lovely design and includes both the London and Stoke addresses. Note the flowers in the design. They represent the Union (what became known as the United Kingdom): thistle for Scotland, shamrock for Ireland, and rose for England.
A Spode's Felspar Porcelain backstamp
Cottage incense burner, Spode, bone china early 1800s
The full size cottage ornés were usually associated with grand houses and their estates in the UK in the late 18th and early 19th century, embracing the fashion of the wealthy for both Picturesque and Pastoral styles.
Cottage orné, Langton by Partney, Lincolnshire
Incense burners are sometimes called 'pastille burners' but this is not a description found in the Spode archive papers where incense burner is definitely the phrase of choice. For information about the use of the word perfume and incense look on the P page on my Spode ABC.  Round House Scent Pot is also used to describe an object sketched into a Spode shape book from 1817 which looks like the round cottage illustrated in the top picture. Other incense burners from Spode could be described as perhaps more elegant and were highly fashionable with many different shapes and patterns offered. They were also made in different ceramic bodies which included Spode's beautiful white bone china, 'Felspar Porcelain', black basalt and red stoneware. These were 'top of the range' and expensive items from Spode aimed at the well-to-do and found in the grand houses. 

One of my favourite incense burners features a bit of early 19th century 'Egyptomania' and is made from Spode's high quality black basalt body. It is decorated with white sprigs of Egyptian hieroglyphics - or the North Staffordshire interpretation of them at the time. (For more information about sprigs go to my Sprigged Stoneware page). This basalt incense burner is thought to date from about 1805 and is recorded as a Pyramid Incense Burner. There is a record of it in the 1820 Shape Book which you can view in detail online by clicking here; then scroll down to 'Incense Burners and Phosphorous Pots'. You can go on to look at various records of these items produced in different shapes.
Pyramid Incense Burner, 1820 Shape Book
The conical (rather than pyramid) top is the part which is made by throwing and these are the measurements you can see in the Shape Book which records the technical details of manufacture. The illustration is drawn to be able to see through the top. To understand further I have included an image showing it in its 2 parts as well as assembled. The base has a little 'collar' (broken in the one featured) to hold the incense. The top, or 'chimney', is shaped like a flame and has a hole to allow the scented smoke to escape. The square base is pierced for the same reason. Spot the crossed crocodiles (or 'crocodial' as is usual in the Spode archive).
Pyramid Incense Burner, black basalt sprigged in white c1805 and in its 2 parts

A 'Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner' is another favourite just for its name alone. The 1820 Shape Book shows it was to be 2 and a half inches tall. I have illustrated one from the V & A where it has been mistaken for a 'matchpot' in the collection records. Matchpots are a much simpler shape with no lid and these too can be found in the Shape Book on page 1. Showing there was quite a demand for these items many more shapes are found in the 1820 Shape Book including the following: Beaded Low Incense Burner, Antique Incense Burner, Dolphin Tripod, Beaded Incense Burner with Dolphin Handles (3 sizes), Bow Handled Incense Burner and a 3 Legged Imaged Handled Beaded Incense Burner.
Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner, 1820 Shape Book
A 'Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner' could be decorated in a variety of ways. One is illustrated here and looks really pretty with the stunning yellow background and delicate handpainted wild roses. Another can be seen in a different pattern from the V & A - just click here. Again it is described as a matchpot. It is decorated in pattern number 3967 from about 1824 and is a version of a design known as 'Tumbledown Dick'.
Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner, bone china, pattern 3798 c1824

Wares in Spode's pattern 1166. Dolphin Tripod incense burner 2nd from right c1808
In a snapshot I took of the cases in the Spode Museum some years ago another version of the Dolphin Tripod incense burner can be seen in red stoneware sprigged in black.

It seems that whatever the fashion demanded - quaint and rustic, up to the minute Egyptomania or something more classical - Spode responded to its customers' demands and requirements with style, high quality and a little bit of panache!
Dolphin Tripod incense burner 2nd from right c1810

22 August 2014

Happy Birthday Josiah Spode III

Josiah Spode III born on August 22nd 1777. He was the second son of Josiah Spode II and the last of the Spode family to be directly involved with the famous Spode pottery manufactory. It seems that although his father and siblings were in London running the Spode business he came back to Stoke at a young age to go to school and perhaps train with his grandfather Josiah Spode I - founder of the business. It is possible this tied in with early death of his mother in 1782 when he was just a little boy.

Staffordshire Advertiser, 1829
In his mid-twenties tragedy struck again when Spode III was involved in what would be described today as an 'industrial accident' at the family factory in Stoke. The excitement of the planning, purchase and installation of a modern, brand new steam engine from Boulton & Watt, in 1802, must still have been fresh a year later when a 'lamentable accident' occurred resulting in the 'immediate amputation' of Spode III's arm.

Trained and accomplished in the art of potting and with experience in all parts of the business he opted to retire at quite a young age on his marriage in 1815. But on the death of father, Josiah Spode II, in 1827, he came out of retirement and ran the business. Sadly this was for just a couple of years until his own death.

He died in 1829 at his home, The Mount, not far from the Spode factory, at the age of 52.

If you are confused about all these Josiah Spodes click here.

The Spode family tombs, Stoke Minster, restored by the Spode company c2000
The Spode family tombs: detail of Spode II (left) and his son Spode III (right), Stoke Minster
A line drawing by Neville Malkin is shown here of The Mount built by Spode II in 1803/1804. The fine house also features on a Spode vase which is in the V & A collection.
The Mount, Penkhull
Vase featuring The Mount, V & A
As ever thanks to Peter Roden for his detailed, accurate Spode family research, without which I would be lost. More on my booklist.

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