27 February 2011

Spode and Tower Pattern

Ponte Salaro
from Views of Rome and Its Vicinity
Someone recently pointed out to me that if you search Tower on this blog you got Italian! This was not as bad as it seemed as it simply took you to a Tower reference in my blog on Italian pattern. But this must have been disappointing to someone wanting to know about the world-famous Tower pattern by Spode. So I thought it time to put something here for collectors of this much-loved old pattern.
Tower pattern was introduced c1814 and was derived from a printed illustration (left) in the book by Merigot 'Views of Rome and its Vicinity' published c1796-1798.

Tower depicts the Bridge of Salaro, near Rome. The bridge which originally had a keep built on top of it survives although it is now underneath the main route leading out of Rome to the airport.
Covered Dutch Jug,

Tower pattern was printed in a variety of colours during its almost 200 year production history but particularly in  blue and later in pink. The original pattern was transfer printed in 'medium Ultramarine blue' which is quite pale. In about 1860 it was produced in a darker, 'flowing' blue known as Royal Saxon blue or flow blue. In about 1894 the pattern was printed on Gadroon shape, based on designs of Georgian silver, in dark Royal blue (also known as Zaffres blue) which became very popular and was still in production in 2001.  
Plate for toast, 2 compartments
for jam and marmalade,
printed in pink, Gadroon shape, c1920s

In about 1923 a version was printed in pink especially for the markets in the United States and this was still in production in 2001, possibly later. Between about 1962 and 1973 the pattern was produced in a Light blue but was not particularly, successful.
The pattern has been produced in many, many versions over the years. Blue and pink remained the most popular versions but it is known in brown and green, in plain printed versions as well as with hand enamelling and sometimes with the addition of gilding. The date of introduction of these other colours is not yet discovered.

Sometimes the border was used with other centres including nursery rhyme designs. For example pattern number 2/4797 of c1900 which is described as Tower border with Nursery Rhyme Centre. Game and fish centres were produced with Tower border too. 

Pink Tower Fish Centre and
 Blue Tower Game Centre,
 1962 Catalogue for August Warnecke,
Spode agents in Germany

Photo of catalogue page,
 c1911, very large pieces
many printed in Tower

The pattern was adapted in so many different ways it has never been estimated  just how many! The Spode pattern books record some of these variations with the printed and hand coloured designs often giving very bright cheerful designs.

So this shows how a design from the early 1800s was developed and evolved into something with great versatility, changing with fashion and the wish of the consumer. These variations in design probably reached a peak in the 1920s and 1930s. The pattern was used to decorate a huge variety of objects. Not only dinner, tea and dessert wares but also toilet wares including bidets, various invalid wares, garden furniture, large garden pots and many other ornamental wares.

The production of Tower by Spode ceased completely with the closure of the factory in 2009 but production probably finished a year or so earlier but there is no exact documentation.