RMS Titanic

Spode Wares for the White Star Line

Pattern number R4331
In the Pattern Books in the Spode archive there are several patterns recorded which are known to have been purchased by the White Star Line for use on a number of their ships. Supplying shipping lines was a significant part of business for Spode, particularly under the Copelands, and whole catalogue pages are devoted to the wares in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 
Detail of 'badge' on R4331

Elaborate and plain wares in both china and earthenware were produced. Examples of ware exist (both in the Spode museum's collection and in private collections) of Spode patterns with the White Star Line badge and backstamp. Some include the Stonier and/or White Star Line backstamps. But there is nothing in the Spode archive recording which patterns were produced for the White Star Line or for Stoniers as, sadly, few customer records survive. Likewise there is no information in the archive to suggest that any of the patterns were exclusive to the White Star Line.

The patterns known to have been used for this shipping line are recorded in the Pattern Books, along with about 75,000 other designs, without any reference made for whom the pieces were made. Records of pieces bearing the company backstamp and the pattern number can be located in the archive. So, it took a bit of unravelling with help from various researchers and enthusiasts to find the following information which you will see is not straightforward.

The patterns now known to have been used by the White Star Line for their ships are pattern numbers:
  • 1/9608 introduced in about 1899
  • R416 introduced in about 1901
  • R3717 introduced in about 1909
  • R4331 introduced in 1911(dessert plate with OSNC [Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company] badge printed in gold)
  • R4332 introduced in 1911 (backstamp on coffee can illustrated)
A registration number 580303 appears on pieces decorated in both R4331 and R4332. This number registered the design with the British Patent Office on 14th March 1911.

Pattern 1/9608 is entered into the pattern book with no illustration. The written entry says as pattern 1/9028 and then gives the differences; that entry in turn refers to pattern 1/8964 again giving the differences so that pattern 1/9608 could be produced only after looking at all the references on the pages recording these other patterns. The pattern comprises a 'Greek key' design printed in gold on a cobalt blue band with gold lines.


R416, R4331 and R4332, are very similar designs for patterns on bone china and were richly decorated in gold and cobalt blue - the most expensive and elegant combination. R416 introduced first was the most expensive pattern of these three and was produced on Sutherland shape with Persian shape cup and saucer. There is a reference to pattern X770.


Backstamp R4332
The patterns with a prefix of X were patterns produced speculatively for consideration by agents and retailers and are usually unillustrated and recorded in another series of books. The entry for X770 describes the pattern; later it was is annotated with the number R416 which it was allocated when accepted for production.

R4331 is not illustrated in the pattern books either but has a written entry referring back to R416 with the notes 'as R416 but all printed gold in place of hand gilt raised and finished off same'. 

R4332 is illustrated in the pattern book and is on a Boston shape cup and saucer. The pattern is in the style of R416 but the gold is raised and spotted on the top and bottom of the border only. Because there are slight differences between the three R patterns whether in shape, variation in the surface design or variation in application of decoration they are allocated different pattern numbers. Each number is unique and prevented any confusion when designs were re-ordered. For example the extra gold applied by hand on R416 would have cost more than the decoration on R4332.

Pattern R4331, with the company crest, OSNC (Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company), can be seen illustrated in Spode & Copeland Marks and Other Relevant Intelligence by Robert Copeland (page 110) and the Spode museum has dessert plates in its collection.

This is the pattern believed to have been used on both the Titanic and the Olympic. Pieces have been recovered from the wreck of the Titanic together with other pottery in other patterns by other manufacturers. Until the exploration of the wreck site Spode did not know for certain that their wares were used on the Titanic. RMS Titanic Inc record that (at the time of writing) there have been 6 expeditions to the wreck site in 1987, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 2000.

Recent thoughts and speculation also suggest that the cup and saucer in pattern R4332, in a smart presentation box, may have offered as a high-class souvenir or given as gifts by the company. 

A pattern on earthenware called Bradford, with registered number 461740 was produced with the White Star Line badge. This pattern was first registered on 31st July 1905. It was produced on a shape called White Star shape which is illustrated in a 1928 catalogue in the Spode archive. Another pattern on earthenware was a border design called Star sheet pattern and was printed in blue. It was used with the OSNC badge in the centre. This is known to have been produced in the 1920s from a piece in a private collection. Another piece in a private collection is gilded and is dated 1930.

The badge for the White Star Line of the decorative initials OSNC is recorded in the book Badges and Crests 1882-1972 in the Spode archive on page 176 and was engraved on 10th February 1911. Another badge, in the form of the flag and star logo, is recorded as an engraving in the same book in August 1910 on page 173.

Wares for shipping lines c1910 -1920
There may be other patterns not yet discovered since the factory records in the archive are not, and were not, indexed by customer. There has been little found in the Spode archive which mentions the ships or the shipping lines other than the printed catalogues previously mentioned. Usually orders for this type of badged ware would be placed through an agent. Spode, as the manufacturer, would have no knowledge of the end user for what were, essentially, special commissions. Indeed, many customers of this type remained anonymous.

Spode's agents for White Star Line were Stoniers of Liverpool whose records were destroyed in World War II. John Stonier came from the Potteries. He started Stoniers in 1861 and, by 1876, had made his fortune and retired. The Stonier company was sold to Stuart Crystal of Edinburgh and, later, in 1997, Liverpool jewellers, David M. Robinson, bought Stoniers just as it was about to be lost as one of Liverpool's most famous names. The company continued to trade with some of the original staff, helping to maintain the tradition of china retailing in Liverpool. In 2014 I am uncertain who now owns the brand.

Until its closure in 2009 Spode produced a pattern called Lancaster Cobalt, one of the company's most prestigious patterns. This was closest in design to the cobalt blue and gilded patterns used by the White Star Line.

The Crown Derby company also supplied dessert plates and other wares. They have limited archive material from that period dealing with the shipping line. They also have an example of the dessert service in their museum.

For more also click on Titanic Spode and Spode and RMS Titanic.
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Research by Pam Woolliscroft
Acknowledgements and thanks to the Spode archive, Liverpool Record Office, John Inder of Stoniers and Liverpool University, and to private collectors who have shared their knowledge.
Further reading:
  • Robert Copeland; Spode and Copeland Marks and Other Relevant Intelligence: Studio Vista. ISBN 0-289-80172-9
  • Susan Wels: Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner Time Life Books ISBN 0-7835-5621-0
  • Les Objets du Titanic, Musée de la Marine, Paris
Spode museum's relevant collection numbers: WTC 772, WTC 2573, WTC 2896a,b,c, WTC 4080