Posted on

Clarice Cliff, A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd

1930s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates

Clarice Cliff, A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd

A. J. Wilkinson Ltd, Newport Pottery, Shorter & Son Ltd were all factories owned by the Shorter family and they worked in close co-operation.

The ‘Shorter & Bolton’ business was founded as a partnership between Arthur Shorter and James Bolton in 1872, in Stoke, Staffordshire, UK.  In 1891, after the death of his brother in law, Shorter commenced managing A.J Wilkinson.

Arthur Shorter died in 1926 and Shorter & Son Ltd continued under the management of brothers Arthur ‘Colley’ Shorter and John Shorter, and Harry L. Steele. Colley Shorter died in 1964 and the business was acquired by S.Fielding & Co. Ltd (Crown Devon).

The arrival of Colley Shorter saw a change in direction in manufacturing for Shorter & Son, from domestic earthenware to wonderfully colourful novelty and ornamental products.

1930's Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar
1930’s Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar

Their main claim to fame were the renowned designers Mabel Leigh and the infamous Clarice Cliff, whom worked at the A.J. Wilkinson factory.

Mabel Leigh Pagoda Cottage

In 1927/8 Clarice Cliff designed the handpainted ‘Bizarre Ware’ pottery range. The name for the range was chosen by Colley Shorter whom married Clarice Cliff in 1940 after the death of his first wife.

Clarice Cliff ‘Red Picasso’ Bizarre Range


There has been much speculation as to whether or not this fish range of tableware was actually designed by Clarice Cliff.

1930s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates
1930’s Shorter & Son Staffordshire Pottery Set of Three Fish plates

Shorter & Son Ltd trade names include ’Batavia Ware’ and ‘Sunray Pottery’.

The Shorter& son maker’s backmark comprised variations of a printed ‘Shorter & Son Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, England.’  

1930's Shorter & Son Pink Wild Rose Preserve Jar
1930’s Shorter & Son Printed Back Mark

It is strange, to me at least, that many of us have heard the name Clarice Cliff but few of us have heard of Shorter & Son or their wonderful pottery. I hope this short blog goes some way towards remedying that!





Posted on

Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Thanks to Steve of Mullard Magic for this interesting blog on the origin of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in 1919 by General Electric, AT & T and United Fruit with the encouragement of the US Federal Government which wanted to maintain US leadership in long distance communications. Post war American Marconi was bought by General Electric and transferred to RCA. General Electric and Westinghouse made RCA their exclusive marketing channel for receivers and tubes in return for cross licenses to their patents.

In 1941 RCA had decided to bring its R&D on to a single 260 acre site it purchased near Princeton University. The chosen site was close to its manufacturing locations at Harrison and Camden and was opened in 1942 with a staff of 125 engineers and scientists. Early on its programmes were dominated by war-time military contracts which did not necessarily relate to RCA manufacturing. Engineers worked on radar antennas, phosphors for radar screens, acoustic fuses for anti-submarine munitions, navigation, infrared cameras and microwave communications as well as television, an important consumer product for RCA.

Post war the laboratory research programme needed radical redirection in order support the innovation demanded by RCA Chairman, David Sarnoff. He told the Radio Manufacturers Association in 1947:

“The industry does not pick up where it left off before the war… The radio manufacturer is the logical producer of radio-heating equipment, radar, loran, shoran, teleran, and hundreds of allied radio-electronic devices. He must push on to new ventures. To be successful he must not only manufacture, but he must encourage research to create new methods, new devices, new services.” [cited by Kilbon 1964]

Post war the RCA Laboratories were reorganised and expanded working on consumer products such as colour television, hi-fi audio, computers and components such as transistors, lasers, integrated circuits and advanced vacuum tubes.

Interested in radio? Then please click on the following link!

Posted on

The Origin Of The Humble Clothes Iron

Tilley Paraffin Pressure Domestic Iron

The Origin Of The Humble Clothes Iron

I have been pondering for a few days what to write as a guest blog for Eiffion’s followers on I have already written about collecting cat related items: can’t do that again. I thought about writing collecting dog ephemera but Eiffion has me beat on that one. Hence, I have decided to talk to you about something totally different, and that is the origin of the humble clothes iron!

Don’t ask me why! It’s not as if I even like ironing. It seems to be one of the most pointless household chores!

You wash your clothes, hopefully in a washing machine if you are luck enough to own one. You stick them outside or in the tumble dryer to dry. Then you spend hours taking out the creases, wear the beautifully ironed garment, sit down for 5 minutes, and the creases reappear so that you look like a crumpled mess! But see someone in an un-ironed blouse or shirt and we all whisper behind that person’s back about how lazy they are. Even worse, I have heard the comment “Hasn’t your wife got an iron?”

Is this a joke? Ok, I know some of you out there actually like ironing 🙂

Anyway, this blog isn’t about gender equality in ironing. I could spend a full day debating this with everyone and we would all end up disagreeing! The only thing my other half has ironed is bread to produce toast when the toaster wasn’t working!

The Humble Clothes Iron

We have been trying to smooth creases out of our clothes, ‘ironing,’ for many centuries. The Chinese were thought to be the first users of a process using hot smoothers in the form of hot coal in a pan, which was run up and down a piece of cloth held taut by two other people. In other areas of the World, people used glass, stones, mangles, and presses: none of these were heated and it must have taken an age!

It wasn’t until the middle ages that blacksmiths starting forging the flat iron, also known as sad (derived from the word ‘solid’) irons or smoothing irons. You had to have at least two in order to keep ironing at a reasonable rate. The flat part of each iron was heated. You then ironed a garment on a table or board until the first iron went cold and then you start using the second iron whilst the first iron is reheating.

The Origin Of The Humble Clothes Iron
Traditional Flat or Sad Iron

From a collector’s point of view, the flat irons were hand made and the designs differed from blacksmith to blacksmith; never mind country to country. Some of the designs are actually a work of art!

Many women started earning a few pennies by taking in other people’s laundry and ironing. It was a back backing job for very little return.

No steam, no flexes, no electricity….

How did you know if the iron was hot enough to use but not hot enough to burn clothes? Well, my Granny told me that she used to spit on the iron (it boils at lower temperature than pure water)… By the end of the ironing session (which would take all day) you had no saliva left!

Today, there are many Aga/ Rayburn oven owners who know the benefit of folding clothes, once washed, and leaving them on top of the Aga or in the warming oven. No need for ironing then, unless the cat also finds the warm spot in which case there is no contest, the cat wins!

Vintage AGA oven

What we needed was a self-heating flat iron. The first to arrive were charcoal filled irons and other types of fuel from ethanol to paraffin (kerosene). These were quite successful and are still used in some parts of the World today.

The Origin Of The Humble Clothes Iron
Antique Charcoal Filled Flat Iron

Inventors also tried the cordless flat iron, where the iron was heated on a stand connected to an energy supply e.g. gas and not dissimilar in principle to the modern day ironing centre.  But it was Henry Seely and Dyer whom patented an electric flat iron in 1883.

The first commercially successful iron was made by Hotpoint in the 1920s. Initially, the irons were connected to the electricity supply via the light bulb ceiling socket!

By the 1950s many people owned an electric iron, although they were still horrendously expensive. It probably only had three heat settings but was significantly better than the old sad iron!

1950s Electric Iron

In 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth”s Coronation in the UK, you could still buy an iron, without wires and flexes, directly heated by paraffin (kerosene)! The irons were made by Tilley , whom are probably better known for the paraffin ‘Tilley Lamp’.

I just love this 1953 advert for the iron: how times have changed! I wonder if Her Majesty had one to iron her coronation robes? The advert reads: –

New!, New!, New! Tilley Paraffin Pressure Domestic Iron. No Wires, -No Flexes.

Enjoy yourself in Coronation year! Do away with ironing day “blues” the Tilley way. The Tilley Paraffin Pressure Iron can give you more leisure and prevent frayed tempers in 1953! A completely self contained unit, it can be used in and out of doors, on holiday or at home. No wires or flexes to worry you; it saves time and money. Burns 4 hours on only 1/3rd pint of ordinary Paraffin. Finger-tip heat control and bevel-edged plate increases ironing efficiency. The streamlined cream enamelled body will last and last. In Coronation year and in the years that follow, Tilley Irons will prove themselves to be a friend to every housewife. Price 68/6 complete.

tilley iron


The design and functionality of the iron has changed considerably since the 1950s. Most modern irons seem to be able to do anything and everything, but I bet they won’t be considered as collectible as the old handmade irons of our industrial past.

Personally, I’ll be pleased once the self ironing/ hands-free irons (or robots) are cheap enough for us to have. Can’t be long to wait now! Just have a look at this SWASH (an invention from P&G and Whirlpool): it washes and irons clothes!



But wait, what if you want to be a non-crumpled camper? Do you take your fold away electric travel iron with you in your tent. No? Perhaps you need a 1953 paraffin heated iron in your suitcase!

Well readers, I hope you enjoyed my little meander through the origin of the humble clothes iron?

Thank you to Eiffion for allowing me to guest blog and I hope to have a chat with you all again soon, if Eiffion invites me to his blog again….

If you enjoyed reading this post then I would be delighted if you would subscribe to my blog, in the footer of the page, and you will receive it by email.

Alternatively, please click on the following link to my blog page.

Posted on

Mischievous should be plural for feline

Mischievous should be plural for feline

Mischievous should be plural for feline

Thanks once again to my wonderful guest blogger, Eiffion, owner of https://www.collectibulldogs.comfor his light hearted blog about Noddy and Bonnie who really fit Eiffion’s blog title of Mischievous should be plural for feline.

Eiffion is a dedicated collector of all sorts of things related to English Bulldogs, and also has an English Bulldog blog at collectibulldogs.comHis World class collection of Bulldog ephemera is museum listed and has even made its way into a display in Brighton Museum, UK. Quite a feat!

 Eiffion isn’t just a lover of bulldogs, he is also pretty fond of felines too! Read the following blog to find out more.

The goodbye that never was

Hi there readers of Mullard Antiques blog articles, it’s me, Eiffion, the bulldog fella. I wrote a blog for you guys n gals a while back and I’m guest posting again. So, Hi! How are you all?

I thought I’d make a change from bulldogs and talk about cats instead. Two cats in particular and both close to myself and my family but alas one is not here anymore, as the header suggests we lost one cat a few summers ago and never knew what happened to him. He just disappeared.

Noddy (our first cat) was a brazen yet chilled out cat that loved nothing better than to either sunbathe out on the window sill winding up the pigeons or on a hot day he would be outside in the middle of the pavement licking where cats lick and not scared of any dog that walked past.

What’s that? Can’t you see I’m busy!

We had this friend of ours for years, he was our first kitten as a family and the day he went missing I remember myself crying because my little girl was so upset. I put up a reward and defied the council twice by putting up bill boards outside the home but it wasn’t to be. We looked everywhere. In a city that never sleeps anything could of happened to Noddy and, even though I want my daughter to experience the responsibility of owning an animal, I feel something was taken from her in the sense she felt loss but unlike past pets couldn’t properly say goodbye.

The fact I’m a doggie fella is neither here nor there when it came to Noddy, he was one in a million. I mean what cat comes for walks, often miles, just to be with the dog. People used to stop and take pictures the vision was so cute. We have heard stories of cats reappearing months sometimes years after going missing but I have, and had, the sinking feeling that we may never see Noddy again nor ever have another cat like him.

Noddy: a very handsome cat

I’d like to dedicate this article to Noddy if I may and wish him all the meows in the world whether this one or where cats go after. Get ready here comes trouble. So if Noddy had of gone by say mis – responsibility through the vets I wouldn’t have allowed my daughter the luxury of a second cat, and some may think that sounds a bit harsh, but as parents you must know when we agree to our kids having pets whom takes on most of the chores… hmmm.

Our daughter was anxious that the same thing would happen again if she was to get another cat and ironically about 6 months later a kitten popped up on Facebook and was classed as a house cat. I read this up and realised it is frowned upon but we hadn’t made the cat that way and it seemed ideal to have this kitten as a pet. We went to get the kitten from a ladies home and the kitten meowed from its old home right till we got to ours and as soon as we were in she went quiet.

Folks meet Bonnie the most aggravating The most mischievous The most aghhhh ball of cuteness in the feline world.

Bonnie, the ball of cuteness!


Now, what can I do next to make them shout at me…..

We all live in our homes day-to-day, most have routines and, I swear, all you hear from my 15 year old whom just normally answers anything with a grunt or ‘I don’t know’ is constantly telling off the cat. I will use cat now as Bonnie is a couple of years old now and I swear she’s got a dreamies addiction (I think all cats have, Eiffion! You ought to see ours when the dreamies appear. I would love to know what is in them to make them so addictive!)

I do not know where to start with her naughtiness, let’s start with just yesterday. I’m insomniac so needed some rest. No one else was here so Bonnie decided to get a whole cupboards worth of clean washing out whilst I was asleep.

Speaking of asleep this next one even made me giggle at first. She must have started with my wife first as it was her that noticed cat fur on her lips and sometimes in her mouth, I came home late one night from evening with the lads and I caught Bonnie in the act, she was sitting on my wife’s chest with one paw trying to open her mouth. We thought, weird cat!

Hands, hands, hands, it’s all about the hands. Bonnie is such a spoilt cat she’s craving attention and in her mind when you’re in bed and she cannot find your hands she goes looking for them. Funny how she thinks they maybe down the throats! Lol! I now play peek a hand with her so she knows where our hands go.


Who needs a scratch post when expensive leather will do? I will be the first to admit I am careful with my income. My only extravagance is my daughter and, at the age of 15, has a better, more grown up, bedroom than is needed. Unlucky for me, my daughter has expensive taste! The crowning glory of her new bedroom was a bed even more luxurious than ours!!!

My wife took me in the other day and OMG Bonnie has taken upon herself NOT to use the posts provided but the beautiful suede coloured leather that covers my daughters bed. I do not feel angry towards Bonnie, she spends a few hours a day on her own or with me, if the dog’s not around, whilst my daughter attends her education, so I understand the craving of attention. This would be easily accomplished if only Bonnie would let somebody pick her up, that way she can be made a fuss of, played with and hopefully knacker her out but, ever since we got her she’s hated a pick up and this, somehow, was how she was raised before we got her.

Not long now…

So there’s the spoilt little fur ball from selective eating to constant attention seeking but she really takes the biscuit when she decides to re arrange our home. So far, this naughty nature is confined to our daughter’s bedroom and the linen from our room. You see it on You Tube all the time where cats sit there and out of the blue knock of an object for no reason other than to annoy you: lol.

What? Me! I didn’t do anything….

Bonnie takes this to a whole new level in my daughters room, as stated “Bonnie, no” isn’t just day time but can be all hours of the night! She starts with the smaller drawers batting what she can out and onto the floor before playing football getting bored and on to emptying her larger drawers.

I do not want to jinx myself but with a cat like Bonnie, and a world class ultra expensive collection, it’s only time before she gives me the same treatment and God forbid should one or any of my expensive breakables hit the floor I think I would cry…

Touch wood, as we say in the UK, and hopefully that day never arises.

Lastly and until next time. Well that’s my definition of trouble all packed up in a ball of cuteness and I still giggle when I see Bonnie’s tail going along the other side of the coffee table. Don’t know why, it’s just funny!

If I’m invited back (course you will be Eiffion!) I’ll tell you all about Wiggles, our bulldog, and the antics she gets up to just to have as lazy a life as possible.

Stay safe and be kind to one another folks and to any collectors keep up with your passions collecting is great.

Her hair is soft and her Meow is ever so sweet

From under your legs to preening your sheet

Lucky with living thanks to those sure feet

The cuteness of felines we have is like a treat.

Bonnie looks so cute and sweet you wouldn’t believe she gets up to all these antics unless you are a fellow cat owner!

If you love Eiffion’s blog, then please read his other guest blogs by clicking on the links at the top of this blog or the following links:-

Posted on

A Short Introduction To Gray’s Pottery

Art Deco 1930s Gray's Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase

A Short Introduction To Gray’s Pottery

Gray’s Pottery was founded in 1907 by Albert Edward Gray (AE Gray). The company was initially set up in Manchester, England prior to moving to Hanley, Staffordshire in 1912.

They are most widely noted as a pottery decorating company, however, in the 1930s there was a fashion for matt glazed undecorated products, and several undecorated pieces were produced. This trend was most notably led by Keith Murray at Wedgwood.

Wedgwood Keith Murray Tankard Mug
Wedgwood Keith Murray Tankard Mug

Grays most famous designer was Susie Cooper, who worked there between 1922 and 1929. She started as a production-line painter before reaching the level of Art Director. Cooper implemented floral, banding and strong geometric patterns, and also produced lustre vases.

Susie Cooper Gray’s Pottery

The Gloria Lustre range was a silver-medal winner at the 1925 Paris Exhibition.

Susie Cooper ‘Oranges’ Gloria Lustre

Backmarks for Gray’s Pottery

The most iconic back mark for Gray’s pottery includes the ‘Clipper’ or ‘Galleon.’ This mark appears as early as the 1910s.

Earliest Gray’s Pottery Backstamp, 1910s, with the iconic galleon

A variation of this backstamp was used right up to the 1950s and included two variations of Galleons, the Liner, the Clipper and the Pharaoh’s Boat. There was one exception which was the ‘Sunburst’ backmark used for the Gloria Lustre.

This commemorative plate nicely illustrates some of the main backstamps used by Gray’s.

Gary’s Pottery Backstamps


The following image shows a 1930s Back Stamp. All brown and approximately 28x5mm in size.
This uncommon mark appeared on ware made exclusively for Gray’s Pottery.

Art Deco 1930s Gray's Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase
Art Deco 1930s Gray’s Pottery Cream Wall Pocket Vase with brown 1930s backstamp


Gray’s pottery can often be found with two (dual) backstamps, one for the original maker of the white ware with a second, often superimposed, mark for Gray’s.

The ‘Zebra’ lustre pattern was one of the last to be produced by Gray’s in the 1950s and bears the 1950s clipper backstamp.

1950’s Gray’s Pottery ‘Zebra’


Gray also made collectibles for many large retailers including Dunhill, Heals, Mappin and Webb, and Mottahedeh (new York). The backstamps included the name of the retailer.


Grays was bought out by Portmeirion Potteries, in 1959, on the death of Edward Gray. One of the most famous designers/ owners of Portmeirion pottery was Susan Williams- Ellis, daughter of the renowned Sir Clough William-Ellis.

Sir Clough was the creator of the beautiful Italianate village in Portmeirion, North Wales. This may be better known, at least for fans of the 1960s TV series ‘The Prisoner,’ as the home of Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan): the one with the bouncy ball on the beach, and the people in stripy blazers and straw boaters….

Sir Clough William-Ellis Portmeirion Italianate Village in North Wales

For a more comprehensive look at Gray’s Pottery then click on this link to the rather wonderful ‘go to’ resource