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What Is A Wall Pocket Vase?

SylvaC 320 Pottery Wall Pocket Vase With Pixies

What is a Wall Pocket Vase? An Introduction To Wall Pockets

What Is A Wall Pocket Vase?  Today, we probably think of them as a flat backed ceramic vase, which can be wall mounted and filled with flowers but they are much more versatile than this.

A wall pocket is not to be confused with a:

  • Wall sconce, which is effectively a wall light or a receptacle for holding a light e.g. candles or, these days, electrical wires.
Meissen Porcelain Wall Sconce
  • Wall plaque a thin, flat plate or tablet of metal or porcelain intended for use as ornament.
Art Deco Cope & Co Lady wall mask
Art Deco Cope & Co Lady wall mask/ plaque

Wall pockets date back many centuries to when they were made out of cloth or wood. In fact, they are an early form of storage for those things you wouldn’t want to lose if you hadn’t the luxury of a chest of drawers or cupboards!

Cloth pockets stored things like scissors, needles and thread. Prior to the 17th Century, wooden wall pockets became popular for holding pipes, spills, candles, matches and eating utensils. Even today, you will often see a mounted wooden candle box holder in a church or stately home. Some of these may be modern reproductions but there are many antiques out there too!

Wooden wall pocket for storing candles

It wasn’t until the 18th century that we first saw stylish porcelain wall pocket vases with the arrival of the potteries in UK and abroad.

Most of these early pottery wall pockets were just too expensive for many people but, during the industrial revolution, cheaper methods of making ceramics were introduced, and the popularity of these wonderful objects just exploded.

Most potteries and manufacturers produced a version of a wall pocket including:

  • UK potteries: too numerous to mention e.g. Bretby, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Grays, Crown Devon, SylvaC, Arthur Wood.

 

  • U.S.A e.g. Roseville, whom produced wall pockets in the form of art vases which are now highly prized.
Roseville ‘Foxglove’ Wall Pocket
  • Japan e.g Noritake.
  • Germany e.g. Meissen, Dresden

This lasted until about the 1960s when their popularity started to decline as fashions in homes changed. I blame the arrival of stores like Habitat with their range of more affordable, must have, home designs: only joking!

Wall pockets can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes from people, characters from books, musical instruments, hats, clothing, shoes, household objects, animals, birds, houses, seashells, fantasy/ mythical/ biblical  creatures, flora and fauna. In fact, just about anything you can think of! Sizes can vary from small, 5-10cm (2-4 inches), to over 30cm (approx. 1 foot).

 

Manufacturers didn’t just stop at using ceramics either. Wall pockets were also made out of glass, wood, metal, cloth and plastic.

Vintage Pink Glass Wall Pocket

There are not many survivors from this era as they had a habit of falling off walls… Just look what was used to hang this Aldridge Easter Bonnet shaped Wall pocket!

Aldridge Pottery Wall Pocket Vase: hung up with electrical flex!

Prices for antique and vintage wall pockets vary from just a few pounds to 1000s of pounds for some of the rarest designs.

They had, and still have, a multitude of uses including displaying fresh and dried flowers, living plants, herbs, storing soap bars, pan scrubs, hair and tooth brushes, filing papers, and house keys. I even heard of one lady who bought a vintage mouse shaped pocket vase and kept her pet mouse in it. The mouse was able to run up and down the flocked wall paper to its house whenever he pleased…. Ugh!

Wall pockets are still made today and from all sorts of materials and called by a range of names e.g. wall planters, holders, racks but rarely pockets or even just vases. They include reproductions of vintage and antique wall pockets, sometimes using the original moulds, to glass test tubes, holding a single flower stem or herbs, with a suction cup to enable you to stick it on to a window.

In fact upcycling of old light bulbs and chemical glassware has led to a whole range of wonderful wall mounted vases and holders. Have a look on Etsy and Amazon if you need some ideas!

Love them or hate them, these versatile household items have been with us for centuries and are here to stay!

Please click on the following link for Wall pocket vases for sale on our website.

 

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A Short History Of Adams China Staffordshire Pottery

1970s Adams China Brown Chinese Bird Sugar Bowl & Milk Jug

A Short History Of Adams China Staffordshire Pottery

John Adams set up Adams China in Staffordshire, UK, which became known as the Brick House Works, during the 17th century. In the early years, the factory focused on recreating models that were brought in from the Far East.

In 1779, the son of John Adams, William, opened the Greengates factory in Tunstall, England.

 

The dish in this image dates from 1914-1940 and the image was found on the http://www.thepotteries.org/ware/adams/index.htm website. A very useful reference guide.

Earthenware, although durable, was not as strong as ironstone.  Ironstone was fired longer at higher temperatures and resulted in durable and easily decorated pottery that was cheaper than porcelain. Ironstone was patented by the British potter Charles James Mason in 1813.

John Adams was very innovative and invented an ironstone-like formula. It was an instant success overtaking, the then popular, earthenware market. This enabled the company to focus on manufacturing white ironstone, pottery and cookware.

Adams also produced Jasper ware, a type of matt stoneware pottery invented by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Adams pottery is one of the few Jasper ware manufacturers considered to have equivalent design and quality to Wedgwood Jasper ware. This is not surprising considering Adams designs were influenced by his friend and tutor, Josiah Wedgwood. Adams produced different colours of Jasper Ware compared with Wedgwood.

 

Cobalt Blue Adams Tunstall Jasper ware
Cobalt Blue Adams Tunstall Jasper ware

The William Adams company continued to be managed by the 11th and 12th generation direct descendants of the 17th Century Burslem Adams. An amazing achievement!

In the 20th Century, the pottery also developed Microtex, a more durable form of their ironstone formula.

 

Adams Pottery became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1966, with the intention of converting the factory to making giftware. However, this proved unprofitable and the company shifted to making hotel ware, which too became unprofitable.

 

 

Unfortunately, the Greengates factory was closed down by Wedgwood in 1992. After closing, somebody set fire to the factory and it was razed to the ground. A sad end to a three hundred year old company…

Please click on the following link for Adams Pottery available on our website.

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What are Toby jugs and Character Jugs?

What are Toby jugs and Character Jugs: Two Small Vintage Hand Painted 'Janus' Artone Character Jugs

What are Toby jugs and Character Jugs?

What are Toby jugs and Characters Jug? It is very easy to confuse a toby jug with a character jug and vice versa, but they are different!

A toby jug/ mug depicts the full body of a figure, generally a rotund, jolly, tipsy gentleman, (occasionally a woman), usually with a tricorn hat and 18th century attire. A character jug/ mug usually shows just the head and shoulders and tend to be smaller.

Toby Jugs

Toby Jug
An Antique Toby Jug from our personal collection

Toby jugs have been around considerably longer than character jugs. They date back to at least the Mid-1700s where they were used as drinking vessels for ale in taverns and public houses.

Some people owned their own toby jug and took it to the inn with them or kept it for their sole use: at least they knew whom had been drinking out of it, as it was easily identifiable! I’m not sure they bothered much with washing up in those days…

The origin of the name Toby has been attributed to several different sources:-

  • ‘Sir Toby Belch’ in Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night. An affable, but usually tipsy, character.
  • ‘Toby Fillpot (Philpot)’ a notorious 18th-century Yorkshire drinker whose real name was Henry Elwes. He was mentioned in an old English drinking song The Brown Jug, first published in 1761.
  • A ‘low Toby’: an 18th Century highwayman but without a horse!

Some of the finest early jugs were produced in the Staffordshire Potteries in England by Ralph Wood, Whieldon, Walton, and Astbury.  These jugs can command very high prices (£1000s).

Toby Jug
Ralph Wood, Burslem, Staffordshire, 1789-1801. A museum exhibit.

Through the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Toby jug became very popular and with it the style and level of characterisation increased. By the 19th and 20th centuries people began to collect Toby jugs modelled on characters from popular stories and famous characters e.g. politicians and monarchs. These were often comic caricatures, which probably didn’t go down well with the personality depicted!

Toby Jugs continued to be manufactured by the well known potteries e.g. Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Shorter, Burleigh, and Wade amongst many others. Many of the editions produced were limited, adding to their scarcity and current value.

 

Character Jugs/ Mugs

Vintage Hand Painted 18th Century Man Kelsboro Ware Character Jug
Vintage Hand Painted 18th Century Man Kelsboro Ware Character Jug

Character jugs/ mugs were probably introduced in the 19th Century and became popular in the 20th century as souvenirs, particular the miniatures.

Many of the 20th Century art potteries produced hand painted character jugs/mugs of popular personalities e.g. Winston Churchill or for their notoriety e.g. Dick Turpin, and fictional characters too, particularly from music hall or literature e.g. Charles Dickens.

Vintage Wood's Reproduction Toby Jug
Vintage Wood’s Reproduction Toby Jug

This character mug miniature is of ‘Bill Sykes’: the nasty one from Oliver Twist who kills Oliver’s friend ‘Nancy’ and has a horrible dog called ‘Bullseye’.

Small Vintage Hand Painted Cooper Clayton Bill Sykes Character Jug
Small Vintage Hand Painted Cooper Clayton Bill Sykes Character Jug

 

The most prized collector’s jugs are Royal Doulton whom produced them from 1934 to 2011. Some of the limited editions, unique models and colour ways, and prototypes are increasing in value from approximately £20 to £100s!

At the end of the 20th Century, it was said that ‘there is no room for Toby/ Character jugs in a modern home’, however, the tide is turning and more people are starting to collect these wonderful colourful jugs as designer pieces or to brighten a dark corner of a room.

Click on the following link for our collection of Toby and Character Jugs.

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What do the Babcock Brothers, Evansville, Indiana & Thomas Goodfellow have in common?

Babcock Brothers, Evansville, Indiana & Thomas Goodfellow

What do the Babcock Brothers of Evansville, Indiana and Thomas Goodfellow, a Staffordshire potter, have in common?

Whilst in the process of sorting through a box of pottery, belonging to my 87-year old Mum-in-Law, I came across a pair of shell-like cream antique dishes with the following back mark.

Imported by Babcock Brothers, Evansville, IA.

 

We knew they had been in our family for at least 60 years but no-one knew where the dishes originated. We were pretty sure they were 19th Century (Victorian) and they had a the look of the Staffordshire pottery: ‘Adams Jasperware.’

Cobalt Blue Adams Tunstall Jasper ware
Cobalt Blue Adams Tunstall Jasper ware

 

After a trawl on the internet I thought that the back mark referred to the Babcock Brothers from Evansville, Indiana. Were they made in the UK for the US market. Why were they in the UK?

I wasn’t sure what to search for next and thought I would throw the question over to my good U.S friends in the Google+ Vintage and Antiques Community.  I was not to be disappointed with +Pam WhimsicalVintage coming back with the following information:

There is no Evansville Iowa and that state abbreviation was never changed…however, state abbreviations used to be (prior to 1963) more than 2 letters. There is a Babcock Bros who moved to Evansville Indiana from Utica NY in the mid 1800’s. They were wholesalers of among other things, “Queensware”. Is it possible that the letter isn’t an A but an N, or it may be possible that it was mis-abbreviated. I pulled this from the History of Evansville and Vanderburgh County by Joseph Elliot.

Which was closely followed by more information on Henry Babcock kindly provided by +Ann Kennedy.

Interesting indeed! Undeterred, I left it a couple of days before I went back on to the internet and, after quite a few fruitless searches, eventually found the following reference book:-

Queensware Direct from the Potteries
U.S. Importers of Staffordshire Ceramics in Antebellum America 1820–1860
Studies in Archaeological Material Culture No. 1
 By
John A. Walthall

Guess what! There was my back mark, and the UK manufacturer, whom exported using the Babcock Brothers, was a Staffordshire Potter called Thomas Goodfellow.

Up to 1812, Goodfellow had actually leased a pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire, with then partner William Rhead, from Wedgwood, prior to moving to the Phoenix Pottery, Tunstall, Staffordshire. No wonder the dishes appeared similar to Jasperware!

After Rhead’s death, Thomas Goodfellow formed a partnership with William Bathwell (Rhead’s brother-in-law) in 1817, known as ‘Bathwell and Goodfellow.’ They were particularly well known for their blue and white pottery.

Bothwell and Goodfellow Blue and White Pottery

 

The company then passed to Thomas Goodfellow’s son, of the same name. Babcock Brothers imported  Thomas Goodfellow’s II (1802-1858) pottery between 1850 and 1862!

Fantastic, we had traced them!

In answer to the question:

‘What do the Babcock Brothers, Evansville, Indiana & Thomas Goodfellow have in common?’

These lovely blue and white shell dishes were made in Staffordshire at the Phoenix Pottery, Tunstall, by Bathwell & Goodfellow for import by the Babcock Brothers of Evansville, Indiana, for the U.S market.

 

Bathwell and Goodfellow Queensware Blue and White dishes. U.S Importer Babcock Brothers, Evansville, Indiana.

But one question remained unanswered.

How did the dishes destined for the U.S end up back in the UK? Did they ever leave the UK?

There was a reference in the Staffordshire Advertiser, in 1864, to the sale of one-hundred and seventy-eight crates of earthenware bound for the U.S. made by Thomas Goodfellow. These crates had been lying at Runcorn, England for four years since the death of Thomas Goodfellow.

Staffordshire Advertiser 2 Jan 1864

TO BE SOLD, by order of the Court of Chancery, 178 CRATES and CRATES of EARTHENWARE, suitable for the American Markets, manufactured by the late Thomas Goodfellow, Tunstall, and now lying at Runcorn.—To treat for the same, apply to James Vernon, Burslem.

We will never know for sure but since these dishes have turned up, one hundred and sixty years later, less than 10 miles from Runcorn, UK….

A coincidence?

What do you think?

A big Thank You to everyone in the V&A community for their comments and help with this detective story.

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