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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.

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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:-

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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

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Do you believe in ghosts? An April fool or is it?

Do you believe in ghosts? An April fool or is it?

‘ Do you believe in ghosts?’ An April fool or is it?

Since it is April 1st and, therefore, April Fool’s day, I thought I would regale you with my tale which poses the question Do you believe in ghosts? An April Fool or is it?

As a scientist, I considered myself a disbeliever for many years. Evidence can be tampered with, and there is usually an explanation for sightings of apparitions. That was until I visited ‘War Wheels’ at High Ercall, Shropshire (UK), in the 1990s, with my ‘other half’.

This was at an event held by the North Staffordshire Military Vehicle Trust where I even had a ride on a Alvis Stalwart. My other half managed to get a ride in the cab, however I was riding in the back, open to the air, and hanging on for dear life to the rail just behind the cab. It was an impressive ride through rough terrain and deep water. Himself was screeching with delight, me with terror, and the addition of lots of bruises on my ribs and arms where I was shaken like a stringed puppet against the rail!


Alvis Stalwart “Stolly”


High Ercall was a RAF and USAF airfield during WW2. In 1941/2, it was used by RAF fighter command 68, 254, 255 squadrons and 1456 flight. The United States Army 8th Air Force’s 309 Fighter Squadron was also stationed here. By 1943 it was used as a training base. Many of these brave souls were killed in action or in training accidents, and buried in military graves around the area.

Anyway, I digress….

I was stood near a stall in the corner of a hangar waiting for my husband to finish inspecting a Lancaster bomber radio on sale at the stall. We already had one at home, so I was getting slightly bored and started to people watch around the hangar.

Most people were dressed in 1990s clothes and were immersed in rummaging through boxes and stall table contents. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a pilot walking across the hangar perfectly dressed in WW2 uniform with a pair of military headphones around his neck.

WWII Military Unissued DLR style Bakelite Headphones/ Head Set/ Receiver
WWII Military Unissued DLR style Bakelite Headphones/ Head Set/ Receiver


I watched him for a few seconds stride across the hangar as if he were ready to take a flight. I noticed another lady, stood a few metres from me, looking at him too. We both smiled knowingly to one another and commented that the chap was taking it a bit far in dressing up in period costume, but perhaps he was a re-enactor.

Much later, (yawn!) I managed to drag my other half away to the NAAFI for a coffee and bacon sandwich, where I told him, bemused, about the chap the lady and I had seen. One of the event organisers overheard our conversation and told me I had seen the airfield ghost ‘Henry.’ I was flabbergasted, as the gentleman I saw, with sandy coloured hair under his cap, seemed real to me at the time!

Many years later, I found an article (02/01/2015) in the ‘Shropshire Star’ titled ‘There’s something about Henry in ghostly tale at old Telford air-base.’
 Mr Lloyd said: “Our churchyard is home to a number of military graves. At some particular time my wife, Pauline, worked at Motec restaurant and was to become manager. One day, a very scared young teenage motor apprentice went for his midday meal and revealed that he’d seen a ghost seated at the table in his room. He shouted: ‘Hey, who are you?’The apparition clad in World War Two flying garb disappeared.”

Mr Lloyd added: “Staff gave the spectre the friendly name ‘Henry’. Witnesses all said the same – that the ghostly presence had ginger hair.”

So is this an April Fool joke or do you believe I saw Henry? I think I do!

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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!