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On An Earthenware Plate
( Originally Published 1913 )
Its diameter is 6 1/4in., its rim is fluted into twenty rhomboidal divisions, ten of which are (alternately) adorned with figures of women, bat-printed in blue. Of the decoration of the centre of the plate I will speak presently. The material is earthenware. The glaze is bluish, like that of Leeds white ware. The glaze is worn at the edge of the flutings, and shows (as does the rim of the base) the brown of the clay underneath it. It is in itself quite an unimportant bread-and-butter plate, but at the back appears, impressed and glazed, the " W. S. & Co.'s have inscription WEDGEWOOD. "Two collectors owned this plate before I did ; they were evidently scholarly and systematic persons, for each put a label of information concerning the plate on to the back of it ; one of the collectors marked it 10s. 6d., which was either what he gave for it or what he thought it worth. As for me, I bought it for 4s., and the following screed may stand for my label upon the plate.
The Ink Label. One of the labels is written on in ink; the information is as follows: " Newcastle. Stockton Pottery. Made by W. Smith and Co. See 'Chaffers' Marks,' etc.,p.789. A fine specimen. Adams. 10s. 6d." The reference to " Chaffers " is to some not very recent edition, probably, but it holds good for the edition published last but two. What the word " Adams " means in this connection I cannot tell. Does any reader know? The collector who wrote that label was more interested to own a specimen of a particular minor pottery than in the fraud which the specimen represents.
The Lead-pencil Label. The other collector wrote his remarks in lead-pencil, and they are not quite decipherable. But I make them out as follows: " Stockton Pot tery. W. Smith & Co. About 1848 Messrs. Wedgwood procured an injunction against Messrs. W. S. and others of Stockton for using this mark on pottery made to imitate their productions." This collector was more interested in the plate as a counterfeit than as anything else.
W. S. & Co. For counterfeiters the firm of W. S. & Co. undoubtedly were. Though this particular plate was no imitation of Wedgwood ware, their other productions often were. At Ghent, upon asking for "Wedgwood," I was offered a fine old cream-ware basket, printed with the willow-pattern in black, and marked -W. S. & Co.'s Wedgewood " ; the voluble dealer was terribly indignant with me (in FlemishFrench) when I told him it was a sham. There are pieces of this firm's counterfeiting, marked " Queen's, Ware " and " Queen's ware," a flat forgery of old Josiah Wedgwood's copyright in that term. No doubt the counterfeiters thought that by putting an " e " into "Wedgwood" they might escape the arm of the law, but they didn't ; I fancy the action taken against them in 1848 brought their misdoings to an end. Early in the nineteenth century a certain John Whalley, a practical potter from Staffordshire, went into partnership with William Smith, William Skinner, and George Skinner, at Stockton. In 1833 the style of the firm was " Messrs. J. Smith & Co., Stockton Pottery." A certain Henry Cowap is said to have belonged to the firm.
The Glaze. I rather imagine that this firm counterfeited Leeds white ware also. For I find on this plate almost the identical " Leeds " blue glaze. The distinction in Leeds glazes is that the cream ware was covered with a green glaze, and the white ware with a blue glaze, though the tint of either glaze only shows when it has run into a rim or interstice very thickly. This glaze reminds me that early Wedgwood cream ware shows a Leeds-like green glaze. If W. S. & Co. did imitate Leeds white ware, their counterfeits can be tested in another way-by weight. The plate now before me is heavier than any " Leeds " of the same size and substance would be.
The Centre of the Plate. Now I come to the decoration of the centre of this remarkable little plate. It is printed in stipple and colours, with a couple of touches of blue and red added by hand. The centre of this plate might pass for a pot-lid in execution and colour ing ; it is " the very moral " of a pot-lid, in fact. Nobody knows what Staffordshire firms in particular made those decorated receptacles for potted meat, potted fish, and pomade which are collected to-day. There is quite a field of discovery for some collector who will take it up in pot-lids. Where were they made ? Was it in Staffordshire ? I do not think it was in Staffordshire only, because here is my Stockton plate with " the very moral " of a pot-lid picture on it, to indicate that probably " W. S. & Co." made pot-lidsand the pots also, of course.Landseer and Nash. A boyish memory of mine is two pomatum-pots with bat-printed copies in colour of Landseer's pictures of " Peace " and " War." And here, in the centre of this plate, I recognise a copy of one of Nash's Tudor exteriors; here are the towered mansion, trees, a park, and two Tudor-costumed huntsmen with dogs, copied from Nash's " Mansions of England in the Olden Times," I do not doubt, about the year 1842.