My friend, Stephen Duckworth, has been doing some fascinating research into who bought religious Staffordshire figures - presented recently to the English Ceramics Circle. Given the prices of figures and incomes in the 19th century, he suggests that the lower middle classes - skilled trades, lower ranking office workers and the like - were the most likely market for such wares. Stephen says those on higher incomes might have bought pottery for servants quarters or for the nursery. What better to keep servants and children in check, or paying visitors in a guest house, than a 'Thou God Sees't Me' plaque on the wall? (Perhaps George Orwell had such a plaque in mind when he coined the slogan 'Big Brother is Watching You'.)
An obvious market for maritime plaques and verses would be for the families of sailors. Indeed, sailors stopping off at Sunderland might well have bought such presents and keepsakes to take home with them. Maritime jugs, for instance, appear with inscriptions relating to Guernsey families. See two below that came up at Skinner Auctioneers recently.
Married at Littleham April 26th 1829
Mary Ann Long born March, 4th 1830
John Puncombe Long born February 1st 1832
Susan Jane Long born February 28th 1834
William Long born June 7th 1836
Henry Puncombe Long born July 19th 1838
Caroline Da...s Long born February 10th 1840
George Long born December 8th 1843
Henry Long born May 31st 1846
Edwin Charles Long born February 5th 1849
Charlotte Sophia Long born October 14th 1851
Henry Puncombe Long. Died May 29th 1841
The Long family have no obvious maritime link, so perhaps the plaque was commissioned through a local distributor, or a sailor carried the instructions to earn some money on the side. See the Plaques with hand-painted text page for more plaques with a South West of England link, commissioned for the Quick family in the 1870s.
Huge thanks to Norman for supplying me with the census details. I appreciate the magic of the plaque even more than I had done previously, and I wouldn't have thought that was possible.