Every now and then a relatively humble item crops up that sheds a light on the wares of a little known pottery. Turpin & Co's partnership at the Ouseburn Pottery barely gets one line in Bell's (excellent) book on Tyneside Pottery. The entry reads 'Mentioned in a directory of 1841'.
I bought the child's plate below on eBay recently, and it has a wonderful impressed mark, TURPIN & Co.
I recognised the transfer as one that I had previously attributed to Thomas Fell. In fact, the copper transfer plate did end up at Fell's St Peter's Pottery – there are plaques with impressed marks associated with Fell, likely from c1850 onwards (see below three typical Fell plaques with the transfer). However, the child's plate shows the transfer plate had an earlier life at the Ouseburn Pottery.
The black speck also appears on red-bordered plaques, contemporary with the child's plate. I think these plaques can now reliably be attributed to Turpin & Co.
This opens the doors to a whole raft of reattributions for plaques from around 1840. It appears that Turpin & Co were busy!
The next groups of plaques are attributed to Turpin & Co on the basis of the similarity of decoration and mould to the plaques above. There are two associated impressed marks: a letter 'B' and what I've called a 'segmented circle' impress.
And finally, a hand-painted plaque which also has the 'segmented circle' impress.
When did the transfer plate move to Fell?
Where does Turpin end and Fell begin? The plaque series below has the same set of transfers, with the flaw on the Prepare plaque as described above. However, the Thou God plaques have an all-seeing eye above the verse. This was squeezed in by an engraver at a later date. We can't be sure when that was, but it proves that these plaques were made later than those above. And what better time to have a transfer plate re-engraved than when it has just been acquired for use by another pottery?
Presumably at the same time the all-seeing eye was added to the Thou God transfer, the engraver also touched up the Prepare (both were likely on the same copper plate). Compare the two plaques below. Whereas the folds on the angel's skirt have all-but disappeared on the second imprint, the clouds beneath the angel have been enhanced.
The plaque below has cut-out portions of the Prepare transfer with enhanced clouds. The yellow decoration and green stripes suggest it is contemporary with those above, and it has features usually associated with Fell. Note that the hanging holes are pierced through the central portion of the plaque, and not the border. The date of 1822, of course, was not when the plaque was made. It could have been a present for first communion, or more likely a 21st birthday present. A date of 1843 seems credible. This would put it just after Bell's date of 1841 for the Turpin & Co partnership.
If there are any collectors of nursery plates reading this, I would love to hear from you if you have any plates with the same distinctive alphabet border or plates marked Turpin & Co.
P.S. Fordy and Patterson
Thanks to Ian Sharp who has noted the similarity of border of the child's plate to one from Fordy & Patterson's partnership at the nearby Sheriff Hill Pottery. Bell's entry suggests this partnership operated in the early 1830s.
Stephen Smith lives in London, and is always happy to hear from other collectors. If you have an interesting collection of plaques, and are based in the UK, he will photograph them for you. Free advice given regarding selling and dispersal of a collection, or to those wishing to start one. Just get in touch...
This website is indebted to collectors, dealers and enthusiasts who have shared their knowledge or photos. In particular: Ian Holmes, Stephen Duckworth, Dick Henrywood, Norman Lowe, Keith Lovell, Donald H Ryan, Harold Crowder, Jack and Joyce Cockerill, Myrna Schkolne, Elinor Penna, Ian Sharp, Shauna Gregg at the Sunderland Museum, Keith Bell, Martyn Edgell, and Liz Denton.