For years I've been tormented by the plaque below, which I didn't bid hard enough for on eBay. Shortly afterwards, the new owner got in touch to say it had a FELL & Co impress over anchor, for Thomas Fell, St Peter's Pottery, Newcastle. Until today, I hadn't seen a photo of the mark.
I'd noticed an indistinct circular mark on a plaque in my own collection. But it was so unclear, I dismissed it as an impression left by the stilt the plaque rested on inside the kiln.
The plaque falls into a group that share some elements of lustre decoration found on 1850s' plaques marked Dixon Co, so that's where I placed it on this website. However, a plaque amongst a job lot of junk at my local auction house got me thinking (see below).
Again, the mark is fairly indistinct, but this time there's no doubt that it's a maker's mark. As with my plaque above, black speckles of kiln dust are trapped in the impress. Here's what I hoped the mark might be.
This prompted me to recontact the owner of the first plaque in this post. Huge thanks to him for providing a photo. And here it is, the FELL & CO mark, as clear as day.
So if the three plaques above are Fell & Co, how many other plaques can reliably be attributed to Fell? The first two plaques below have the same transfers as those above. The third pairs with the first, so is attributed to Fell also. N.B. this is a different Seek Ye transfer to those that appear on Maling-attributed plaques.
The decorative elements of the plaques below so strongly match the marked plaques above, that they also must be attributed to Fell. The mould of the second plaque is also similar. Some of the decorative lustre elements on these plaques later appear on Dixon plaques of the 1850s (the colliding meteorite motif for instance), but there is a far greater similarity to the Fell plaques above. What's more, these plaques are likely c1830s, so precede the Dixon plaques by two decades.
So there's more work to be done rearranging attributions on this site. And, once again, this shows how dangerous it can be making attributions based on similarities of decoration alone. Just for the satisfaction of it, here are the three marks again below.
One feature of Newbottle-attributed plaques appears to be clumsily applied black enamel. Even the plaque donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum (right below) by descendants of the owners of Newbottle High Pottery has a clumsily applied black border.
This put me in mind of another Newbottle-attributed plaque from c1845, which also has smudgy black edges. Analysis of decoration is an imprecise science, but does provide a link, of sorts, between the c1830s plaques above and the mid 40s plaque below.
There were a couple of other entries in Andrew D Fletcher's article The Newbottle Potteries that caught my eye. Firstly, the V&A doesn't appear to have listed all of the Fairbairn's gift in their online catalogue. Fletcher quotes, presumably from another V&A catalogue list, as follows:
Earthenware pot and cover, painted in purple (gold) lustre. It stands 5 3/8 inches by 3 7/8 in diameter. The pot of inverted truncated conical form, with two adherent ring handles; the domed cover has a round knob. Both pieces painted with houses in landscapes.
So this shows that Newbottle High Pottery was indeed producing items with purple lustre, in the 1830s, under Fairbairn's management. I've e-mailed the V&A for a photo, but as yet had no response. This adds strength to the Newbottle attribution of the 'group 2' transfers, which appear on purple/pink lustre plaques.
The next extract from Fletcher explains how the Broderick and Beckwith partnership dissolved in 1852. It's unclear where this reference comes from.
The said partnership between John Broderick and James Beckwith was dissolved by mutual consent. John Broderick departed this life, 4th February last, intestate, leaving Elizabeth his wife, and children William Wade, Edward, Robert, Margaret Jane & Elizabeth Julia Broderick. John being both an earthenware manufacturer and grocer and was indebted to William Goodburn on account of both trade businesses and William Wade Broderick inherited the aforesaid. William & Edward carried on earthenware manufacture and their mother carried on the grocery businesses.
There are a few things of note here. John Broderick died, leaving debts and no will. His sons took over the pottery and carried on producing earthenware. The effects of the pottery would surely have been divided at the end of the Broderick-Beckwith partnership. So what was James Beckwith's share? It's not beyond the realms of possibility that he was given the pottery's copper transfer plates - amongst them those he'd saved from fire in 1836 - to sell on. We already know they formed a significant proportion of the pottery's assets.
So it would seem that Moore's acquired the transfer plates from Beckwith sometime after 1852. That's slightly earlier than I'd supposed (my guess was c1855), but there's no knowing how long it would have taken to find a buyer.
Huge thanks to Rebecca Wallis at the Victoria and Albert Museum for providing photos of the lustre pot donated by the Fairbairns family (shown below). It should appear in their on-line catalogue soon. N.B. several of the Sunderland potteries produced items with similar stylised houses and trees. This pot proves, however, that Newbottle indeed produced pink/purple lustre items.
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.