Since I set up the pages of this website 22 months ago, my understanding of plaques has developed at a speed that my typing finger (note singular) has struggled to keep up with. Much of that is down to the contributions of other collectors (and dealers) who have shared their thoughts and photos of their plaques. So thanks again.
The more plaques that have been added, the clearer the picture has become. (MSTP is probably now the largest database of plaques ever assembled.) On my blog, I've had a stab at attributing plaques to potteries. So the original pages I set up, which grouped religious plaques by colour, have for a while looked inadequate. Over the last two weeks, I've given the site its largest reorganisation since I built it. (Apologies for the blips that have occurred in the interim - missing images etc.)
I'm wary that anyone reading a reference work, whether a web page, a published article or a book, is hoping to find a definitive set of answers. In that respect, the web is generally deemed to be much less reliable than books and magazine articles, which have to go through an editorial process. So I've held back to some extent for fear of providing the wrong information. But as time has gone on, I've discovered errors in the key reference books: plaques with Crimean ships listed as 1820; the wrong dates and names for some of the pottery partnerships; and attributions of plaques to the wrong potteries. The books are still invaluable, and I've huge respect for the authors (I'm decades away from being able to provide the same level of scholarship). But they were mostly written in the pre-internet era,when confirming a historical detail meant a day trip to the British Library. And finding new plaques to write about meant driving around the country from one auction house to another. In these respects, I've got it really easy.
I've set up a new series of pages headed 'Early plaques (pre-1845)', and grouped the plaques by pottery. I've made my attributions based on the information available to me now, and there's no guarantee that some of them won't change if new plaques come to light. It will take a while to tidy up the new pages, which are a work in progress.
As I've got no editor checking my work, I'm reliant on your help. If you think I've got something wrong, please get in touch. It's exciting to be proved wrong. When you remove a misfit piece in a jigsaw puzzle, sometimes other pieces then fall into place.
I'll finish with a photo of an as-yet unattributed plaque, which is perhaps my favourite of all the images sent to me while I've been working on the website. I love the verse. At times over the last year or so, the same could be said of plaques.
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.