Nearly two years ago now, I wrote a short blog post about the Maling plaque below, which has a 'Mustard collection' sticker on the back.
I recently contacted the Maling Collectors' Society, and they put me in touch with Maling historian, David Johnson. He has been enormously helpful sending me copies of two films, 'Maling Memories' and 'Potty About Maling' (you can view the former on the Maling Collector's Society link above). They make fascinating viewing, showing interviews with ex-Maling employees, making and decorating items of pottery from original Maling moulds.
In 'Potty About Maling' (1997) Nona and Jerry Mustard make an appearance talking about their collection. Tantalisingly, as the camera pans around their home, there's a table covered in plaques. One of them is a pink rectangular plaque with the motto 'Forgive and ye shall be forgiven'. It is of a kind I've been longing to attribute to Maling. And it seemed safe to suppose that if it was in the Mustard collection, it had a Maling impressed mark.
David very kindly contacted Nona Mustard on my behalf to see if they still had the plaque. He got a very nice reply, but, as suspected, the Mustard's sold their plaques some time ago. David suggested that if I contacted Jim Railton Auctioneers who sold the collection, they might be able to provide details. But Ian Holmes came up trumps with a copy of their auction catalogue from 2001 when the plaque was sold.
So why has this modest looking verse plaque got me so excited? Firstly, the Robert Maling mark confirms an early date for these plaques of between 1830–40. N.B. sometimes this mark is hard to decipher. Take a look at the poor impress below. It is possible that you might have a religious verse plaque with a similar mark, and have failed to identify it.
Secondly, it confirms what I hinted in my December 5th blog post, i.e. that a wash of pink lustre over the central transfer is an attribute of Maling plaques. Other potteries might have used it, but the vast majority of plaques on which it occurs are types associated with Maling. Look at the two fabulous plaques below which came up a year or so ago at Boldon Auctions. I think that we can now attribute these with some confidence to Robert Maling.
There are many more common verse plaques with green corners, which also have pink lustre over their central transfers (see below).
But lest we get too carried away with the idea that green corners = Maling, remember the similar 'La Polka' plaque (below centre), with the printed mark B & Co. Ian Sharp has identified this mark as J Burn & Co from the Stepney Bank Pottery, Ouseburn, 1852–1860. However, neither of the plaques below have lustre over the transfer.
Another fly in the ointment is that two of the rarer verses above appear on plaques I've attributed to the Sheriff Hill Pottery (see below). This is a problem, because we'd expect these to have been produced around the same period (1830–40). If I had better photos of their counterpart plaques above, I could perhaps tell whether they came from the same transfer plates.
But I'm not disheartened by any of this. In fact, I couldn't be happier (writing this post has saved me from an afternoon of ironing). And as someone famous once said, 'The truth is rarely pure, and never simple'.
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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.