At first glance these plaques might not look that exciting, but they are the rarest of wonders. They were fired in the same kiln, on the same days, almost certainly decorated by the same person, and they have been displayed on the same walls (or dressers) for the last 175 years.
How do I know that? Well you try matching up four plaques like this. These Garrison Pottery plaques are sometimes marked 'Dixon, Phillips & Co' (around an anchor), or 'Dixon Co', or, like the plaques above, sometimes have no mark at all. Plaques like this were produced from 1839–1865, and the quality of lustre and potting varied hugely over that period.
These plaques have a lovely buttery copper-lustre edges from c1840s. The splashed borders, made by dropping turpentine onto a still-wet pink-lustre ground, are uncannily similar – the drips having been applied with the same rhythm on each plaque, starting in one corner and working round. All four plaques are lightly potted (they stack well together) and have a slightly gritty or granular feel, from where they received the same shower of kiln dust.
Plaques are most often found as singles or pairs. Even series like The Bottle are rarely recorded in anything more than twos. (Plaques were more expensive than children's plates, which do seem to have been sold as sets.) So if I'm excited about the group above, it's because it is the largest true set of plaques I've ever seen.
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.