Thanks, once again, to Norman Lowe for getting in touch regarding my recent posts. In my last post I wrote about two frog mugs, with variations of the Sailor's Return transfer. Both have been attributed to Seaham. However, the one below right, from the Sunderland Museum collection, has lustre decoration similar to marked items from Thomas Ainsworth's Stockton Pottery. As you are probably bored of hearing by now, the transfer on the left mug below, also appears on a plaque with the inscription 'A Present for E. Towning'.
Norman did some digging in the census records and writes 'Interestingly there was an Elizabeth Towning born 1860 in Stockton!' So is it possible that the items above were all made in Stockton, and not Seaham, after all? The Stockton Pottery was founded in the 1840s and closed in 1901, so was certainly turning out wares in 1860. Moore's Pottery was mass-producing similar larger-sized rectangular plaques in the 1860s, so the style of mould might fit the date.
However, I think 1860 is too late for the plaques above. Take a look at the first three plaques below. The Seaham Pottery was producing identical large and similarly decorated religious verse plaques at the time the E. Towning plaques were made. We know that by 1850 the pottery had ceased making these plaques (the religious ones at least), and the copper transfer plate had found its way to John Carr's Low Lights Pottery in North Shields. The final plaque below, although unmarked, has Carr in it's DNA. The lustre decoration and distinctive red inscription, combined with the smaller mould, scream Carr (marked examples exist). What's more, the plaque is dated July 1st, 1850.
The quality of the later examples of the Carr verse plaques is poor, with the transfer imprints looking faint and worn, so we can be sure that the 'Seaham' plaques came first, and pre-date July 1st, 1850. So the E. Towning born in Stockton in 1860 is highly unlikely to be the person celebrated on the plaques.
Norman has, however, come up trumps in finding a link between the Sailor's Return transfer, and the large dated (1847) Seaham jug in the Sunderland Museum (below left). He owns a frog mug (below right) with the same Mariners' Compass transfer as the signed jug. Note the two blemishes circled in the final detail below, which appear on both the jug and the mug.
So if we're now sure that Norman's frog mug is Seaham, how does the frog in his mug compare with the one in my Seaham-attributed mug with the Sailor's Return? My frog is on the left below, and he's an ugly brute, with traces of enamel decoration. However, I'm happy that they are a perfect match (click on the images to enlarge and move between them). There are slight differences where the potter has used a tool to bind the limbs of the frog to the inside of the mug, but their bodies appear to be from the same press mould. Note the moulded eyes on the sides of the frogs' heads. N.B. the frog takes up more space in Norman's smaller mug.
For those doubters who think all frogs look alike, take a look at the variety of Sunderland frogs below. The first, attributed to Newbottle, is the closest match, but it has smooth, rather than pitted, skin.
I've e-mailed the Sunderland Museum to see if I can get a photo of the frog in the other frog mug at the start of this post. Although the mug is attributed to Seaham, it has decorative features associated with Stockton. A look at its frog might help move the attribution on.
For any diehards who have read this far, here's a sneak preview of my new Sunderland pottery transfers site. I haven't advertised its presence yet, as it is just a few jotted notes.
Thanks to Shauna at the Sunderland Museum for getting back to me about the Seaham/Stockton 'Sailor's Return' mug in their collection. It doesn't have a frog, so we're no further forward I'm afraid. Although that's yet one more difference between the mug and its known Seaham counterparts.
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.