My grandfather collected, amongst other things, Staffordshire figures, ironstone plates, blue and white, and a bargeware teapot, so Victorian pottery was something I grew up with, and has childhood associations and familiarity. When I started collecting lustre plaques though, I thought I'd found something entirely my own. But mum has since told me there were two ship plaques in the house in Hull where I spent my early years - 'Truelove from Hull' and 'The Unfortunate London'. It seems likely, aged 3 or 4, I was dandled in front of them. So perhaps plaques were always there, buried in my subconscious.
I've been looking for a Truelove from Hull for over 10 years now. A broken one came up on eBay 7 or 8 years ago. I underestimated the bidding - it sold for over £200 as I remember. A square orange one with rubbed lustre came up about the same time in a group lot at auction, and I missed out on that too. So despite a hairline and faded lustre, I was happy to get the plaque below in a Derby saleroom recently.
How many of them exist? An impossible question to answer, but not many. There's one in Hull's Maritime Museum. And although I've only been searching a decade or so, I've had access to some very large collections of Sunderland lustre, built up over much longer periods, and never seen another. I have added it to the rare ships page, with links to information about the ship's fascinating history. Truelove was captured by the British in the American War of Independence, and sailed for 124 years. I couldn't resist including this photo of the ship's Captain Parker in 1854 (from here). Like something straight out of Melville!
The plaque is one of a series of ships by Anthony Scott of Southwick. If you wanted to quick-start a collection of ships, Martyn Edgell has the selection below for sale, for a very reasonable £165 each. Click here to browse Martyn's site.
I bought one from Martyn myself (see below left). If someone is looking to make up a set, I will sell my other near-perfect example (below right) for £165. Just drop me an e-mail.
Congratulations to Hull for being named City of Culture 2017. Hull was the home of William Wilberforce, and, we were always told, one of Queen Victoria's favourite cities.
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.