|Even with the little detail, |
we can discover a lot about a piece of pottery!
This fragment has a maker’s mark, also known as a backstamp. Potters put a lot of time and energy into making their designs, and so they wouldn’t want for anyone to be able to rip off their patterns. By registering and patenting their designs, they could be legally protected if anyone else tried to use it without their permission. The marks helped to show who owned the design and when it was registered. Staffordshire potters have marked their wares since at least the 1790’s. This has the name of the maker, a pattern name and a registration number – all of these give us information.
The Swinnertons were a company formed in 1906 based in Hanley, Stoke-On-Trent. In their peak they owned six factories – three of which were teapot factories. They sold pottery with the Swinnertons name on it for almost 60 years, aiming their goods at middle class households. Today, the company is part of the Doulton group – I’m sure you’ve heard of their figurines!
The registration number on this piece, 837606, lets us know when the pattern was first made. Each registration number is unique, and kept in files at the National Archives in Kew. The numbering system was started in 1884: with over 1500 potteries in Staffordshire alone, no wonder the numbers are long! This number would have been registered in 1940.
Now, what does the actual piece look like? Since this is just a base, I couldn’t tell you if it was a saucer, a plate, or a larger dish. There also seems to be TWO patterns selling online with the name ‘luxor vellum’ and the same registration number: a plain cream, and a floral pattern. Try searching for Swinnertons “luxor vellum” 837606 on the internet, and tell us in the comments which one you think this pattern is!
Want to look up your granny’s teacups and find out more about them? Thepotteries.org (run by an amateur historian in Stoke-On-Trent) has a table of what range of numbers were registered between 1884 and 1965. It’s a good place to start!