Category Archives: Knowledge/History of Antique Item

In a Bottle Oven


Inside the factory, which is made up of several buildings and four bottle ovens.

After visiting Chester, we headed towards Ashbourne (lots of antique stores), but first, stopped in at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

Maybe, a pottery museum wouldn’t make the top ten lists of the average English tourist. But, we have a collection of early British pottery and are members of the Transferware Collectors Club, so it’s been on our bucket list for several years.


Stoke-on-Trent is south of Manchester in the heart of industrial England. It was here that Enoch Wood and Josiah Wedgwood started potteries to compete with the influx of china from the Far East in the 1700s. Several towns make up the Stoke-on-Trent area, also known as The Potteries. On the back of historic china and pearlware, you’ll find the names of Tunstall, Burselem, Stoke, Fenton, Longton, and Hanley. We’re sure you’ve heard of Staffordshire, an English county and a term used to loosely group different types of pottery.


Plates ready for firing.

The Gladstone Pottery Museum is preserved as the last complete Victorian Pottery factory. In the 19th century, hundreds of factories existed in the area, where the natural resources of coal, sand, lead, and clay were available. Thousands of bottle ovens dotted the landscapes, since most factories had several. The Gladstone is an important industrial heritage site and an interesting museum devoted to sharing the story of the process and the workers who risked their lives to provide the world with pottery, china and tiles.


The color gallery.

Gladstone was a small pottery that made household bone china and they had five bottle ovens. They employed men, women and children and was typical of the hundreds of factories in Staffordshire. We explored the exhibits, watched live demonstrations and climbed into the bottle ovens.


Standing inside the outer shell and looking into a semi-full kiln. Individual items were placed inside the cylinders.

The ovens were the most interesting. The bottle shape that you see was the outer wall of the kiln. Inside was the actual oven. It would be stacked with thousands of pieces of china then fired. The kiln fireman would stand inside the outer shell and keep the fires stoked with coal for 2 days. The heat must have been extreme, to say the least! The air thick with coal smoke.


Sample color pigments.

There was an unbelievable amount of work that went into making a plate or cup. Every step required an expert skilled worker and several support staff. And there were many, many steps. On the lives of all these people, the world got its dishes. The Gladstone Museum does a fine job of giving us a glimpse into the lives of the workers and the Industrial Revolution.


A sample color plate.

Up next, our visit to Belton House. Thanks for reading!



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A Mangle Board 


Mangle Board

At a Copenhagen flea market, we found a mangle board. A mangle board is a carved board that was used to remove water and press the wrinkles out of woven cloth. The cloth was wrapped around a round rolling pin. Then, the user would press the mangle into the cloth wrapped rolling pin. This early ironing contraption was used before handheld heated metal iron.

Mangle boards were used throughout Europe between the 1500s and 1800s. Often they were given as a courting gift. Highly carved, they often had horses as handles. In the Scandinavian countries, the horse represented virility. The one we found has a horse handle with a horsehair tail. The carving was done as chip-carving, a traditionally Scandinavian style. Although we bought it in Denmark, it resembles a Swedish board. Today, mangle boards are collected as folk art.

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22 Yards Mapped Out the World

Mapping out Property with a Gunter’s Chain

In a world of GPS, a Gunter’s Chain is a true antique. It’s a surveyor’s tool for measuring a tract of land. It was primarily used from 1620, when it was developed by Edmund Gunter, until the start of the 20th century.

A Gunter’s Chain is a metal chain made up of 100 links and measures 22 yards. At the end of a group of 10 links is a metal tag. Metal detector enthusiasts often find these tags while out hunting for treasures.

The device was used for 300 years, along with a compass, by surveyors to preform their legal duties. These duties included measuring a designated tract of land, drawing a map of the land features and providing a written description of the land.

For cricket fans, here’s a bit of trivia: it is also used to measure the cricket pitch.

Our friend Stephanie pointed out this interesting item on our last trip to England, so, of course, we bought not one, but two!

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Wedding Luck


The traditional rhyme for bringing good luck to a bride:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a silver sixpence in her shoe.

What is a sixpence? Minted in England from 1551 to 1967, it is no longer legal tender in England since 1980. When it was, it was only worth 6 pennies. Not much to attract wealth and success to a new marriage. Cheaper than a lottery ticket and probably more wise.

It is thought to be of Scottish influence and the sixpence would be placed in the bride’s left shoe by her father. By doing so, he was wishing the best for the bridge. Luckily, it’s a small coin, about the size of an American dime. A bride has enough on her mind than worrying about a coin in her shoe.

Silver stopped being used in 1946. It hasn’t stopped the tradition of the lucky coin. Besides brides, Royal Air Force crews use them as lucky charms.

We picked up a couple on our last trip, so if you want to surprise someone getting ready to race down the aisle, stop by and pick one up for them.


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“Roses and Castles” on Useful Household Objects.

Sample of "Roses"

Sample of “Roses”

We like to buy folk art pieces for the store because of the combination of art and utility. At any given time, we will have hooked rugs, lace, woven pillowcases, samplers, painted paper mache’ trays, woven coverlets, and toleware for sale in the store. The last time we shopped in England, we found several examples of another folk art, the “Roses and Castles”.

Folk art milk jug at the store.

Folk art milk jug at the store.

“Roses and Castles” is another name for folk art made by people who sail the narrowboats on the canals in England. There are more than 2,000 miles of canals in England and Wales and it is estimated that over 35,000 narrowboats, or canal boats are sailing today. Just imagine spending the summer leisurely sailing and crisscrossing the island. As you sail, you decorate your watering can using your paints and brush.

A traditional paintwork.

A traditional paintwork.

Painting objects on the narrowboats began in the late 1800s, when many of the working boats were turned into homes, rather than for transporting cargo. Typically, the rose is the illustration used on regular household and garden objects, pails, buckets, watering cans, etc. More elaborate items have painted castles on them. The interior and exterior of the narrowboats are also painted, as are door frames and windows.

Rose motif

Rose motif

Stop by the store and take a look around at the folk art pieces. Be inspired to create or surround yourself with beautiful objects that make you smile.

A Rose and Castle lidded jug. English, antique.

A Rose and Castle lidded jug. English, antique.

Watering can, English, metal, painted with "Roses", narrowboat antique.

Watering can, English, metal, painted with “Roses”, narrowboat antique.

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Exceed Her Expectations.

Love Spoons carved by the labor of love.

Welsh Love Spoon.

Welsh Love Spoon.

In the store, we currently have a wonderful example of an antique Welsh Love Spoon. Carved from one piece of wood, this gift of a love spoon is intended for the one you love.

The tradition of love spoons probably began in the mid-1600s in Wales. During the long winter months, a man would carve the spoon and handle and then present it to the girl they were courting. Versions of the love spoon tradition are found across Europe. Sailors also carved love spoons on their journeys.

No two spoons are alike. Each representing the skill of the carver and the symbols he used to demonstrate his affection. Some spoons are simple and others use a variety of carving techniques to showcase the carver’s abilities.

Our spoon was purchased in England and contains several symbols. The heart represents love. The key and keyhole represent home and security. The daffodil and the dragon are symbols of Wales and the dragon also stands for protection. The linked chain shows the carving skills of the gentleman and represents his captured love. The anchor, his wish to settle down with his love. With this spoon, the carver is saying a lot to his chosen girl.

We can’t help but wonder what was her response to the gift of the spoon. Did the couple live happily ever after? What will you give your love this Valentine’s Day?

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Exhibition of Printed British Pottery and Porcelain.

One of our collection of Enoch Wood Grapevine Border Series, Lismore.

One of our collection of Enoch Wood Grapevine Border Series, Lismore.


Back in the spring, we were pleased to assist with an international team project to produce an online exhibition of Printed British Pottery and Porcelain. Through much trial and error on our part, we photographed our vast collection of Enoch Wood Grapevine Border Series for the exhibition. Photography is not something we score high marks on, but luckily, the grapevine border series has wonderful shades of blue and scenes that masked our feeble attempts.

Transferware is one of our passions, as is history. We were honored to be a part of this team effort where our passions combined. This exhibition does a great job of explaining the importance of this specialized industry to Great Britain. If you are interested in printed pottery, we recommend you take a look at the website.

Here is the official press release and a link to the exhibition.

A new online exhibition of Printed British Pottery and Porcelain was launched on October 17, 2014, during a special day-long visit to the Winterthur Museum as part of the Transferware Collectors Club annual meeting. The exhibit, a joint project of the Northern Ceramic Society and the Transferware Collectors Club, relates the remarkable story of the production of printed pottery and porcelain in Great Britain from 1750 to 1900. Designed for the enjoyment of a broad audience from the ceramic novice to the advanced collector and researcher of printed British wares, the exhibition introduces visitors to all aspects of Great Britain’s proud and vibrant industry.

Visitors to the site are invited to travel through the history of printed pottery and porcelain, learn about the factories that produced it, explore the various methods used to print designs on wares and view the more than 1,000 items carefully selected for the exhibition catalog. The site’s exhibition curators have endeavored to select items that represent all methods of printing used by a wide variety of factories producing printed ceramics: Included are examples of overglaze and underglaze printing–both bat and hot-press printed– in single, multi- color printed, as well as printed and painted items. A wide variety of shapes including rare and unique items are presented. Items selected for the exhibition were provided by individual contributors and auctioneers as well as museums including Winterthur.

The new exhibition follows the success of two other online exhibitions—, presenting the history and products of the first Spode factory, co-developed with the Winterthur Museum, the Potteries Museum and the Transferware Collectors Club (TCC), and a second,, featuring English pottery made between 1818 and 1835 decorated with American themed dark blue transfer prints, co- sponsored by the Winterthur Museum, Historic New England and the TCC.

These exhibitions showcase the benefits of organizations with similar interests, from both sides of the Atlantic, that are willing to commit funding and the efforts of many volunteers to create a meaningful and educational experience for people interested in printed pottery and porcelain. As with the previous online exhibitions, Printed British Pottery and Porcelain will welcome visitors from around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Visit the exhibition at

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A Gift from a Castle.

Would you like a gift purchased at an English castle?

A lovely cruet.

A lovely cruet.

On our last buying trip to England, we stopped in at Sudeley Castle and Gardens. Sudeley Castle lies beside the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England, deep in the Cotswolds. The present castle was built in the 15th century. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and even had the opportunity to shop for antiques.

After parking, we headed to the visitors centre and ticketing area. Inside the centre, a corner is devoted to vintage and antiques. Lucky us! Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe, handpicks the unique items that are sold to benefit the Winchcombe Youth Team Project. We were told that she either brings in items from her own collection or she shops in the town’s antique stores for the shop. We purchased a small well-made lined jewelry box and an etched cruet to bring home to the store.

Sudeley has a long history and it was well worth the visit. We decided to include it in our trip because it is the last home and burial ground for King Henry XIII’s last wife, Queen Catherine Parr. She survived Henry. Upon his death, his son Edward VI gave Sudeley Castle to his uncle, Thomas Seymour. Thomas married Catherine and he renovated the castle for his new bride in 1547. Catherine was pregnant when she moved into the castle. Here, the story takes a turn for the worse. Catherine gave birth to a daughter on August 30, 1548, but she died on September 5. Catherine was buried in the chapel. We visited her elaborate tomb.

This cruet would make a special gift for any anglophile, especially if they were also given this blog entry!

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Let’s make some noise with an air raid rattle!

Rattling the Air Raid Warning. 

English Vintage noise makers.

English Vintage noise makers.

What do a WWII warden and a football frantic have in common? They both need to make noise, really loud noise.

On our last trip to England, we found two wooden vintage rattles at two different shops. We were told that each was used during English traditional football (soccer) games to cheer on the teams or dispute the officials’ calls. However, upon closer examination, we found that one of the rattles was older and used by the Air Raid Precaution Wardens during WWII.

The larger of the two rattles is composed of wood and metal. It is impressed with a 3 letter mark and 1942, indicating its manufactured date. Upon investigation, we found out that the ARP Wardens would have used the rattle to warn the general public of a gas attack by whipping the rattle in a circular fashion, causing a sharp pop as the gear released the wooden strip. It’s certainly loud enough to wake a neighborhood.

Close up look at the impressions of the WWII symbols.

Close up look at the impressions of the WWII symbols.

Air raids and the fear of gas attacks were real concerns since the zeppelins first dropped bombs in WWI. During the build up to WWII, the British government began to make plans to protect the civilians on the home front. The rattles were part of the equipment issued to ARP Wardens. Upon hearing the rattle, the public knew to put on their gas masks and wait for the all clear. In case of a gas attack, the plan was to decontaminate those under attack and give first aid. The ARP Wardens were the first responders.

The smaller of the two rattles is all wood and painted and most definitely used at a football match. The larger ARP Wardens rattle may have also seen some football action, since, thankfully, the Germans did not use gas attacks on the home front.

Flip side shot of the WWII ARP Warden's rattle and football noisemaker.

Flip side shot of the WWII ARP Warden’s rattle and football noisemaker.

Think about these as Father’s Day gift ideas! And stop by the store and give them a shake. They may just be what your dad needs during football season or scaring away the birds from his garden.


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Antique Tartanware Go to Bed.

From our latest English shopping trip.

Tartanware "Go to Bed" matchbox.

Tartanware “Go to Bed” matchbox.


A “Go to Bed” is a small matchbox (vesta) used in Victorian times. The matches were held inside the box. A match would be struck and then the match itself or a lit piece of straw would be placed in the top of the box in the finial. This would provide just enough light to see yourself to bed in the cold short days of winter.

Our “Go to Bed” is an example of Tartanware. Tartanware was produced in the Scottish town of Mauchline from the early 1800s to 1933. Tartanware is the name given small wood objects covered in tartan papers and sold as Scottish souvenirs.

Scotland has always drawn tourists because of the natural beauty of the area. In 1852, Prince Albert purchased Balmoral estate in the Scottish Highlands for Queen Victoria. Soon, the area was flush with middle class tourists, all wanting to take home mementos of their trip. The small tartanware items were a hit. They were colorful and easy to pack for the journey back home on the train.

Originally, they were hand painted; however, in 1853, new machines were invented to speed up the manufacturing process. Tartan designs were applied to paper, via the machines, and then glued to small everyday objects made from local sycamore wood. Boxes and sewing items were especially popular. The items were heavily varnished, which explains why it is still possible to find these antique items in good condition today.

The production of tartanware ceased in 1933 after a fire destroyed the printing machinery.


Following the Olympics? What about curling? Interesting fact: Curling Stones are also made in the same area of Scotland.

Tartanware: Dram Cup and Go to Bed.

Tartanware: Dram Cup and Go to Bed.

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