William Adams – Blue and White China

Blue-white-china-shelfIt is strange, but my Grandmother died over 20 years ago and I’ve wrapped and unwrapped her blue and white china at least seven times since then as I’ve moved around. And, until now I’d not properly examined it.


It is from the company of William Adams and the printed mark and registration number (clearly decipherable, 623294) dates from about 1913.

This Pattern was introduced by William Adams in 1780 being a copy of a Chinese & one of the first of its style produced in English pottery.

William Adams
William Adams pottery mark – 1913 +

This pattern was called ‘Chinese Bird’ and continued to be popular through the 1920s and 1930s. It consists of pictorial lozenge panels featuring either asiatic birds or oriental gentlemen surrounded by a blue and white mosaic style pattern. The origin of this pattern of decoration and its longevity is proudly stamped on the bottom of the base of each piece. A kind of promotional strapline, a little puff and a glimpse of 19th-century marketing as mass production took off.

Chinese Gentleman blue and white china
The Chinese Gentleman

The Adams family of potters had been active working with the kilns of Staffordshire probably since 1650, but by the beginning of the twentieth century ‘William Adams’ was a brand. The original William Adams (1745-1805) had worked for Josiah Wedgwood during the eighteenth century and then successfully launched his own company William Adams, of Greengate, Tunstall, Staffordshire. This business was passed on to his son in 1805, but then sold out of the family to John Meir another Tunstall potter in 1822.

William Adams 'Chinese Bird'
Some surviving William Adams ‘Chinese Bird’ pieces from my Grandmother’s collection.

The name does not end there as there were other cousins and relations, one Edward Adams, and another three William Adams who made Staffordshire ceramics in the Potteries during the 19th century. W. Adams, Adams, Adams & Co, Adams Warranted Staffordshire, W Adams & Sons, W A & S, Wm Adams & Co, ADAMS, W Adams & Co Tunstall were used through the 19th and 20th centuries until the business became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1966.

blue and white china collection
Blue and white china a popular choice for over 200 years for English collectors.

And, spool forwards to December 2016 and I’ve worked the blue and white look to create a hand painted silk scarf (now sold, but other scarves available).

October 3 – A Grandmother’s Birthday

1962 beach portrait
My mother on the beach – 1962.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate the moments we are living and then with a blink of an eye they’re gone. We are lucky in our family as my late mother agreed to be the ‘star’ of a 3 minute video filmed by one of her grandchildren as coursework for a school exam.

family portrait 1912
My mother’s granny, Clara, with her children – 1912.

I remember my mother saying to me that she was the last person still alive who could remember her Granny. Like many families we have old photographs some even of our Victorian relatives, but now with videos and YouTube a moving, talking memento is captured and shared. It brings a new dimension to memories as individuals along with the film-maker actively curate their lives. But there is still space for a single shot to capture the essence of the person.

London 1926 – Film Footage in Colour!

Big Ben Westminster
Big Ben with setting sun.
Several weeks ago I was musing about the ‘then and now’ photographs of busy city centres. And, this morning a friend of my father’s sent him this link. It is a six minute film shot in 1926 by Claude Friese-Greene and recently released by the BFI, filming various famous places in London in colour. The film shows a busy working River Thames, City of London workers on London Bridge, promenading ladies in Hyde Park, and a heaving Petticoat Lane Sunday Market.


(Sorry if you’ve already seen snippets of this via Kevin Spacey or Stephen Fry from Twitter – apparently some fragments of this footage have gone viral!!)

I have walked over London Bridge into the City many times and it is fascinating to see how busy it was in 1926 full of traffic, half of which is horse-drawn. And, rather poignantly I know that during the 1920s my late Grandmother was living in Crystal Palace and caught the train to London Bridge Station and walked this way to work, but over the previous nineteenth-century London Bridge (now in Arizona).

It is fascinating to see panoramic views of London along the river with trees and steeples and not a modern glass and steel office block in sight.

River Thames at dusk
Westminster Bridge at dusk with Houses of Parliament on right.

Towards the end of the film the Palace of Westminster is shown from across the Thames with an amiable looking Bobby strolling up and past the camera. And, just last week we saw these two ladies policing the streets in a rather quiet empty City of London on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Police ladies
21st century City of London policewomen.

A Quiet Sunday After Lunch

Everywhere else in England this weekend they’ve had sunshine, but here in East Anglia all yesterday and again this morning it’s been mizzle. Mizzle – a great word I first came across when I lived in Devon for three years. My first experience of mizzle was driving down the A38 on the southern edge of Dartmoor when I thought I’d hit fog, but it was mizzle. It is a cross between mist and very fine rain. If you glance out the window it looks like mist, but step outside and you see it is amazingly fine rain and you get wet!

Sunday newspaper magazines
The interesting sections of the Sunday papers.
Well, that’s only in my humble opinion.

This afternoon has been better weather, but not good enough to put the Sunday newspapers down or even transfer to reading in the garden.

Reading on a Sunday
Three generations reading the papers.

Meanwhile in my head I’ve been modelling for a Russian artist.

Girl reading artist in mirror
Me in another life – am I the sitter or the artist?
Oil on canvas. Aleksei Harlamov (Harlamoff) 1875

Memory and the World’s Oldest Brand

Earlier this week I heard a fascinating and lively debate on a programme on BBC Radio4.* One thread of the discussion dynamically pursued the idea that everyday objects can be thought precious when imbued with intense personal significance for an individual.  And, they didn’t just mean that crumpled ticket stub from the first date!

Lyle's Golden Syrup
Lyle’s Golden Syrup

It was fascinating to think about how a commonplace item can trigger an emotional response in a similar way that a certain aroma evokes a poignant memory.  I think it doesn’t even have to be a big, powerful memory attached to a commonplace object to momentarily flip you from the present to some other instance when you suddenly find yourself caught by the clarity of the object you have involuntarily brought into focus.

Empty Golden Syrup Tins
Useful as well as beautiful

Recently for me it was a tin of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. There’s always a tin on my kitchen shelf and several empty tins floating around my home filled with pens or paintbrushes or random office bits and bobs.  The green and gold of the tin, the Victorian design and the Biblical quote together forming this remarkable brand that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1880s.  And according to the Guinness Book of Records is the world’s oldest brand.

Nanna 1935
Nanna out for a Sunday walk with my father in 1935.

But for me it means homemade treacle tart, very short, crumbly pastry and my exceedingly precise Nanna who was the queen of pastry making in our family.

*The broadcast I’ve mentioned is available online for a year at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s46g5

Treacle tart
Treacle tart made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup 2013.