Friday, 30 November 2012

Flow Blue 1820s onwards

Type flow blue into a search engine and page upon page of material springs up, so much more than other types of pottery I’ve researched. The reason – the States. In the 19th century onwards the US couldn’t get enough of this stuff,  so the pre conditions for a collectors market were fulfilled, large quantities of old things in different forms which in turn has created demand for information on the internet.
Mudlarking Finds: Flow Blue Pottery Shards
Flow blue is not uncommon the Thames foreshore. I do rather like the effect, rather more romantic than the bog standard transfer ware or perhaps its relative scarcity attracts.
Mudlarking Finds: More Flow Blue
Flow Blue is a type of transfer ware. As the name suggests it’s where the blue of a transfer print bleeds or ‘flows’ onto the white body of the object, caused by adding lime, chloride or ammonia to the kiln whilst firing. The origins are not clear. Some claim discovery was accidental others an intentional development by Staffordshire potters, with Josiah Wedgewood credited with its invention.
Wedgwood Flow Blue 'Chapoo' Platter (live auctioneers)
It’s usually applied to earthenware although sometimes to Porcelain. The blues varied with the most popular being cobalt blue, mulberry was also used. Flow blue was applied to the full range of objects from full dinner service to tea ware to bedroom wash sets.
Flow Blue Tea Pot, Shapoo Pattern by Thomas Hughes 1860-1870
The degree of bleeding varied widely. When first introduced the flow was limited, later some flowed so much the original design was completely obscured. It had the advantage of hiding defects in the application of transfer or faults in moulding or glazing.
When introduced flow blue was a popular product in Britain but demand apparently quickly diminished perhaps due to the sniffy attitude of some contemporary pottery commentators with this later illustration
N. Hudson Moore, wrote in his 1903 edition of The Old China Book, "There is a certain style of design known as 'flow blue,' which has nondescript patterns, flowers, geometric designs, and which has nothing whatever of beauty or interest to recommend it..."
After WWI the States began their own industry..... The English production of flow blue hugely reduced once the export market to the US dried up after WWI, a result of the States producing their own versions.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Mudlarking: A Days Finds

Last Friday the unmistakable signs of an imminent migraine were not enough to dissuade me from catching a particularly low tide. The weight of traffic prompted abandonment of my preferred bus journey & I joined working London on a crammed tube.  As I walked down to the Thames I was met by the army of silent pacing city workers spewing from suburban trains. It was good to arrive at my otherworldly destination. A familiar regular was already searching for illusive complete bellarmines. I dived down to my favourite patch and for the first time caught metal. The first 1.5cm in diameter is certainly lead. I suspect it is a lead cloth seal from  19th century.
Mudlarking Find: Lead Cloth Seal Possibly 19th Century 

The second is a copper alloy pressed button produced between 1850 - 1950 and consequently considered modern by archaeologists. Etched on the surround is 'suspender' apparently the name for this type of button in America.
Mudlarking Find: Copper Alloy Button 'Suspender'
My trip  was characterised by relief patterns on stoneware, my first find was  a 300+ year old beard from a Bartmann Jug, used to hold beer or wine and probably imported from Germany. 
Mudlarking Find: Bartmann Beard

Bartmann Jug 1501- 1700 (Museum of London) 
The small oak (?) leaf below led me on an internet journey which uncovered rather beautiful German  jugs with a botanical theme. Most likely produced in 16th Century Cologne Germany and imported via Steelyard, a German trading post in London where Cannon Street Station stands today whose Merchants were painted rather wonderfully by Hans Holbein in the 1530s. 

Leaf on stoneware
Cologne jug 1550 (V&A)

Georg Giese a German merchant at Steelyard, Hans Holbein 1532
Established by the Hanseatic LeagueSteelyard was a separate  enclave for 600 years . At one point walled with 400 residents extensive warehouses, residences and churches on the banks of the Thames. In 1597 Elizabeth I expelled the German merchants and steelyard was closed, but seems to have remained an area with German presence, where Samuel Pepys would occasionally hang out  'Up and to the office all day, where sat late, and then to the office again, and by and by Sir W Batten and my lady and my wife and I by appointment yesterday (my Lady Pen failed us, who ought to have been with us) to the Rhenish winehouse at the Steelyard, and there eat a couple of lobsters and some prawns, and pretty merry, especially to see us four together' Pepys diary 1665

It lives on in names only. 'Steelyard Passage'  part of the Thames walkway runs under Cannon Street Station, with a snake of pavement lights marking the meanders of the Thames, kept company by evocative piped dock sounds. 
Steelyard Passage (Londonist) 
The next two finds have rather delicate, refined and carefully executed relief patterns. The first  branches, I suspect from a 19th Century hunting jug and similar to those on Mortlake jugs. I can't find a match for the second shard with vine leaves and grapes on the right. Somehow I think it might be Doulton  but can in no way justify that claim.

Mudlarking Find: Branches from 19th Century Mortlake Hunting Jug 

Mortlake Hunting Jug 1810-20 
I have to sneak in a find from a fortnight ago, a rather ill executed hound who was pelting round a hunting jug.
Fulham Hunting Jug 1874- 1889 (V&A)

 Hound from Hunting Jug 1775-1900

Pleased to find unusually large chunks of delftware and hand painted Chinese export porcelain.
Mudlarking Find; Large Chunk of Delftware 1570-1750
Mudlarking Find: Large Chinese Export Porcelain Shard 16th-20th C
Another mudlarker later observed that the density of porcelain seems to prevent it from colouring so it always looks brand new.

This shard with intriguing magical markings caught my eye, I think it's stoneware
Mudlarking Find: Stoneware Shard
There was one other place I wanted to scour before I Ieft – sadly I was becoming too poorly to take advantage of extra shore exposed by the low tide. The bonus however was meeting two guys who are as passionate about pottery finds as I am. One of whom has been drawn to the Thames for the last 20 years and very willing to share his encyclopaedic knowledge.  

I had planned such a nice day on my own, I was going to finish up with a long overdue trip to the wonderful Museum of London, but sadly the migraine beat me and I had to limp home to bed. 

Friday, 16 November 2012


The Thames foreshore is littered with transferware. I just assumed they were all Victorian but of course many are much older, dating to Georgian times. A stepped change in the development of ceramics, it was a new industrialised process. Eventually transferware was far cheaper to produce than hand painted goods, allowing the middle classes to purchase matching full dinner services to grace their dining tables and wash sets for their bedrooms, with matching basin and ewer, a cup for brushing teeth, soap dish, sponge dish, and a chamber pot.

Some claim John Sadler and Guy Green in Liverpool invented transferware, others Ravenet and Hancock at the York House Battersea factory in 1756. Patterns or pictures were etched onto copper plates, these were inked up and the image was transferred to a special tissue. The tissue was placed on a bisque fired ceramic object  thus transferring the print. It  was removed before more glaze was applied, the object was then fired again. 

There are two types of transferware pattern, the most common are those with a border design and a separate picture in the middle of the plate. The amount of white space between them varied with fashion over the decades. The second type used sheet patterns which covered the whole object. Marble patterns were popular in the 1800s and between 1860 – 1900 floral patterns.
Mudlarking Find: Transferware border design & middle picture
Mudlarking Find: Sheet Transferware - marbled pattern?
The early transfers were fixed on top of the glaze (overglazed) as the earthenware bodies available could not withstand the high kiln temperatures required. 

In the 1760s the Caughley factory in Shropshire produced underglaze printing. Joseph Spode and Wedgwood further developed this technique at their potteries in Staffordshire. This area became associated with this new product and indeed became known as 'the potteries' . Its production heralded the start of the industrial revolution. Churned out in such vast quantities it was one reason why woollen cloth was knocked off the top of England’s export list. America was its primary overseas destination contributing to mainland Europe no longer being the main recipient of England’s goods.

Patterns were initially printed in just one colour. Tricky to find out exactly when different colours were introduced as information out there is contradictory. The most common on the foreshore is unsurprisingly blue which some claim was the only  colour until 1809 and then continued to dominate with dark navy blue being introduced in 1818, developed by Enoch Wood. I have to confess to accumulating a rather large mound of this stuff, not all of it displayed below. 

Green apparently was  used from 1828 and green is certainly the second most common find.

Mudlarking Finds: Green Transferware from 1829
Wedgwood began using brown printing on a cream background in 1835, although I've read brown was first used in 1809. The two brown rim pieces which I realised slotted together were found 5 months apart – I like that. Brown seems to be the third most common find.
Mudlarking Find: Brown Transferware from 1809
Other colours appeared after 1830, English pink, purple, mulberry, yellow and sepia. All of which are less common on the foreshore. Can’t work out when they starting producing transferwares in black, but they too are far and few between. 
There seem to be two ways of identifying whether a piece of pottery is transferware rather than handpainted. Sometimes if you look closely you can seen the small dots that make up the pattern. Secondly the designs tend to be far more intricate and detailed. However, I still have a few pieces where I'm flummoxed.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Clay Pipes & 106 Old Street

Over the last few months I've begun to pick up clay pipes again, with some project in mind. Another one of the "It wasn't until I got home did I realise" stories, I noticed rather nice swirls on one of the pipe bowls and some faint writing. I worked out the second word was 'ROFFE'. Not enough for Google to throw me a lead. Oh for young eyes, it took a bright sunny morning for the first word 'WOOD' to reveal itself. Of course I could have asked my 13 year old - but I was filled with childlike determination to 'do it on my own'. 
Mudlarking Find: James Woodroffe Clay Pipe 1789-1799
Surprisingly there were only a couple of brief entries on the net "He was apprenticed to the pipe maker James Woodroffe on 10 January 1792, for the term of seven years" ( An article by David Wright, reveals his address in Islington "106 Old Street 1789-1799". An ancient route outside the City walls, Old Street was  recorded as Ealdestrate in 1200 and some believe was originally a Roman Road linking Silchester and Colchester. 

As the weeks went by I kept coming back to my delight in finding something I could trace to a familiar London Street. Eventually I decided to go and take a look. 

Ozge Bozyigit and her father Nihat Bozyigit welcomed me with Turkish tea and hospitality to 'The Legend' their barbers shop. Ozge had taken a break from her medical studies to meet me as she was particularly intrigued. 

The little object reunited with its birthplace after 200 years was passed around and considered, and considered again, as Nihat and his staff calmly attended to their customers. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight were delivered, encased in ornate silver metal work, to the men who'd chosen Saturday lunchtime to give themselves up to the full works. The large barbers chairs looked the perfect place to kick back, relax and enjoy the ritual finale, cosseted and cocooned under hot towels.  
Ozge Bozyigit and her brother iphoning Woodroffe's 200 year old pipe. 

Nihat Bozyigit making out the lettering on Woodroff'e's Pipe

One of Legend's customers getting into the history too. 
As I left, the yellow lit barbers looked as though it could almost fit into a 18th century scene. Alas 106 is no longer the pipe makers building - replaced by a Victorian high rise at some unknown date. I snapped a few adjacent buildings, several looked Georgian, so could have been the type of building which stood at 106 in 1789. 

What hasn't changed is James Woodroffe's view - a rather elegant  icing cake church, St Lukes, built across the road in 1733. 
St Lukes Old Street 1733

Since Richard put me onto the definitive guide to clay pipes 'London Clay Tobacco Pipes by David Atkinson and Oswald' 1969, I was surprised to learn there were four Woodroffe's making clay pipes in London, James, John, Jane and Sarah. The design on my find above was in fact John Woodroffe 1799-1832, he's listed later in the appendices as working from 1832-37 in vinegar yard St Giles, a little enclave which has long gone. I wonder where he worked between 1799-1832?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mudlarking Find of the Year & the Rest.

Slightly bonkers,  last Sunday decided to get up at 6:30am (which as the clocks had just gone back was in fact 5:30) to catch the very early low tide for a mudlarking pick me up. 

As I tiptoed out of the house an orange strip of sunrise guided me down the hill. I'm always rewarded when I'm up and out early, why don't I do it more often? My luck was in today the bus I wanted pulled up as I reached the bottom. As I crossed the road,  a drunk young Spanish guy head to toe in a red devils costume was pursued by a couple of security guys from Tesco Express, who relieved him of a six pack of larger. A different crowd on the bus this morning - early Sunday workers, each seat held a silent solitary man shifted next to the window. No one was reading or playing on their phone, just staring out into the dark, London masked by  condensation on the windows. No mass evacuation at the tube stop,  the bus is cheaper. 

As soon as the bus manoeuvres itself around Old Street Roundabout and runs down the appropriately named City Road  it feels as though I'm into old London. The old displays itself in road names London Wall, Pinners Passage, Threadneedle Street. So busy trying to spy interesting names, I almost miss my stop. 

The Thames was so smooth today  it looked like a sheet of ice gliding out. A few eddies here and there. As I looked back Tower Bridge was silhouetted against a panorama of orange glow sunrise, kicked myself for not bringing my camera. This was compounded when I met a guy on the foreshore taking pictures.  He said he'd been waiting a long time to get this shot, when the sun was rising in exactly the right place, tide out etc. He'd recently been made redundant and was entering his photo into a competition to show them - let's hope he wins. Apart from the photographer, for the first time there was absolutely no one else down there for the whole of my two hour mudlark. 

Find of the day and indeed the year was one of my earliest. As I bent down to pick up a slice of medieval pottery I noticed a round object hidden in the stone's shadows. To my delight a small face peered back at me, only 2.5 cm tall it had been separated from its original home at the neck.
Mudlarking Find: 16th Century Tudor Pottery Head
I suspect a mould was used to create the head, then covered in yellow glaze. Perhaps most touching is the thin looped strip of  red clay  which makes the top of  headdress. The headdress is probably a French hood which originated in Brittany, first worn by Ann Boleyn in the late 15th century and became popular in Britain in the 1530s. Apparently it continued to be worn in Britain until the early decades of the 17th century. The headdress above looks as though it covers the woman's hair, I believe a veil would have hung down at the back. Do the holes represent beading as in the pictures below? 

I wonder what it came from-  a figurine, attached to some kind of vessel? The stabbing looks rather hurried and the right eye hole is slightly bigger than the left,  perhaps they were produced in large quantities. I've never seen anything this old made with what appears to be two different type of clay. I'm guessing that this is 500 odd years old, we'll see what the Museum of London has to say. 

A follower (Merrywebb) let me know this find was similar to a 17th C  head she found in Virginia US, which they concluded was from a brazier made in Saintonge France. This sent me to google images again, where miraculously I came across the image below described as ' a German bi-chrome whiteware figurine dating to the 16th century.  The female has an elaborate hair style of plaits which are coiled back and up around a flaring headdress. The fabric is off white with buff surfaces and a yellow lead glaze. Stabbed detail has been added to the hair and eyes and the hair is picked out by a purple-brown glaze. A similar figurine is published in Hurst, Neal & van Beuningen (1986:237 no. 356 fig. 112) which is dated to the 16th century. The authors note that figurines were made in several centres in Germany particularly at Aachen and Cologne. The figurines are mould-made. The headdress on this example is not as elaborate as the published example but both are unglazed on the centre back of the head-dress'. The second picture shows the 'type' of body it could have come from. The plot thickens.

16th C head from German whiteware figurine (Portable Antiquities Scheme)
16th C body from German whiteware figurine ((Portable Antiquities Scheme)
An Boleyn copy of lost original of 1533–36

 Young Elizabeth I, Levina Teerlinc, c. 1550

My husband who is becoming rather exasperated with my mudlarking craze, has asked me to limit what I bring back and to stop picking up more of the same.  So in that vein I'm no longer going to post all the days finds - weaning myself off popping as much  in my bag is another matter. 

I've been hoping to find a Westerwald 'G R' -  (George I & II , 1714-1760), so very happy to find the 'R' at least. 
Mudlarking Find: 'R' from Westerwald GR Medallion  
Westerwald  Mug 1770 (Croker Farm) 

A big chunk of Stoneware with writing, whilst there are some good leads on here, no luck yet in identifying what it might have come from or where. 
Mudlarking Find: Stoneware with writing
I do like finding a section of vessel rather than just a shard. I'm almost certain this is a drinking jug or beaker from Germany sometime between 1301 - 1610, a massive date range  but I can't make out if it's from Siegburg or Raeren. Both made stoneware in mid grey with an iron wash which I think gives it the orangey brown colour and a glossy ash glaze, with thumbed decoration at the bottom. Both appear to have been imported to London in huge quantities. 
Mudlarking: German Drinking Jug 1301-  1610
Raeren drinking jug 1481-1610 (MoL)
I can't locate anything that matches the base of the vessel below. The glaze is similar to that used in Staffordshire in the 17th century and was achieved by dipping. The clay is similar in colour and texture to the shards I've found from black tygs

Mudlarking Find: steaky brown glaze
Two nice pieces of hand painted pearlware. Getting quite good at identifying if blue and white shards are from pearlware now, it's the bluish tinge which gives it away, if there is a ridge on the fragment it's easier to pick out as the glaze puddles a bit. 

Mudlarking Finds: Pearlware Teapot Spout and shard from saucer. 
Two bits of transferware worth putting up.