Practical antiques don't come much better than this

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at a homely but high-quality porcelain manufacturer...

Over the last year, due to the lockdown restrictions, I wasn’t surprised to see there has been a reported rise in at-home socialising and cooking.

Whether that’s a barbecue in the garden or a socially distanced dinner party for six, today’s style of entertaining is much more about relaxing with friends than worrying about damaging the best bone china and cut-glass crystal.

Though not usually considered alongside the finer porcelain tableware manufacturers like Doulton and Wedgewood, Denby is one of England’s enduring successes, and a centuries’ old stalwart of our dining tables.

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This jug is a lovely example of Glyn Ware design. It is on sale for 48 pounds
This jug is a lovely example of Glyn Ware design. It is on sale for 48 pounds

It began in the early 19th century when local entrepreneur William Bourne saw the potential of a seam of clay discovered in his home village of Denby, founding a family pottery close to the site of the discovery.

Their Victorian salt-glazed stoneware bottles and jars, produced as a cheaper alternative to glass, fetch from £20 upwards today, mugs and tankards from £50, and their deceptively simple jugs closer to £100 and above.

Denby helped the Second World War effort by making telegraphic insulators and battery jars. Cannily, they also produced one ceramic collection: ‘Utility Brown’, which included pieces designed specifically for the armed forces such as NAAFI teapots and large bottles for sailors’ rum rations. As with most Denby designs, it ran for decades, so genuine wartime pieces fetch more than post-war.

One of Denby’s many influential designers was Glyn Colledge. Joining Denby in the early 1930s as a trainee modeller whilst still studying at the Burslem School of Art, he joined the pottery full time after the Second World War. He was a trainee designer, eventually becoming Denby’s chief designer and artist. Then later a director and manager for new product development.

The price for a single plain Denby plate with a Glyn College hand painted design and signature can still be less than £10, but good Glynware, or Glynbourne jugs and vases ae usually £30-60. This jug is a lovely example of Glyn Ware design, in the Bourne range. Featuring typical muted, natural colours and flowing leafy lines, it is on sale in the centre for £48.

In the 1970s Denby spearheaded the concept of ‘oven to tableware’, producing every item of kitchen and tableware imaginable, with multiple designs of dishes, plates, cups and bowls.

This eliminated the need to transfer food from cooking pots to ornate tableware dishes and complemented the 70s ‘back to nature’ movement.

If only they could design tableware which also washed itself up!