Serving up your Christmas dinner has to involved the 'best china' but where can you find it?
Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at some festive household items...
I’m often wary of mentioning ‘Christmas’ before December, but I realise I’m not exactly jumping the gun- cards have been in the shops since August! In a lot of households, including my own, stage one of Christmas dinner preparation has already started: getting the ‘best china’ down from the loft for checking.
Dinnerware passed down from previous generations is lovely, but sometimes more of a millstone than the imagined nest egg, gathering dust in a cupboard or loft, or terrible guilt at any breakages.
Faced with people bringing part-sets into the centre, hoping to turn them into cash to buy something they will actually like, I have to break the news that most are only worth pennies.
The poor Empire Ware set pictured has over time lost everything apart from these serving dishes, tureens and jug, plus five plates. They are finely made and decorated with gold leaf, but you’re not going to serve up a full Christmas dinner without side plates, soup and dessert bowls, cups and saucers, tea and coffee pots, sugar bowl and milk jug; not at chez Blackburn, anyway!
It’s definitely worth having a rummage round antique centres, shops and car boot sales to complete a set, as orphaned pieces can be picked up for a few pounds apiece. In good condition, these rarer pieces (plates are usually easier to find than serving dishes, especially ones with lids), are for sale for just £20, including plates- the full set would fetch around £150.
Freeing yourself from Great Auntie Cecily’s taste, you can start afresh with an antique or vintage pattern that you actually like. Wedgwood, Doulton, Worcester, Windsor, Poole, Denby, or any of the myriad smaller vintage producers and potteries, and not forgetting our much loved, local Hornsea, when it comes to choice, the world is your oyster-dish.
A refreshing alternative, and one which is bang on current trends for ‘shabby chic’ and upcycling, is to mix and mismatch whichever crockery you like.
Some people like to stay within the same era or style of ware, like 19th century floral or 30s deco.
My proviso would be weight; mixing bone china with heavy clay pottery can feel a little jarring.
But mismatched tableware should be fun, so cast aside the rules: mix Spode with Spanish clay ware, Minton with melamine if you like!
And of course, if the odd jug gets broken, this time there will be no crying over spilt milk.