Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at festive antiques that are good enough to eat off!
Some of you will already be planning ahead to Christmas, so I thought I’d talk about collectables to enhance your Christmas dinner table.
What family Christmas would be complete without getting out the “best” china?
A lot of people think of the big hitters like Royal Crown Derby, Royal Staffordshire and (admitting to favouritism), Royal Worcester. Any of these and more will certainly make an impressive Christmas centrepiece, however they are not the only option for a statement dinner service.
One of the most interesting and innovative Staffordshire porcelain manufacturers is Shelley China. Why fewer people recognise Shelley, and what makes them sought after by discerning collectors, is because their pieces cover a huge variety of designs.
Shelley porcelain originated when Staffordshire firm Wileman’s opened a second factory in 1860 specialising in the finest china. It was managed by former salesman James B. Shelley, changing its official trademark to Shelley China in 1910.
Shelley were innovative in producing distinctively shaped ranges of table ware, such as the Dainty, Vogue, or delicately fluted Queen Anne designs. These were then decorated in a variety of patterns (all likewise named) from delicate white ware to floral and chintz.
They commissioned the best designers such as Frederick Rhead and Walter Slater, and artists Hilda Cowham and Mabel Lucie Attwell to produce nursery ware and the famous “Boo Boo” range featuring children, animals and elves.
In 1926 the firm introduced the elegant “Shelley Girl”, an eye catching, foot high bone china figure into stylish retail window displays.
She appeared in various guises, but always posed daintily while sipping tea from a Shelley china cup. Though originally even given away as “freebies”, one of these unusual and distinctive figures recently sold for over £800!
Sadly, Shelley ceased trading in 1966. All their quality ware retains high value, and many people limit themselves to collecting a “design trio” (cup, saucer and plate). However, if you can push the boat out (as these sets fetch thousands of pounds!), look up their striking Art Deco Ware from the 1920s and 30s as eating off this service would make any Christmas dinner truly special.