Crested China was one of the more popular types of tourist trinket produced in the very late Victorian and Edwardian periods, finding its zenith about the time of the First World War. Most homes would have had one or two of these little items as fond memories of a happy holiday. These little, relatively inexpensive items would be sold in small shops, such as stationers and newsagents. The manufacturers were primarily based in Stoke on Trent, although a number of continental factories also existed and their items imported into Britain. They would have either sent sales agents or catalogues to the local vendors, who would have selected designs that would then be painted with the town’s arms.
Bridgwater was not especially special when it came to the creation of crested China: almost every town in the country had items produced, but the Bridgwater is an interesting case study in the tastes of the time. The surprising quantity of crested China produced with Bridgwater crests is a reminder that Bridgwater was once a popular tourist town, being a stopping off point for onward travel to the Quantocks or further into the West Country. The items listed here are by no means exhaustive: dozens of different designs were produced, the selection here are some of the more interesting examples.
Crested China relating to Bridgwater created fictitious arms based on the Borough Seal, and most seem to have taken the design from the silver maces of the mid-seventeenth century. Presumably one manufacturer researched this and the others blindly copied. The manufacturers seem to have introduced colour to the seal, which were later officially adopted when the town was granted a Coat of Arms on 19 September 1952.
Although crested china can still be collectable, for the most part the majority are fairly worthless, as this sort of fussy trinket is not something for most modern tastes. That said, there is something quite charming in them. Some of the designs are very well executed, others are hilariously bad and worth enjoying for their kitsch value.
Notes on the potteries and trademarks have been linked to the sources, otherwise they have been taken from Nicolas Pine, the Price Guide to Crested China, 2000 edn, Milestone Publications, Horndean.
Who was commissioning these and where were they sold?
This is a miniature three-handled loving cup, about 39mm tall and 51mm wide. A loving cup, or tig, or tyg, was popular in the late middle ages. The idea was to be able to pass around hot beverages without anyone burning their hands. This was a very popular form of crested china. This one is interesting in that it depicts three sets of arms: Bridgwater, ‘Somerset’ (actually Taunton) and the arms of Robert Blake, General at Sea.
The underside of this cup tells us it was made by W. & R. (Wiltshaw & Robinson) of Stoke on Trent as part of their ‘Carlton’ range, using a stamp that was in use between 1902 and 1930. A handwritten 98 B will be the maker’s mark, while an additional stamp tells us that this was retailed by Walter Belcher, Stationer of Fore Street. (more on Carlton can be found below)
Walter Belcher was the son of William Belcher of Chippenham. He was living in Bridgwater by November 1896, where he had already set up his printing and stationary business on the corner of Fore Street and George Street, where he was tenant. The property included shop, library and workshops (West Somerset Free Press, 24 October & 7 November 1896). He married in 1901 Sarah Anne (Annie) Salway of Moorlinch (West Somerset Free Press 4 May 1901). Belcher was also a leading figure in the town’s Oddfellows’ mutual support organisation (Chard and Ilminster News 8 March 1902). He retired in 1930 and died in 1938.
Another example has the retailers name. This rather bizarre, and somewhat unimaginative model of a water pump was made by ‘the Foley China’ (part of Wileman and Co., Longton) as part of their ‘Ivory’ range, with a code of RD [registered number]412406 51. The mark used here was in use between 1890 and 1910. It stands about 81mm tall. This specifically says ‘manufactured for C.G. Batten Bridgwater’ although little about Batten has yet been found. Elsewhere on the internet an example of a First World War peaked cap also bears this inscription, so he was presumably active in Bridgwater in the 1910s.
The Robert Blake Crested China
A porcelain version of Bridgwater’s Blake Statue, made sometime after 1900 when it was erected on the Cornhill. This was part of the ‘Rita’ Series of L&L Weston super Mare. This is a surprisingly good model, capturing the rough detail of the four plaques on the plinth. He stands about 160mm tall.
The Blake crested china is an unusual (although not unknown) example of a design for a specific town: the usual business model was to make a generic design that any town arms could be placed upon.
Exactly who L &L were is yet to be established. Nicolas Pine, author of the Price Guide to Crested China (2000 edn), p.355, notes that all the recorded crests used by this company relate only to Somerset. They are mostly likely to have been local distributors, acting as middle-men between the local shops and the Staffordshire potteries. They also made the small flower pot below, which is just 50mm tall. Whoever they were they made the interesting design choice to make the water in the seal green. Given the river is usually brown, this is just as fictitious as the blue depicted in the other china examples.
Goss Crested China
W.H. Goss of Stoke on Trent are usually held to be the best of the crested China manufacturers. This is primarily for the quality of their execution and the quality of the porcelain. The examples here are models of actual objects. The mark used on the below pieces was in used from 1862 to 1930.
Arcadian Crested China
The Arcadian range was a trademark of Arkinstall and Son. Arcadian were reputed to be the most prolific manufacturers of crested China.
Wiltshaw & Robinson of Stoke on Trent produced the Carlton China range. The quality of the sculpting is quite good, with animals that actually look relatively true to life (compare with Florentine below). They made items for Walter Belcher of Bridgwater (see the love cup above).
Registered number 454827. This mark was in use c.1902 to 1930.
See All, Hear All. Say nowt. Eat All. Drink All. Pay Nowt. And if ever tha does owt for nowt always do it for thisen’.
Florentine Crested China
Taylor & Kent of Stoke on Trent had a Florentine range. They produced a vast range of imaginative items, although the execution of some are almost hilariously grotesque. The below examples have a porcelain mark in use between 1900 and 1925. Their ‘coat of arms ware’ seems to have been in production by 1913.
Corona Crested China
S. Hancock and Sons of Stoke on Trent had an imaginative ‘Corona’ China range. The mark used on these pieces was in use from 1910 to 1937.
An artillery piece, ‘field gun’, made during the First World War, when such items were very popular. 120mm long.
Gemma Crested China
The ‘Gemma’ line made by Schmidt & Company of Carlsbad in Bohemia. Prior to the First World War this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but after formed part of Czechoslovakia.
Willow Art China/Pearl Arms
Miles Kerr-Peterson 16 July 2022.