A few of my collection showing their fragility. Often when I find them they have cracks or breaks which is inevitable as they have often seen 50 years or more of life.
Love them or hate them! As I have well over 100 I think I must at least like them but, of course, only the ones with roses! I continue to collect them with my local antique shops and bazaar being my primary sources.
Each of these bone china posies is unique but when I started acquiring them they all looked similar to me. They have been handmade, hence their individuality, and apparently each maker could identify their own work. A skilled maker could produce a dozen flowers in 15 minutes which I am sure was encouraged by the fact they were paid by the number they made.
I can identify the origins of one or two of the posies when I see them but not all as some seem to be much rarer than others, having been made by the smaller potteries of which there were many. Two great names are Adderley and Coalport; I can usually identify these. When it comes to Denton, Radnor, Royal Doulton, Five Towns China, Royal Stafford, Masefield, Thorley, Stratford, Crown and so on I am lost. Over 1500 pottery firms have operated in Stoke on Trent since the early 1700s. Some lasted only a few years but some over 200. Happily for me each posy has its origins written underneath. It is a pity they don’t have their date. I can only guess a broad date by knowing the dates each pottery survived.
Sadly the majority of the companies making flowers closed in the latter part of the C20th and there is only one pottery still making them now. This is the Aynsley Pottery which acquired Denton China (Longton Ltd 1954) in 1969. Denton was well known for its flowers and a few of their posies contribute to my collection. The Aynsley floral factory is today one of the very few remaining truly handcraft industries left in Stoke on Trent. Decorating by hand a skilled team of artists create an effect which is recognisably different. Three separate firings in high temperatures ensure longevity and colour retention.
The history of the posies is fascinating and runs alongside the history of all bone china. Flower making dates back to the 1740s but really took off when the second Josiah Spode developed bone china in 1797. (It is made from 50% bone ash, 25% Cornish stone and 25% China stone). Together with the flowers for floral posies flowers were also used to make jewellery, mostly brooches of which I have a growing collection.
During the 19th and 20th centuries the potteries grew around the five towns of Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, and Tunstall joining with Stoke and forming the larger town of Stoke on Trent in 1910. In 1907 there were 391 potteries with several thousand bottle kilns firing their wares with some companies having one kiln and others up to 25. Many of these potteries made flowers as well as their tea and dinner services and other pots. The success of the potteries continued until the late C20th. In the 1960s and 70s it is estimated that 70,000 people worked in the industry.
The number of potteries has dwindled to around 100, only 15 of which have any size and with only the one continuing the tradition of flower making. Today the number of workers in the industry is closer to 5,000. Where there were bottle kilns there are now office blocks and retail parks. One or two icons of British industry have been saved such as Wedgewood , Spode and Moorcroft but others have sadly been abandoned. The Royal Doulton factory which opened in 1877 stands empty and decayed while the Minton works is a Sainsburys.
So only relatively few of these nostalgic posies continue to be made but this, of course, makes them more interesting and more collectible. They are a little bit of our social history so whether you love them or hate them they have a contribution to make.