When my parents became engaged, my father – then a cocky young fellow of 20 – went home to Yorkshire for the first time in several years to let his mother and father know. On learning the good news, my grandmother very generously decided to send her new future daughter-in-law a beautiful bone china tea set. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but this may have been the china she had been given herself on her marriage.
My father had no idea of how to pack the delicate items and simply put them into his suitcase with his few clothes wrapped around them. He wasn’t a very tall man, and when he got onto the train he threw his suitcase up onto the luggage rack out of the way, completely forgetting about its fragile contents. Consequently, by the time he handed over the gift to his fiancée it was no longer a complete tea service.
Luckily, although the teapot had gone, enough items remained intact for it be used – as it was for many years, becoming our best china and appearing on the white damask-clad table at birthdays and high days, with admonitions to handle it with extra care. Over the intervening years most of the cups have gone. The bone china was so delicate that if hot tea was poured in before the milk – as is often the case in the counties south of the River Trent – the cup cracked. Others lost their fragile handles. However, plates and saucers are more robust and quite a number have survived.
It is a very pretty design, fluted cups and plates with a green and yellow leafy floral pattern. Occasionally, over the years, I have half-heartedly tried to discover which pottery made it and whether it is of any value.
As the pattern is a transfer and not hand-painted, I have always been doubtful of it being worth very much in spite of its age, but interestingly I have never ever seen any more china with this design, unlike such popular traditional patterns as Wedgewood’s willow pattern.
Now, encouraged by my daughter, I decided to google Granny’s china and try to find out more about it. We had already decided that the design looked Edwardian. There is a crown stamped on the base with the word SHANDON above and the letters W.H. & S beneath it, followed by a letter L. A little detective work led us to the old pottery firm of Wildblood, Heath & Son who were producing china from 1899 to 1927 in the town of Longton, near Stoke-on-Trent. Googling “Shandon” – presumably the name of the pattern – didn’t help much, but we did find information that the letter “L” indicated manufacture between 1899 and 1910, so at least we now have a date as well as a maker. My grandmother married in 1912, which is why we surmised that this dainty tableware might have been one of her wedding presents.
My mother may have forgiven my father for his careless handling of this precious gift from her future mother-in-law almost eighty years ago, but hasn’t forgotten and tells the tale every time the china is mentioned, Maybe a little more Internet research will give us an idea of its intrinsic value, but for us that is totally irrelevant. What remains of it is displayed on Mom’s shelves and is a family heirloom, treasured by her descendants for its sentimental value and the tale of how Dad brought it to her.