By Gerry Kline
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, April 2006
England's "Torquay" pottery has become a popular collectible in recent years and many people are requesting background information on the potteries; the type of decoration and the period in which they first appeared. The "Devon Motto Ware" is by far the most popular of the Torquay wares in the United States and Canada. However it's unbelievable how popular the Torquay "Art" pottery is today.
The patterns, quaint rhymes and proverbs have attracted public attention in the twentieth century and still in the twenty-first century the pottery continues to delight visitors seeking souvenir items. It has a country look that you will adore!
Collectors can gradually distinguish between the older and newer pieces with a little knowledge of potter's marks, patterns and the type of clay used. In 1867 the local, dark red clay was rediscovered by its owner, Mr. G. J. Allen. An astute and educated gentleman, he had the clay chemically analyzed. Once his suspicions were confirmed that the clay possessed unique qualities, he erected a pottery on the spot and named it Watcombe Terra Cotta Clay Company. Realizing the potential value of the clay and being able to take advantage of the current fashion for art pottery, many other pottery companies began springing up.
Classical vases were among the first popular pieces of art pottery produced, along with busts. As the demand for art pottery began to decline, potteries had to re-think, adapt, or go out of business. Holiday makers wanted bright, cheap, but pleasing local stylized souvenirs to take home with them.
Aller Vale Pottery was one of the fortunate potteries. Although never as sophisticated as some of its counterparts, its simple spirited designs had captured members of the Royal Family over a period of some years. The coveted "Royal" was added to their name and led to their wares being stocked by Liberty's of London. In 1897 the Aller Vale Company acquired the larger Watcombe Pottery. By combining the pottery companies, new life was breathed into Watcombe.
Many local people were decorators who tended to move around. They had been trained. However many decorators remained at a pottery the whole of their working lives. Children were sometimes hired also.
Briefly, the procedure began from the moment the natural clay dug from the local pits started its journey through a purifying and refining system until it was pressed and pliable and suited for potting. Plates and saucers were made on the jolly wheel; other articles were pressed into moulds. Finished articles were dipped .into a slip glaze. Motto Ware, the most popular, had its little proverbs or rhymes scratched through the ground slip so that the lettering showed up in the red color of the body. Artists worked horridly and after the pieces were dipped into a thick clear glaze, they were given a final firing. The workers were on piecework. They could engrave mottoes on seven dozen pieces in one hour. Their pay was equivalent to approximately 32 cents an hour.
The better known pottery companies included Watcombe, Aller Vale, Longpark, Lemon & Crute, Torquay Terra-Cotta Company, St. Marychurch and a few others. There were around twenty different pottery companies producing Torquay pottery.
Factory marks are either impressed, stamped with a black rubber mark, or scratched in the underglaze. Some pieces bear no markings at all; however many pieces carried code numbers.
Evidently the early Motto Ware carried inscriptions written in normal English but later an exaggerated Devonshire dialect was adopted to appeal to the tourist trade. Motto Ware got the reputation as being the "bread and butter" of the Devon pottery industry. Each piece is unique in its own way even though many bear the same decoration. because each is "custom made" being hand-made and hand-decorated.
Collectors can enjoy a wide range in collecting as there are many patterns from which to choose. The charming patterns include Cottage, Scandy pattern, multi and black cockerels, ships, daffodils, Kerswell Daisy and birds such as Kingfishers and Parrots. There are also many styles, such as vases, pitchers, teapots, ink pots, salt and peppers and trays. During the 1920's and 1930's, special orders for overseas were not uncommon.
The accompanying illustrations reveal the lively decorations on Torquay pottery.
My husband (Jerry) and I are Co-founders of a Club called the "North American Torquay Society" which was formed in 1990. We were North American Coordinators for the "Torquay Pottery Collectors Society" from 1982 to 1989; this Club residing in England.. You may refer to Schroeder's Antique Price Guide for more information on the pottery and the author of this article. I have been collecting Torquay pottery for 37 years and it has been a delightful experience; meeting collectors from the U.S., Canada and England.
The Torquay Society is planning to hold its annual convention in Pennsylvania in July 2006. It will be a very informative meeting with pottery for sale and display. Many knowledgeable members will speak and share their expertise.
If you are interested in learning more about the pottery or wish to join our Club, please send a No.1 0 SASE and an application form will be sent. Write Jerry & Gerry Kline or visit www.torquayus.org
If you have any questions, you can Email us at email@example.com
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