Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Grandmother's Dishes

I'm not sure how to categorize this entry. I think it may fall into both Cooking and Genealogy, an interesting mix, I must say.

I grew up on a farm about six hours northwest of my current abode. In my sister's bedroom there was a sort of crude walk-in closet that was a bit of a catch-all for Christmas stuff, extra bedding, and a rough wooden box. This box was the home to Great Grandmother Patterson's dishes. I don't recall them ever coming out of the box when I was a child. However I do see from family photos, that once I was old enough to take an active part in preparing Christmas dinners, great grandmother's plates were resurrected into use once at least.

Family legend always said that Great Grandmother came from England and brought the set of dishes as her wedding present. Upon examining more closely, the info I have in my family tree research, I find this is quite erroneous.

Sarah Taylor was born in Elma Township, Ontario February 02, 1860. On December 25, 1874 she married John Mark Patterson in McKellar Ontario. You do the math – talk about your child bride! A year and a half later she had her first child – teenage motherhood is not a new phenomenon. The Pattersons were some of the earliest settlers in the McKellar area. The government was just opening up the bushland of Parry Sound District, offering free land to any hardy pioneers who wanted to tackle the wilds of Northern Ontario. The Taylors and the Pattersons had settled in southern Ontario in the mid 1800's as had most of my other forefathers and mothers. I've been to several of the present day prosperous farms, once owned by these hardy folks, and the question comes to mind, “Why on earth would you leave the lovely flat, deep soiled paradise, to wander into the wilderness of rocks and trees of Parry Sound?” Whatever was their motivation? Were they in financial stress in southern Ontario, was the offer of free bush enough to lure them, or were they just adventurous explorers?

Back to the dishes. A small insignia on the bottom of each dish offers the following information: 
Regal, Durability, JHW & Sons, Hanley, England, Semi Porcelain. The pattern is Regal, made by JHW & Sons (J.H.Weatherby and Sons), manufactured in Hanley, England.

The following is a brief history of the company, swiped from the website:

J.H. Weatherby & Sons(Ltd)

The J.H. Weatherby & Sons(Ltd), a family-run company was founded in Tunstall in 1891 and moved to Hanley the following year. Named 'Falcon Pottery', it was the base for their manufacturing and trading of earthenware, and was one of a number of similar potteries in Stoke on-Trent. 1906 saw the addition of a circular bottle kiln, typical of the time but becoming rather rare now.

It first made domestic ware such as printed toilet sets, trinket sets, vases, teapots, tableware and tableware fancies, jugs, fern pots and lidded chamber pots. Soon after World War I, Weatherby began to supply advertising ware to hotels and caterers and later to hospitals and institutions. In the 1920s and 1930s it experimented with modernist matt glazes and introduced Art Deco-style vases, tableware and fancies.

In 1934 it launched Woodpecker Ware tableware, which is highly sought after today, as it its Harvest Time tableware. After World War II the pottery introduced many new lines in giftware and fancies which are now collectable.These include figures and statuettes, toyware, animal models such as Zookies, dwarfs, Toby jugs and offbeat series such as Gonks and Dalek patterns.

During the 1950s, a number of companies began manufacturing ranges of animals, hoping that people would go on to collect several in a set. Wade introduced their exceedingly popular Whimsies - delicate, realistically-modeled porcelain miniature animals and birds - and a company called J. H. Weatherby & Sons Ltd. in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, decided to do the complete opposite, producing a series of sturdy comical animals which they called Zookies. An advertising leaflet from 1957 read, ` People who buy one, buy another and another and buy them for their friends too!'

Unfortunately the high costs of producing pottery in England compared to mass production elsewhere in the world forced the company into receivership.


So it is obvious that Great Grandmother did not get, bring or otherwise receive the dishes as a wedding present in 1874. From as near as I can figure, this set is probably from their early years, probably 1892-95. 
The surviving dishes that I have, include the following of what was undoubtedly a full set of twelve originally:
  • 9 large dinner plates
  • 11 salad plates
  • 12 bread and butter plates
  • 10 large soup bowls
  • 10 saucers
  • 9 cups
  • 6 fruit nappies
  • gravy boat and receiving tray
  • large sugar bowl and lit
  • cream pitcher
  • 2 oval tureens with lids (one with broken handle)
  • 1 medium serving platter
  • 1 large serving platter
I can only surmise that the full set may also have included a tea pot, salt and pepper shakers.

For years I have attempted to add to the set. I have watched Ebay since its infancy. We have visited every antique shop ever spotted on our travels. Not a single shard of Regal, JHW & Sons has ever come to light. And yet other similar patterns, of the same vintage and maker, appear with maddening regularity on Ebay and other such internet auctions. 
Do we have a unique set; I can hardly imagine it! Several collectors who have examined them, pronounce them average quality, serviceable semi-porcelain. In other words, china that would have been mass produced, for use by the middle class.  After all it is just a single colour (olive green) transferware pattern.

So Great Grandmother's dishes repose serenely in our china cabinet. Two or three times a year we lovingly pull them out to serve guests on (well there is a dangerous dangling participle if ever I've seen one). I always like to offer a brief history, prior to eating. It is immensely fascinating to see the flit of fear cross a face, when it is mentioned that they are dining upon irreplaceable, 117 year old china.

That brings me to the second part of this story. For many years Mom had an large old, oval, convex portrait of my great grandfather stored up on the top shelf of a closet. When we tidied up the farm house a few years back, the frame belonging to the picture mysteriously appeared as well. However there was no matching glass. So back to my favourite on-line auction site, Ebay. I was able to procure a reproduction glass and have it shipped. As well, amid all the old family photos there was a photocard,  from the turn of the century,  of Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother. It was obviously taken the same day and within minutes of the large single portrait, as Great Grandfather's pose and clothing is the same. Was a large oval one of Great Grandmother made at the same time? And if so, why was it separated from Great Grandfather's, and where did it go?

Two years ago an idea crossed my mind to reunite the two again and have them survey our dining room. Back to Ebay. This time I was able to get a complete, vintage frame and glass from the same manufacturer, as the original one I had for Great Grandfather. There was also an old charcoal portrait of an unknown couple included. Since the portrait was damaged, unidentified and from somewhere in the deep south, it did not survive. Then it was off to a local printer with the antique photo card to see what they could do about reproducing and enlarging Great Grandmother's rather stern features. Needless to say, the results are amazing. The fact that the print is a flat one, as opposed to the convex one of her husband, is not detectable at all, to anyone coming in the room. And it is somehow comforting to have the Greats watching over us as we partake of a holiday meal off their cherished dishes.  I think they would give their approval.

 Left: reproduced and enlarged photo of Great Grandmother, Sarah Taylor Patterson
          purchased vintage frame and glass
Right: original, oval, convex photo of Great Grandfather, John Mark Patterson(notice tear, upper left)
           original frame, purchased reproduction, oval, convex glass

And that is all I have to say for today

Musings and Meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. Interesting stuff. Aren't the whimsies what Gillian collects?

  2. We have one dinner plate in Regal by J H W & Sons, just as you've pictured. Recently received from a cousin who claims it belongs to our grandmother, married in 1910.

    1. Hello,

      Would like to talk to you about this, but have no email contact. Can you email me directly at


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My great grandmother, Rachel Lynde (1857-1898), also had a set of J. H. Weatherby & Sons china in the Regal pattern. Only two pieces survive: the large platter and a desert (salad) plate, which is chipped. She purchased the set in 1893 either in Whitby or Brooklin as those are the closest communities to their farm. I think the set was used every day after she died prematurely in 1898, leaving a family of ten, and that much of it had been broken or damaged by the time my grandmother inherited what was left of it in 1930. I surmise she kept the platter because it was useful and kept the chipped plate for sentimental reasons.
    I use the platter and I got it out this morning to use tomorrow. That sent me to the internet to see what I might find out about it. That's how I came to find your blog and the great picture of what other pieces from the set look like.
    Fred in Toronto

  5. Hi. I relic hunt in sugar cane fields in southern Louisiana. I often find pieces of broken pottery and glass. Today I found a piece with the same words and flag as your picture. That was what led me here........I know it's not much help to your search for complete pieces but thought you might find it interesting. chees Shane

  6. I have 2 platters, in the blue Belmont' style with the mark of a flag (durability) and JHW and sons, Hanley, England written underneath. Large meat plate and smaller one. Any interest in these?


Much appreciated comments from my friends: