Category Archives: Crown Ducal

Charlotte Rhead Reproductions…. or Fakes?

repro4I’ve tried to avoid the whole Charlotte Rhead reproductions / fakes subject so far in these blogs – largely in an effort to just ignore it, but there appears to have recently been an increase in the number of items coming on to the market with a claim that they were ‘designed by Charlotte Rhead’ – including the monstrosity shown here. I’ve also received a few enquiries and valuation requests in recent months for pieces that are not actually Rhead designs; so have had to pass on the bad news to their owners who had either bought or inherited them and believed that they had something of value.

Perhaps I should firstly make it clear that I’m not on some kind of crusade here (OK, maybe I am a bit….). It isn’t my place to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t buy, so if you should own one of the items examples shown here (or similar) and you like it, then no problem! What I object to however is an item being passed off by a seller as a Charlotte Rhead pattern, when it actually had nothing to do with her. It’s no surprise that eBay is the usual venue for this malpractice, but alarmingly, I’ve also seen some supposedly reputable auction houses at it too. The purpose of this post therefore is to help put the message out there so that people can make an informed choice when buying.

The big dilemma in this area is whether to use the word ‘reproduction’ or ‘fake’ when describing items. I have no hesitation in using ‘fake’ when describing the items shown below.

These items were produced relatively recently (perhaps they are still being churned out in fact), and carry a printed backstamp that combines the AG Richardson Crown Ducal mark, and the HJ Wood Bursleyware stamp used on Charlotte Rhead designs. It is wrong on so many levels, and that’s before we even get to the actual designs on the pottery!

There are plenty of examples of the correct backstamps here – but I’ve added images below of the original stamps that the above are derived from:

I’m still not entirely sure where these items were made, but it’s a fact that neither Richardson’s (Crown Ducal) or HJ Wood had anything to do with them. Likewise, the designs on them are nothing to do with Charlotte Rhead – being neither copies of her original designs, nor subsequent imitations of her style – which is why I don’t like the word ‘reproduction’, a term sometimes attached to these items. All I’d say is, be careful when buying these things, either at a fair, at auction or online. The wall plaque shown in the gallery above is currently for sale on an American website for more than $300, which is a price you’d expect to pay for a good quality, genuine Charlotte Rhead piece in one of her rarer Crown Ducal patterns. Even if the seller is unaware of the item’s authenticity, don’t fall in to a trap and pay that sort of money for it. Some further examples of these horrors can be seen here.

The following group of items are commonly seen for sale on eBay with the name ‘Charlotte Rhead’ featured prominently. I wouldn’t class them as ‘fakes’, as they are genuine Crown Ducal pieces, produced in the 1930s, at the same time that Charlotte was at the factory. She did not however design them. The sgraffito technique was not something that she practised and coupled with the fact that any pattern numbers bear no resemblance to those recorded for Charlotte Rhead, they can be discounted as being her work.

Once again, if they appeal to you, buy them – but be aware that they are not Rhead designs, despite the best efforts of certain sellers to convince you that they are.

Similarly, the examples shown below, although produced for Crown Ducal, are not Charlotte Rhead designs. Some sellers will put two and two together (i.e. date specific Crown Ducal stamp + art deco design/shape) and attribute something to Charlotte. It may be entirely innocent in some cases, but I’ve seen several listings that explicitly state that they were designed by Charlotte Rhead in the hope of gaining a higher price. Don’t fall for it! If unsure, look for a pattern number on the base and compare it to the recorded Rhead numbers for Crown Ducal.

Possibly the least obvious examples in this area (see below) are those produced by Richardsons / Crown Ducal long after Charlotte had left the works, but appear to have some trademark Rhead motifs in their design. They make no claim to be by Charlotte Rhead (in terms of backstamps and/or pattern numbers), but they are often mistaken as being so by sellers given their similarity in design. I would class these as ‘reproductions’, and as long as they are advertised as such then fair enough. At the risk of repeating myself, buy them if you like them, but know what you are buying……

I’m aware that all this may appear a bit of a minefield to the uninitiated – and apologies if this post appears to preach somewhat. As I said at the beginning, I’ve stayed away from the subject so far, with a view to not wanting to give these items any unwarranted publicity. My aim is just to help potential buyers make the right decisions in terms of collecting genuine Charlotte Rhead pieces.

I’m happy to help if you are unsure about any item you’re considering buying – just contact me here and include a link if possible if the item is for sale online.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám & Charlotte Rhead

Edmund DelacOne of the most unusual (and therefore most sought after) Charlotte Rhead patterns depicts her interpretation of a scene from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. This collection of poems was produced by Edward Fitzgerald in the mid 19th Century and was his translation of some verses written by Omar Khayyám, a Persian poet, mathematician & astronomer (1048-1131). It proved very popular when first published in 1859 and influenced a number of significant figures of the time, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and other artists, who contributed their bespoke illustrations to later editions. Whilst it is felt that some of the translations were not entirely accurate and true to the original text, as a collection it is clear why it captured the imagination of artists in the late 19th century, with its romantic & classical themes tying in with the pre-raphaelite and later movements. But how, you may ask, does 20th century pottery designer Charlotte Rhead come in to all this?!

The answer lies (as it often did with her work), in the influence of her father, Frederick Alfred Rhead. He was another of the 19th century artists to have been inspired by The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, and painted his own scene from the book – ‘When the Angel with his Darker Draught Draws up to Thee’, from verse 48 (shown above left). Following this, he went on to produce a stunning vase for Minton carrying the same image in pâte-sur-pâte decoration. This vase (also shown above), as well as the original painting, sold recently as part of the Rhead-Cronin collection – with the vase going for £17,000 plus fees. Any holistic view of her patterns will show that Charlotte was not afraid to re-produce ideas or use inspiration from her family’s illustrations when designing ceramic artwork – from the early home-produced tube-lined tiles and right through her time at the various potteries that she worked for.

Omar mugHer Omar pattern (#4036) was produced whilst she was at AG Richardson (Crown Ducal) in the 1930s, and appeared on a variety of items. It was displayed at the British Industries Fair in 1935 and was something of a departure from the floral patterns that she was best known for at the time. The pattern features a seated male underneath a tree (as per the image at the top of the page), with tube-lined text reading ‘Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough A flask of wine A book of verse and Thou’, taken from one of the more popular verses in the Rubáiyát. There isn’t really a comparable pattern of this style by Charlotte Rhead, certainly on commercially produced pottery, so it is intriguing as to why she produced it when she did. One possibility, and it is purely my own guess(!), is that it was some form of tribute to her father, who died in 1933 whilst Charlotte was at Richardsons. Regardless, it is an attractive pattern and one that if you see, you should buy!


Charlotte Rhead Crown Ducal Trial?

Crown Ducal Trial Vase Charlotte RheadOK, here we go with another unconventional recent find. This is a strange one as it is clearly a trial piece – featuring a previously unseen pattern, as well as some colour variations and even notes written on the vase itself. Whilst there are no distinguishing marks – apart from the number incised on the base (173), which is a known Richardson’s / Crown Ducal shape – there has to be little doubt that Charlotte Rhead was somehow involved!

The obvious giveaway is clearly the decoration, but then there is also the orange ‘sponge’ finish to the ground, the tube-lining and also the colours used. What is most intriguing is the word ‘Robinsons’ (or ‘Rob’) that appears in a few placesSAM_0462 around the base of the vase, along with various numbers. I am assuming that given their location they are a reference to different colours – pantones if you want use the posh word – that have been used in the pattern. There was however a company around at the time – W.E. Robinson & Son, of Burslem – who were involved in the supply of clay and elements involved in pottery glazing, so perhaps it was a reference to their products.

It is a pretty rough and ready item, with unfinished tube-lining and patterns throughout – it even appears to have two different colour schemes on either side of the vase, right down to the orange colour on the rim and the base that stop half-way round. What is unmistakable however is the decoration itself, which carries echoes of other well known patterns by Charlotte Rhead. I’ve started a short list, but points are on offer to anybody who can think of any more……….

I’ve included the image of 4926 here as this is the pattern that the vase reminds me of most, in terms of the swirling scrolls around the central panel. They would have been produced at similar times – which came first is anyone’s guess! What is interesting is that several different elements of known patterns seem to be involved.

I’ve added some further images below in a gallery format, which will hopefully provide a better illustration of the various things at work on this vase. At first glance, it looks as though this was a ‘practice’ piece, perhaps for a newly arrived decorator who wanted to have a go at perfecting their technique before getting to work on the real thing. What makes it more than that however, (in my opinion), is that there are clearly efforts made here to come up with a new pattern, possibly for commercial release. On top of that, there are the colour (or materials) references, which perhaps signify some work going into perfecting the most effective and attractive finished product. It all adds to the intrigue, conjecture and debate, and illustrates further that there is still lots more to find out, not just about Charlotte herself, but also the production techniques at the factories she worked for.

(NB. Thanks to Ian at for the additional information).

This unique vase is now available to buy! Click here for details.


Mysterious Galleon Vase – Charlotte Rhead?

Galleon VaseHaving just found an unusual item, I thought I’d share it here. Everything about this Galleon vase points to it being a Charlotte Rhead design for A.G. Richardson (Crown Ducal), but it is missing some vital signs that would confirm it – there is no Ducal backstamp, pattern number, decorator mark or facsimile signature. Despite all that, I shall attempt to outline my view that it is beyond all reasonable doubt that this is an authentic Rhead piece!

The first clue (apart from the obvious tube-lined decoration), is that it does carry a shape number – an incised 161 – which tallies with a known Crown Ducal vase number. The incised numbering practice (as opposed to the moulded versions) was used on earlier shapes, which would date the vase to somewhere between 1932 & 1936. I’ve included a photo of the number in the gallery at the bottom of this page – although it is very feint, it is readable and matches the ‘lettering’ style of other similar Ducal items. The shape number relates to a Ducal vase which measures approx. 21.5cm tall. The item in question actually measures nearer 23cm tall, but as they were all hand-made individually, there was room for error in some items.

Before looking at the actual decoration itself, it is worth mentioning the background colours – notably the yellow at the top, green at the bottom and even the orangey/red central design of the hills behind the ship. They are all finished in a mottled effect, sometimes referred to as ‘sponged’, which was commonly used in Charlotte’s work for Richardsons, especially on patterns such as 4015 Patch & 3274 Stitch.

When it comes to the main design, I think it stands out a mile as a typical Charlotte Rhead motif. FH Barker Rhead & Co Tile Galleon Charlotte RheadLarge ships or galleons appeared regularly in art deco design and appear to have been a particular favourite  of Charlotte’s. Examples appear on the very early tube-lined design she decorated on an FH Barker Rhead tile, (shown left), as well as re-appearing later on in her career on a Burleighware wall plaque, (pattern 4118). Burleighware Wall Plaque 4118The ship on the plaque is almost identical (despite facing in the opposite direction) to the one on the vase, down to the green vertical bands in the main sail to the orange and red chequered pattern at the bottom of the sails.


Other interesting things to note are the echoes of other Charlotte Rhead Ducal patterns in the design of this vase. The outer sails have a similar look of 3274 Stitch and the hills that form the background remind me of 4036 Omar. This doesn’t of course immediately mean that it must be Charlotte Rhead piece – one of her tubeliners may well have copied an already used pattern – but I think that the actual ‘elaborateness’ of the design as a whole points to it not being by an imitator or a humble paintress!

The final and perhaps most compelling argument comes from the known Crown Ducal Pattern of 3191 Galleon. This design featured on items intended for the American market and was created in 1933. It is a relatively plain design in only two colours and it was not commercially available in Britain, which is where most of Charlotte’s most popular (and decorative) work was sold. My theory therefore is that this variation was produced with a view to it being sold here alongside her other decorative wares for Richardsons. There are similarities between the two patterns – notably the blue trailing mast flag and the central mast itself. Bernard Bumpus mentions that some designs were made that were not given pattern numbers, perhaps because they were one-off trials, samples for Richardson’s travelling salesmen, or simply because the manufacturing costs would prove too costly to be financially viable as a going concern. If that’s the case I think it is a shame that it wasn’t used more widely, as it is a stunning design and different to much of Charlotte’s other Crown Ducal work, which tended to be floral based!

It all adds to the mystery that still surrounds much of Charlotte Rhead’s work and gives us all hope that there are still many more undiscovered pieces out there somewhere, waiting to be found……

This unique vase is now available to buy! Click here for details.