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.

2 thoughts on “Charlotte Rhead Reproductions…. or Fakes?

  1. I agree with your reasoning about the signatures. Just wondering whether Charlotte’s authenticated actual signature is recorded anywhere in case I come across a piece she worked on in person whilst at Richardson’s?

    1. Hi Helen – thanks for your message. The only signature we can be sure is Charlotte’s own can be found on a few of the tube-lined tiles she completed before she began work at Wood & Sons in around 1912. An example can be seen here: L Rhead Signature Note the ‘L Rhead’ signature – she was known as Lottie by most who knew her at the time. If anybody else knows of the existence of another signature (especially one on paper), it would be great to see!

Any thoughts? Your views are welcome!