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.






4 thoughts on “Mysterious Galleon Vase – Charlotte Rhead?

  1. So good to see this site! Quite refreshing! What is wonderful about Charlotte Rhead pottery is there are always nice surprises around the corner; as I am convinced her talent is infinite! About the Iris charger, had I known, would gladly have paid double. Alas!

  2. Hi Peter,

    Just found your website. It’s great to see that there is still interest in Rhead pottery.

    I’m sure that this is a Rhead piece. The rest of the Charlotte Rhead items in the same auction appear to have come from the estate of Rose Cumberbatch (nee Dickinson), who was one of Charlotte Rhead’s tubeliners at A.G Richardsons. There was an Iris charger in one of the other lots that featured in the 1980’s Pottery Ladies programme on Charlotte Rhead and in the 1986 exhibition – Rhead – Artists and Potters. This was an item tubelined by Charlotte herself, not commercially produced and the pattern piece was bought by Rose for her own collection. The same may well be true of this vase, as the tubelining is such high quality. Perhaps the auctioneers could confirm if it came from the same source? They appear to have known little about what they had. The £1400 realised for the Iris charger lot will have come as a great surprise to them, I’m sure!

    Best wishes, Simon.

    1. Hi Simon

      Many thanks for your message. I think the vase has to be by Charlotte – the motifs, style and quality of it all point to her. It’s interesting what you say about the Rose Dickenson connection; I shall indeed investigate further as I’d love to find out more about her. I have to say I find it odd though that the auctioneers weren’t more clued up as to what they had, but at least it’s clear that there are people out there who know what they are looking at!

      Thanks again, Peter

    2. Hi Simon…

      It did indeed come as a surprise to them….and unfortunately it was also a surprise to me that £1350 was not enough to get it!


Any thoughts? Your views are welcome!