Tag Archives: Charlotte Rhead

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.

Frederick Hurten Rhead: America’s Greatest Potter?

Frederick Hurten RheadThe suggestion that Frederick Hurten Rhead ‘has a claim’ to be America’s greatest potter was made by an Englishman – Bernard Bumpus – who suggested it in the April 1986 edition of The Antique Collector magazine. For someone based on this side of the Atlantic it was perhaps a bold thing to say, however the key phrase he used was ‘has a claim’; so although I’m sure there are other opinions on who should have that title, I think it’s worth exploring FHR’s work further as little appears to be known about him in his native land. His emigration to the US came when when he was only around 22 years of age, just as his career was developing, so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that he’s a bit of an unknown quantity here.


Foley Faience Queen of Hearts Plaque Frederick H Rhead
Foley Faience Queen of Hearts Plaque Frederick H Rhead

Given his early departure, there are relatively few examples of his work to be found in Britain – it’s really only the Wileman & Wardle pieces that turn up. After serving his apprenticeship under his father, Frederick Alfred Rhead, (at Brownfield’s), Frederick Hurten also joined him at Wileman & Company when the senior man was appointed art director there in around 1897. With his brother Harry, Frederick Hurten became proficient in the technique of tube-lining and decorated many pieces, including the wall plaque shown to the right. The brothers began to train their younger sisters, Charlotte & Adolphine (Dollie) in the process too, with the results being seen in the numerous tiles they produced. Charlotte of course went on to make a career out of tube-lined design, so her success can be traced back directly to this crucial period and her eldest brother’s influence.

SAM_6402Remarkably, aged just 19, Frederick Hurten gained an appointment as art director himself – at Wardle & Co, emphasising  the fact that he was already highly adept at pottery design and decoration. It was a small firm at the time, and there is evidence that he was still under the wing somewhat of his father, however it was here that his trademark style began to emerge (see the small gallery below). As ever, the Rheads kept thing in the family, and it wasn’t long before Charlotte & Dollie also began decorating for Wardle – often decorating lines designed by Frederick Hurten.


Frederick Hurten Rhead - An English Potter in America Book
Frederick Hurten Rhead – An English Potter in America

He was only at Wardle for three years however, before emigrating to America to pursue his career there. There is some speculation as to the reason behind this unexpected move (aged just 22), with Bernard Bumpus suggesting that Rhead’s marriage to Agnes, a worker from the factory floor at the pottery, was not to the liking of his family, so he wanted to make a clean break. In her excellent book ‘An English Potter in America’ (published in 1986), Sharon Dale is of the view that the move was purely a career decision, with Rhead feeling that there were greater opportunities to be had in the burgeoning American pottery industry, rather than the established one in Stoke on Trent. Whatever the reason, it was the making of him, as he went on to have a long and successful career in  the US.

FHR’s first post was at the Vance / Avon Faience pottery in Tiltonville, Ohio, with a former family friend, William Percival Jervis credited as having got him the role there. Rhead picked up almost exactly where he had left off, with tube-lined designs becoming the trademark of the pottery – although common by that time in England, the technique was relatively new in America. There are many similarities between the Avon pieces that he designed and that of Wardle – some examples are shown below. His use of scripted verse on decorations was also retained, and this probably stems from his Staffordshire background in England, where it had been used on pottery for generations.

Jap-Birdimal - Weller Pottery Frederick Hurten RheadBy early 1904, Frederick Hurten Rhead had joined the S.A. Weller pottery in Zanesville (also in Ohio) – probably due to it being a larger concern and therefore providing more opportunity for recognition. His time there however did not involve a senior role; although he was designing, he was not employed as an art director. Sharon Dale suggests that he was not entirely happy there, although his designs continued to be successful. It was the ‘Jap-Birdimal’ range that he is best known for at Weller, and as you can see from the image to the right, his familiar motifs are there. These items attract high prices today, (in America it should be said – they are relatively unknown over here), so keep an eye out for them! Despite this success, he didn’t last a year there and soon joined Roseville Pottery, where he was to stay until 1908.

His major influence at Roseville was not so much in decoration, but in the transformation of the shapes that the pottery produced, with more functional and less elaborate forms being introduced – possibly to allow for easier decoration. He was an artist first of course!

Rhead was responsible for five key lines at Roseville – Olympic, Crystalis, Fudji, Della Robbia & Aztec, with some examples shown above.  The Della Robbia name of course is well known in England as an influential art pottery based in Birkenhead, which FHR was known to have been a fan of, although the Roseville versions are not really comparable with the output of the earlier English pottery.

In 1908, Rhead left to join his old colleague, WP Jervice, who had set up his own works in Long Island. They shared a common vision and examples from the pottery continue to show familiar Rhead traits, such as tall trees. Whilst there, he also wrote & published ‘Studio Pottery’, which proved an influential and interesting record of the period and practices of the pottery industry. Writing about pottery led him to move to the faculty of the People’s University, at University City in St Louis in 1909, where he began teaching the craft in a newly set up ceramics department. It was here that he produced perhaps his most famous ‘art pottery’ work – a four panel tile, (52cm square) depicting a peacock (shown above). It was produced in conjunction with his wife Agnes and was installed in the house of Levi Burgess in Zanesville – a long time friend of Rhead’s. The panel sold at auction in 2012 (in New Jersey) for £325,660 ($495,000) plus commission.


Arequipa VaseFrederick’s next venture was to set up a new pottery as part of a sanatorium for female tuberculosis victims in the San Francisco area – known as ‘Arequipa’. The idea was to provide therapeutic support to the patients, however despite early success, Rhead wanted to increase the commercial possibilities of the pottery. This clashed with the sanatorium’s motive to keep it small and to contribute positively to the health and well-being of the women, and Frederick was ‘moved on’ in 1913, when he had another short-lived time at the Steiger Pottery in the same area.

Following that, in late 1913 he move to Santa Barbara in California and set up his own business, which became known as ‘Rhead Pottery’. Whilst the quality of the output was well-received, Frederick’s commercial acumen was not considered a match to it and the pottery struggled before eventually folding in 1917. It produced many examples, such as the one shown here and continues to be collectable. Following this, FHR moved back to Zanesville, taking up a role with the American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO), and this signalled a move back to working for a larger organisation, rather than a small, independent concern that struggled with combining artistic creativity and commercial needs. He was to stay here for ten successful years, working largely in the manufacture of architectural and bathroom tiles.

Fiesta WareFrederick Hurten Rhead’s large major role was with the Homer Laughlin China  Company in Ohio, where he stayed from 1927 until his death in 1942. It was here that he produced the range that finally made him an icon of American pottery design – Fiesta. This was a dinnerware range that continued to be produced long after his death, and it draws its essence from the popular Art Deco shapes of the 1920s. He went to actively influence the growth of low-priced, domestic tableware across America and remained passionate about it to the end.

Frederick Hurten RheadIn a career that started with producing elaborate art pottery in England to functional, but well designed tableware in America, Frederick Hurten Rhead certainly made a difference. If it’s true that he left Britain to escape the wrath of a disapproving family, there’s no evidence that he was permanently estranged, (especially as Harry followed him over, and he was visited by his father, who tried but ultimately failed to establish his own career in the US). On top of that, FHR forged a successful career in some important potteries and ended his days far more famous in America than any of his family were in Britain. I find it odd therefore that more isn’t known about him here. He’s often confused with his father – obvious perhaps given their shared christian name – but hopefully that will change and he will get the respect he deserves on this side of the water.



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!


The Rhead-Cronin Collection: Tiles

As a follow up to my previous blog on the recent Rhead-Cronin sales in Exeter, this post will focus on the remarkable tube-lined tiles that came up for auction as part of the collection. I think I’m right in saying that it set a new record for the sheer number of individual Rhead decorated tiles sold in a single sale. It must certainly have set a record for the highest hammer prices in a single sale! In all, there were 44 individual tiles (some sold as combined lots), with the ‘cheapest’ selling for £190 and the most expensive for £15,000.

Possibly the most interesting thing about the tile collection was that it backed up Bernard578_£190 Bumpus’ theory that the majority of these items were produced as gifts for friends and family of the Rheads, rather than for commercial sale. Whilst there were examples that have been seen before, such as some of the Dutch figures and the galleons in sail, there were many that were completely unknown previously, including one of a baby boy that can only have been a personal gift to mark a Christening. We know that several tiles were found following the death of Charlotte’s sister Dollie in 1981, (at her home in Stoke-On-Trent), but this particular set of tiles had remained in the family, in Devon, so were all new to the market. They were perhaps even more unique, as some were actually signed by Charlotte to the back – something Bumpus had not come across during his extensive research.

Charlotte & Dollie Rhead
Charlotte & Dollie Rhead

For those who were not aware that Charlotte Rhead ever decorated tiles – she is, after all, better known for her pattern designs on vases and chargers etc – some background. It was her father, Frederick Alfred Rhead, who encouraged her (and Dollie) to decorate tiles at home, whilst they were still relatively young. He provided the ‘blanks’ for them to practice on, and they essentially learned the basics of tube-lining on these items. Charlotte of course went on to specialise in the process, however Dollie was just as skilled at it and later covered for her sister during for a spell at Burgess & Leigh. We know from the tiles in this sale that they were all (probably) produced around 1910, since some are dated as well as signed. It was during this period that Frederick was involved in the ill-fated Barker, Rhead venture, with his partner F.H. Barker at the Atlas Tile Works. Whilst they concentrated mainly on printed tiles, they also produced some tube-lined art nouveau themed tiles for local shops and businesses. Barker,Rhead was to fold in around 1910, but it seems that the sisters continued to decorate tiles beyond that, certainly until circa 1912, when Charlotte joined Frederick at Wood & Sons. During this period, she also worked at other tile manufacturers, but this most likely involved producing more ‘simple’ designs for commercial sale.

Charlotte Rhead
Charlotte Rhead (c.1910)

The Rhead-Cronin tiles all appear to have been home-produced, as most are in their original oak frames, suggesting that were intended as gifts. Some of the examples in the sale came with original artwork, such as watercolours or sketches – often produced by Frederick, but also some by Charlotte’s brothers and uncles. It’s clear that Charlotte used these pieces of art as the basis of the tile decoration, so it again points to them being a ‘leisure’ pursuit at home rather than commercial work. A natural conclusion to seeing these tiles all together, is that they essentially form Charlotte’s apprenticeship – her talent is obvious and one can see from these examples how she went on to have a successful career. She was 25 years of age in 1910, and just about to begin designing patterns full-time at Wood & Sons.  Although some may seem quite basic and child-like at first glance, the tube-lining technique on tiles was not an easy thing to master. The more elaborate tiles are proof that she became an expert.

L Rhead signature on a tube-lined tile
L Rhead signature on a tube-lined tile

The sale also included some tiles decorated by other Rheads – notably Frederick and Louis, but it is Charlotte’s that grab the attention for me. Of course, it may be that some of them were actually decorated by Dollie, but I believe the majority were Charlotte’s.  As I’ve mentioned already, some of the tiles are signed – either with L Rhead (the ‘L’ being for Lottie, as that it is what she was known as at the time), or just the initials ‘L.R.’ I find the L Rhead signature most interesting, as it is the original of  the familar facsimile signature seen on her professional work later on. These tile signatures are in her actual hand, unlike those on the later pieces. The fact that several tiles in this collection had some form of signature on them highlights their importance in relation to other examples found previously – there can be no doubt as to who produced them, and when.

I’ve included a gallery of my own pictures below featuring most of the tiles sold, along with their hammer prices. I am indebted to all at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter, and especially Nic Saintey, for giving me the opportunity to view & photograph the Rhead-Cronin collection prior to the sales. It was a great experience and I thank Nic for all his help.




The Rhead-Cronin Collection

Pair of facing ladies in caps Lot 547Now that the dust has settled on the remarkable sale of the Rhead-Cronin collection, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick out a few of the highlights. The second of the two auctions ended this time last week, at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter, and it’s probably fair to say that the collection exceeded expectations all round.

Christening Mug for Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin
Christening Mug for Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin

To give some background for those unaware of it, the collection was made up of a large number of items produced by several different members of the Rhead family, including paintings, engravings, ceramics and assorted ephemera. It had belonged to a  late nephew of Charlotte Rhead, Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin, who had lived in Honiton, Devon. His mother was Marie Rhead, Charlotte’s sister, who because she was not involved in the artistic pursuits of her family, was relatively unknown – (Bernard Bumpus mentions in his book that Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine had six children, but does not mention Marie by name). The items put into the sale had been held by this branch of the family for many years, so essentially, they were all new to the market. From a collector’s point of view, any ‘undiscovered’ pieces such as these are the holy grail. I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Exeter for a sneak preview of the collection prior to the sales and it was a unique experience. To see the breadth of items included, not to mention the quality of the majority of it, was (and excuse the hyperbole) staggering!

The first sale took place in December 2013, and consisted of items that are perhaps more familiar to casual collectors of Rhead pottery. There were several Crown Ducal pieces, as well some nice early Wood & Sons Bursley examples. Perhaps the most appealing lot was a Burleighware Fruit Set, which appeared to have been designed by Adolphine ‘Dollie’ Rhead (another of Charlotte’s sisters), as it featured her facsimile signature to the reverse side. I’ve previously blogged about this set – click here to read it, but it is of particular interest as the pattern has never been seen before. The set (minus the ginger jar shown below) had a hammer price of £210 – which was a bargain for whoever got it!

Burleighware 'A Rhead' Fruit Set
Burleighware ‘A Rhead’ Fruit Set

Charlotte Rhead Watercolours - Native American SquawsOther highlights included a lovely Bursley Ware ewer in the 456 Pomona pattern, selling for £240 + fees and a pair of water-colour sketches of Native-American squaws, attributed to Charlotte Rhead, which formed the basis of a design for tube-lined tiles that she completed later, (£480 + fees). As you can see from the image on the left, the ‘Aztec’ pattern that later appeared on Charlotte’s design for Crown Ducal is evident. Finally, there was an interesting teapot, designed by Frederick Hurten Rhead for Wardle in around 1900 (£65 + fees). Again, these items do not come up for sale often and would no doubt have attracted interest from American collectors, given that he spent the majority of his working career over there.

Hidden away towards the end of this sale was a small collection of family photographs and small watercolours, one of which was by another of Charlotte’s sisters, Katherine. The gems in here were the photos though, as they included early ones of Harry and Dollie, but most intriguingly one of Charlotte herself. I think it was taken in around 1910 when she would have been 25, and she has a small dog on her lap. Photos of Charlotte are very scarce – she was notoriously a shy and private person. All the photos that we do know of show her not looking directly at the camera, and in this one, she (sort of) is!

The second sale, which took place in January 2014 contained the more unusual (and valuable) items, including a great number of pictures and sketches as well as some framed tube-lined tiles and museum quality ceramics. Although the focus of this site is clearly ‘pottery’, it’s worth recording some highlights from the pictures sale, as there were some great examples. Having never really paid much attention to the art produced by the family, I must say I was blown away by some of the paintings in this collection. Having always associated Frederick Alfred Rhead with pottery, it was a surprise for me to see the quality of some of his paintings – perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a shock given his undoubted talent, but I think it was because I just hadn’t seen it before. The sale also featured some work from Frederick’s brothers & children. For some examples, see the small gallery below, (all prices shown are excluding commission):

FA Rhead Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Vase The ceramics section of the sale was perhaps the most exciting (for me anyway), and it got away to a stunning start, with one of the first lots reaching a hammer price of £17,000 – against an estimate of £1500 – £2000. It was an amazing pâte-sur-pâte vase by Frederick Rhead, probably for Minton, depicting an angel holding a large bowl and some text around the bottom taken from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It is in fact linked to one of the pieces of art shown above, from which it draws clear inspiration – the question is, did both pieces go to the same buyer?! Following that lot, I think everybody in the room realised that any bargains were going to be few and far between, with many hastily re-assessing their budgets for bidding on the rest of the sale. Or perhaps that was just me……

Bretby Vase - Charlotte RheadOne of the biggest surprises of the collection was a vase by Bretby – not a name one would associate with the Rhead family. It featured a galleon in full sail, which (funnily enough) is something that you would link to Charlotte Rhead. So, why did Charlotte decorate a Bretby vase? I still don’t know and it has baffled other collectors that I’ve spoken to. Nic Saintey of Bearnes has asked the same question in his excellent series of blogs – answers on a postcard please! This vase sold for just £200 plus fees, perhaps reflecting some damage on it, but in hindsight, this looks like a very good price. The chances are that there isn’t another one anywhere else in the world.

Wardle FH Rhead Vase The main part of the sale contained a large number of tube-lined tiles, mainly by Charlotte, which I shall write about in a later blog as they deserve further discussion. For now though, I’ll finish with this lovely vase produced by Frederick Hurten Rhead for Wardle. It is a tube-lined decoration featuring two turtles and the words “Two tired turtles trying to trot to Tutbury”, signed and dated to 1902. This was just before he left to begin life in America, so was possibly one of the last examples of his ‘English’ work. It sold for £1,150 plus fees. Again, it would be intriguing to know where this ended up – did it stay here or follow Frederick across the pond?


As I’ve mentioned above, I’ll write more soon about the Rhead-Cronin tiles, but in the meantime I’d like to thank everybody at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (especially Nic Saintey) for giving me the opportunity to get up close with the collection. I will be eternally grateful!








Unique Rhead Burleighware?

Adolphine Rhead Unidentified Burgess & Leigh PatternWell – my previous blog asked the (slightly rhetorical) question, ‘Where is the Burleighware?’. Remarkably, something intriguing has recently come to light on this subject. I have just received some photos of a possibly unique pattern, produced at Burgess & Leigh in the late 1920s. There doesn’t appear to be any reference to it in the Bumpus books, and certainly no pattern number, but the design is unmistakably Rhead in style. It’s almost possible, in fact, to create a tick-list of Rhead motifs: clouds, birds, pomegranates, geometric borders, leaves and branches etc etc………

Perhaps even more interestingly, it appears that the pattern is not one of Charlotte’s, or even her father’s, but was actually produced by her youngest sister, Adolphine (or Dollie) Rhead. Whilst this can’t be confirmed with absolute accuracy, I think it is very likely, given that it has emerged from a collection known to have belonged to Dollie’s nephew. Additionally, the jar in the photo above has a signature on the base which is almost identical to the ‘L Rhead’ facsimile signature used by Charlotte on Burleighware, but it shows an ‘A’ instead of an ‘L’. Another piece with the same pattern also has a date of 1928 on it, which coincides nicely with the period Dollie is known to have ‘sat in’ for Charlotte at B & L, whilst Charlotte took an extended holiday to America to visit her brothers.

Adolphine 'Dollie' Rhead
Dollie Rhead

Bernard Bumpus gives the impression that whilst Dollie was a very competent tube-liner and decorator in her own right, he doesn’t mention that she may have actually designed as well. She had the same apprenticeship as Charlotte and was certainly proficient enough to cover for her older sister for a short period, but she spent most of her working life in nursing. It’s remarkable therefore that if she did come up with this design, she was more than a match for many of the other full-time pottery designers of the period.

It is entirely feasible that Charlotte did actually come up with this pattern and it just A Rhead Fruit Setnever saw the light of day commercially. It may even have been a joint design with Dollie, who was given the honour of having her name on it. Given its background, was it possibly a present from Charlotte to Dollie, to thank her for looking after her job whilst she was away? I’d love to think this was the case!

All speculation of course, and we may never know, but it’s another new talking point. When I set this website up, it was with the intention of uncovering previously unseen patterns and sharing them, since I believe there are still many more discoveries to be made. I don’t believe this particular pattern has ever been seen before – please tell me if I’m wrong and you have a suite of it in your sideboard!


(With special thanks to NS at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood for the pictures and background information).

Where is the Burleighware?

Burleigh Ware 4347 New Vine

As someone who has bought & sold more than his fair share of Charlotte Rhead pieces, I have always wondered why examples of her  work for Burleighware are so hard to come by. Given that she was employed by Burgess & Leigh for around five years, one would expect to come across more items, yet they remain the most elusive. My question therefore, is ‘where is it all’?!

As ever, pretty much all we have to help us understand why there is this scarcity of Burleighware are the Bernard Bumpus books – there is little information elsewhere. There are clues in the books, which I’ll come on to later, but I’m hoping that by putting the question out there, we may get to learn where in the world it has ended up!

I thought it might be an interesting experiment to take a snapshot of Charlotte Rhead items currently available on eBay.co.uk, since this is probably where most pieces are bought and sold on a regular basis. Having just done this (on Sept. 23rd 2013), the results are shown below:

Pie Chart eBay

FactoryNo. of Items
Wood & Sons / Bursley Ware10
AG Richardson / Crown Ducal107
HJ Wood Bursleyware41
Not Charlotte Rhead17

A simple search for ‘Charlotte Rhead’ in the Pottery, Porcelain & Glass category threw up a total of 206 items. I’ve removed the listings from the total that included things like books, Frederick Rhead pieces and the figurines produced by the likes of Kevin Francis, to leave a total of 182 individual items, calling themselves ‘Charlotte Rhead’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this is eBay, 17 of them were pieces of pottery that had absolutely nothing to do with Charlotte (or indeed Frederick) – keyword spamming is alive and well! What is clear however, is that Burleighware is the least common and that the market is swamped with Crown Ducal pieces.

Whilst the Wood & Sons / Bursley Ware numbers are also low, I think this is down to people being unaware (or unsure) that items they may have are designed by Charlotte Rhead. Once the practice of having a signature on an item (facsimiled or not),  was introduced during her time at Burgess & Leigh, it naturally became easier to identify a Rhead design. The snapshot gives a great (if not surprising) insight in to just how much Crown Ducal ware is available when compared to the other factories – more than double the amount of the next most prolific, HJ Wood.

Bernard Bumpus does provide a few insights as to why Burleighware is relatively scarce; the main one being that there was a lot of focus on utility tableware, with Charlotte producing a large amount of relatively plain and simple designs for tea sets (or ‘sandwich sets’ as they were known at the time). These were often stamped with alternative marks, including for the retailer Lawleys, so it is again understandable that these items aren’t always linked to Charlotte, especially as not all items in the service carried the L Rhead facsimile signature.

We also learn from Bumpus that there were tensions behind the scenes at Burgess & Leigh, when Harold Bennett was employed as a designer in 1929 (two years into Charlotte’s time there). Whilst he was working ‘alongside’ her rather than above her, Bumpus suggests that Bennett felt a little threatened by Charlotte in terms of one of them potentially becoming the next Art Director – she was the more artistically talented, whilst he was proving most adept at turning out the utilitarian designs for tableware. This rivalry eventually led to Charlotte deciding to leave, reportedly in unhappy circumstances. Perhaps this awkward atmosphere affected production?

The wall plaques that Charlotte produced for Burgess & Leigh are among the most sought after. They were produced in limited numbers, purely down to cost, but they were also technically superior to the majority of the other items, including the decorative vases etc. Whilst the fact they are so scarce is understandable, it doesn’t really explain why everything else is so hard to come by.

So – the challenge is set. Check your Grandma’s loft and let me know if she has any of Charlotte’s Burleighware pieces………

The Cosy Pot

726 Fruit Trellis Cosy Pot Charlotte Rhead

One of the more curious items to have come out of the Wood & Sons / Bursley Ltd era was the ‘Cosy’ pot – a supposedly non-drip teapot that came in various colours & sizes.

The design itself was patented worldwide by Edmund William Abram in 1921. He claimed that it was ‘the perfect teapot’, although it was eventually also marketed as a coffee pot so as not to narrow the market for it. By all accounts, it was non-drip, although I must confess I haven’t tested it!

The licence to manufacture them was initially given to a number of potteries, but Wood & OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASons produced the majority; (Booths and Pountney’s of Bristol were amongst the other companies that manufactured the pots).  Abram’s company – Abram Allwares Ltd – unfortunately went into liquidation in the mid 1920s and Wood & Sons took over the patent registration. They continued to produce them until around 1932 and the ‘Cosy’ is usually found in some of the more popular patterns, such as Frederick Rhead’s Trellis, Chung, Yuan and Mikado, as well as Charlotte’s Seed Poppy and Bursley pattern 726 (shown at the top of the page).

Orange cosyThey were made in different sizes – the example shown at the top is the smallest one, standing at approx. 12.5cm (5″) high, intended presumably as a ‘tea for one’ pot. I have seen two other sizes (6.5″ & 8″ tall), but understand there may also be larger ones. The bigger pots tended to come in plain colours – one of them being a very bright orange, but they can also be found in pretty dull shades of brown. The examples that fetch the best money are understandably those in the tube-lined patterns, such as Trellis & Seed Poppy. I think it’s odd that a complicated design such as Seed Poppy was used on such a functional item; the majority were given the standard, plain tableware designs. Perhaps it was just a marketing thing, with the colourful versions being used in advertising and at trade fairs – I suppose that would explain why they are harder to come by.

Whilst the pots are not hard to spot given their shape, if you come across one anywhere and are unsure about its authenticity, then it’s worth checking the backstamp – they differed from the standard Wood & Sons or Bursley Ltd marks in that details of the Abram patent are printed in some detail, as well as the name of the manufacturer. An example of a Wood & Sons stamp is shown in the gallery below.

If anybody has actually made a pot of tea in a Cosy – I’d love to hear how it went…..



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 http://www.rhead-crownducal.info for the additional information).

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


The Best of HJ Wood: T.L.37 Daisies

H.J. Wood T.L.37 Daisies Lamp Base Charlotte RheadJust a quick blog post here to put on record my love for one particular pattern – T.L.37 Daisies, produced for HJ Wood in the mid 1940s. Charlotte designed it towards the end of her career (and life), a time when some have suggested she was losing her ‘inventive spark’ and ability to come up with fresh ideas. Well, I think this pattern is an exception. Whilst some of her trademark motifs are there – e.g. the pattern borders and leaf design – the use of daisies is new. There were plenty of other stylised flowers on her Crown Ducal & Burleighware patterns, (roses, peonies, hydrangeas etc.), whilst tulips and poppies were widely used in her early career at Bursley Ltd; but, unless I’m mistaken, this is the first out and out daisy pattern.

Charlotte’s work during her second stint at Woods is often overlooked by collectors; perhaps because there were relatively few patterns when compared to her time at the other factories, but mainly (in my opinion) because it doesn’t always grab one’s attention – again, when compared to her earlier work. You can understand where the view came from that she had run of ideas when you look at T.L.3 Trellis for example, but if you take a fresh look at some of these later designs, I think they stand up there with her strongest output. The examples shown below are winners in my book……

The best of them all though has to be T.L.37. It isn’t overly complicated but has plenty of colour and style. Every home should have one!