Friday, November 13, 2009


I find peculiar satisfaction in old stuff.  Anyone who's been reading The Blog for a while is entirely too familiar with the couches and trays and furnitures that belonged to my Grandmother and now reside in my lounge - some call it too tight to fork out for new stuff - I call it filling my home with antiques (or "recycling" when I'm in an environmentally friendly mood - you see now I want to expand on being in an environmentally friendly mood and move that into a call for a No F*rting Day (and add a few jokes about hubby exploding). But NO. That would be Crass. I am writing about Old).

Of course my most favourite old things in the world (apart from mumndad) are my teacups.  They are all handmade bone china and were produced in the UK by a company called Shelley China between 1882 and 1966.  The company was then sold and all the moulds for the teacups were destroyed.  This means that no more teacups could ever be made - and attempts to recreate the moulds since have failed. 

*I'll note for the purists that the company was originally named Wileman and it became Shelley China in 1910.

This teacup, which has a backstamp that dates it between 1910 and 1916, is one of my oldest.  The shape is called Gainsborough and the pattern is glamorously called 7084.  The artist has signed the back with their unique mark, which is `x`.

Because it is hand painted, if you look closely there are spots where the gold guilding has missed a bit, or a delicate dot is slightly off line.  This is what makes me love these cups the most. The mistakes. I think about the artist working in the factory a hundred years ago and wonder what they were thinking, or if they were chatting. Is that dot out of line because they were distracted, upset, excited, tired.  Did they mutter a curse, but decide to leave the mistake anyway, or simply not care less. Who was `x`?

The other thing that charms me is wear on the guilding in the centre of the cup, where a teaspoon has gone around and around.  Who held that teaspoon? What was her life like (I always assume her)? This cup has survived two world wars, imagine the things its seen and the experiences of the people who's fingers wore away the guild on the handle.

I also wonder where the cup will go next. This one, I think, may become an heirloom, and maybe it'll be passed from my daughters children to their children. Perhaps one of them will break it and have to keep the accident a secret so she doesn't upset her mother.  Now that would amuse me.

I'm not one for locking treasures away.  My teacups are here to be used and I am quite resigned to them breaking.  The dresser in my kitchen looks like this... (sorry the light is awful for photography today)

And when I have guests I invite them to pick their favourite cup to have their tea in.  Kids as well. I have half sized or demi-tasse cups for them to use.  My mum always, but always, picks the one that has a dead fly in it - sigh. 

Of course my girls have their own favourites - and this is one of the main reasons I started collecting in the first place - so that as they grow up we have a firmly established tradition of drinking tea together and talking, the cups are just an excuse to do it really.  Hubby has his own cups as well, less lavishly decorated, but still sleek and beautiful. 

So yes. Old. My Teacups. There you have it.


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Psych Babbler said...

That's nice! I reckon if I had antique tea cups though I wouldn't be game to use'd be put on show on the cabinet! :p

Caitlyn Nicholas said...

Oh NOES Psych babbler - set your teacups FREE :)

Being Me said...

My grandmother passed her precious tea set down to me with the strict instruction to "USE the thing!" It's currently in storage :( You've inspired me to crack it open and give it a fitting scones and tea number when we finally move back in to our extended home. Thank you!

Yours is a beautiful set.

Anonymous said...

I have a beautiful tea set coming to me as an inheritance (one day, hopefully not soon) - its handed down to the oldest grand-daughter in each generation. I treasure it in anticipation already and maybe I will be game enough to use it.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! I am fan of old tea cups and have a small collection that were my mum's and Grand mum's. I have two Noritaki dinner sets as well! I have mine in a cabinet and only on the rare occasion get them out!


Lizzie :-)

Jen said...

beautiful cups and I love the image you paint of the life that the cup may have had. I will never look at old tea cups the same again :)

alliecat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alliecat said...

Exquisite! I love that old things could tell a story too.

alliecat said...

Exquisite! I love that old things could tell a story too.

Jen said...

beautiful cups and I love the image you paint of the life that the cup may have had. I will never look at old tea cups the same again :)