04 September 2011

More on Dating Spode Pieces in the early 1800s

Backstamps on a plate decorated with Portland Vase pattern
The statistics for these pages show that most people visit to find out about dating pieces of Spode, Copeland & Garrett and Copeland - all names for the same company; and to learn about backstamps (company marks). Since writing this blogpost I have created a dedicated page on the subject - just click/tap How Old Is My Spode

Dating Your Spode Pieces was my first blogpost on the subject and was published on 6 Jan 2011. It has information about dating pieces with examples of Spode backstamps. 

There are hundreds of recorded backstamps for Spode wares in the history of the company so I will add occasional information about different ones. The best book for Spode backstamps is detailed at the end of this blogpost.

The backstamp from a plate decorated in Portland Vase pattern printed in green is at the beginning of this blogpost. It shows a printed mark (in the same green as the pattern is printed in) as well as an impressed mark.

The impressed mark was stamped into the clay by hand when the plate was first made, prior to it being fired when the clay was still malleable. At this period in ceramic manufacture blank, undecorated pieces once fired could be stored for some time before they went on to be decorated. In this particular case there was a company name change between the manufacture of the blank undecorated piece, marked with the Spode name, and the decoration of the piece when it had received its first (biscuit) firing!

This is how to put together the backstamp and pattern information to date the plate. Spode marks in various forms were used up to the change of ownership to Copeland and Garrett in 1833. The Copeland and Garrett partnership dates from 1833 to 1847. The Portland Vase pattern was introduced in about 1832. So the Copeland and Garrett mark must be post 1833 but having the Spode mark too suggests a date at the beginning of the partnership of c1833, rather than later, which also fits with the date of introduction of the pattern.

Another image here shows a Copeland & Garrett backstamp and number 7487. This time it is printed underglaze in a blue-green and dates from c1838 to 1847. The pattern number 7487 is handpainted in red onglaze. This pattern number was first recorded in the pattern books in about 1846 so with the two marks together the piece can be dated to c1846-1847. The other impressed mark like an O is probably a workman's mark and can tell us no more.

Note that dating can rarely be accurate and most dates given will usually be prefixed with the word about or the symbol c.
Backstamps can sometimes be very difficult to decipher as can just be seen in the image above which shows a printed mark on a piece of Copeland and Garrett agate ware.

Generally until well into the 20th century all backstamps were applied by hand whether printed, handpainted, impressed or embossed and human error can creep in. Wrong numbers have been applied the pattern number perhaps in a moment of absentmindedness; the S of Spode can be omitted in error from a printed backstamp giving a maker of PODE!

With impressed marks the angle of the hand tool can be held too acutely and so part of the backstamp is missing. This all adds to the fun of detective work when reading the backstamp on Spode wares. 
Poorly applied transfer printed Spode backstamp
Spode & Copeland Marks and Other Relevant Intelligence by Robert Copeland; published by Studio Vista; 1993, 1997 (2nd edition revised and enlarged); ISBN 0-289-80172-9