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Learn about and understand the items, manufacturers, designers and periods as well as the specialist terms used in describing antiques and collectables. Either click one of the letters below to list the items beginning with that letter, or click on a category on the left side of the screen to list the items under that category.
The George Wade Pottery was founded in 1810 in Burslem, England and during this early time, produced mostly bottles and related pottery items, then in the early 19th century, ceramics needs for textile mills.
In the 1920s and 30's production of figurines with a new 'cellulose' finish were produced. However the new finish proved to turn yellow and peel off with age. At the onset of W.W.II, production of all non-essential ceramic items ceased.
In the early 1950s, George Wade Pottery re-introduced their retail line of pre-war animal figurines, in boxed sets of five, marketed as 'Whimsies', and were very successful. Between 1953 and 1959 Wade produced ten sets of Whimsies for retail sale with the last five sets each having a theme.
During the 1960's Wade produced a new set miniature animals to be included as 'one free', in each box of party crackers or tea bags. And again in 1971, due to their popularity, Wade introduced a new line of Whimsies for retail sale, consisting of 60 animals in twelve sets, which was marketed progressively over the next 13 years in groups of five.
Since the 1950s, Wade has produced several hundred of these porcelain mini figurines in numerous sets. The range includes dogs, cats, birds, snow animals, pets, wildlife, farm animals, dinosaurs, nursery rhyme figures, circus figures, miniature houses, leprechauns, monks and even Disney animals.
All these figures are highly collectable and some are very valuable as they are becoming more scarce.
A wardrobe is a cupboard with space for hanging clothes. As an item of furniture as opposed to a separate closet, the wardrobe did not generally appear until the early 19th century. Until then, clothes had been stored in clothes presses.
Wardrobes may have between one and four doors, and sometimes have fitted drawers in the centre section and hanging space on either wing. The doors are often panelled, with a decorative figured timber panel surrounded by a moulded frame. The clothes hangers hung on rails or hooks, usually facing the front. Antique wardrobes are often too shallow to fit standard size wire hangers comfortably side on.
A Beaconsfield wardrobe is the term used to describe an Edwardian period wardrobe that has an open storage area in the centre top section, usually backed by a mirror, with externally visible drawers below.
Wardrobes have been made in most of the usual furniture timbers: oak, pine, cedar, mahogany, walnut and satinwood and the styles range from the plain and simple to the elaborate and ostentatious. Many were made as part of a bedroom suite together with matching dressing table and washstand. Some wardrobes were fitted with small drawers, shelves and cupboards down one side.
Essentially a 19th century development of the 18th century basin stand, the washstand had assumed a regular table form by about the 1830s, usually with a marble top and pot board beneath. The earlier timber top washstands had a timber splashback, while the marble top washstands usually had a matching marble splashback often with a small semicircular shelf for the soap dish, or a tiled splashback.
Many washstands had a hole cut into the top to contain the china wash basin.
Washstands were generally supported on pedestal, scrolled or cabriole legs, in keeping with the dressing table with which they were often made en suite.
Edwardian washstands like most furniture of the period were much more rectangular in outline, with squared corners and (Lassetter) fairly plainly turned legs. They sometimes had a cupboard below the marble top. The back was usually tiled, often featuring the Art Nouveau motifs.
Washstands were used until the 1920s.
Wassail is a hot mulled cider traditionally drunk as an integral part of wassailing, an ancient drinking ritual practiced in the apple growing areas of southern England, intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.
At night Victorians usually hung their pocket watches on special stands. Because the face was raised and visible, this had the effect of converting the pocket watch into a clock. Watch holders were made of many materials, including wood, china, metal, and bone, and some were of such an elaborate design that the watch itself was almost lost.
The Staffordshire factories made a variety of holders in bright colours and odd shapes.
A development of these was the larger stand which had a recess for a small clock with a watch like face. They might be in the form of a castle gatehouse, with a recess above the gateway, or of a milkmaid with one arm bent to form the recess.
Watch stands were supersed in the 1920's by the increasing popularity of wristwatches.
Waterford Glass House at Waterford in Ireland was established in 1783 by two local merchants, George and William Penrose. Glassmakers were bought in from England to head the company and products made from 1783, until the business closed in 1851 due to the high Irish tax on glass, account for its fame. Waterford glassware of this period was of heavy quality, colourless and with deep wheel cut decoration.
In 1947 a new glass manufacturing company was established in Waterford based on skilled European labour and in 1951 it was taken over by the Irish Glass Bottle company and renamed Waterford Glass Ltd.. Waterford purchased the Wedgwood group in 1986 and the group was renamed Waterford Wedgwood. In 2009 the group was purchased by a venture capital company that also owned the Royal Doulton Brand.
In July 2015 companies in the Waterford Wedgwood group were acquired by the leading Finish consumer goods company Fiskars, who also own the Gerber, Royal Copenhagen, Rorstrand and Arabia brands.
Wax was used by doll makers from the 17th to the 20th centuries. It enabled facial expressions to be skillfully captured, and Victorian wax dolls often represented children in the sentimental manner typical of those times.
Wax dolls are made in one of three ways: poured (into a mold); wax over papier mache or other material and reinforced wax.
Wax dolls did not shatter when dropped like ceramic dolls, but they are easily scratched, or nicked and rapid changes in temperature cause them to crack or distort. Due to the fragile nature of the material, wax dolls have not survived in large numbers.
The best known British wax doll makers of the 19th century are Charles Marsh (1865 - 1914), Lucy Peck (1891 - 1930), Pierotti (1770 - 1942) and Madame Augusta Montanari (1851-1884). Pierotti also supplied heads to other manufacturers. Due to the difficulty of including a permanent marking within the wax, where a manufacturer identified their products, it was usually by a paper label, many of which have come loose and been lost over the years.
Damaged wax dolls cannot be easily repaired, so damage to a wax doll will have a serious effect on its value. The few wax dolls which have retained their original skin tone and feature color, and have no crazing or scratches sell at high premiums.
Creamware, also known as "Queens Ware" is the cream-coloured English earthenware developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1760s. The invention of creamware was the result of experimentation in order to find a British substitute for imported Chinese porcelain, and the cream colour was considered a fault at the time. The lightweight fine white earthenware with a clean rich yellowish proved ideal for domestic ware.
Royal patronage boosted sales. In 1765 Queen Charlotte, the consort of King George III placed an order for a 12 place tea set and allowed Wedgwood to use the name "Queens Ware" for the line. In 1770 Wedgwood produced a creamware dinner service of 952 pieces supplied to Catherine II the Great of Russia.
Other potteries such as Doulton, Neale & Co. and Spode produced smaller quantities of creamware.
Creamware continued to be made throughout the 19th century and later.
Of all of Wedgwood's ware, the most highly prized and keenly sought are the company's range of Fairyland Lustre.
Fairyland Lustre was the name given to a range of ornamental lustre wares by "Daisy" Makeig-Jones (full name, Susannah Margaretta "Daisy" Makeig-Jones (1881–1945) who was a designer and artist for Wedgwood.
Daisy Makeig-Jones was born in Wath-upon-Dearne near Rotherham in Yorkshire, the eldest of seven children, and she came from a professional background.
After attending boarding school and studying the Torquay School of Art, she joined Wedgwood in 1909, aged in her late twenties. The first fairyland Lustre was produced from her designs in 1915.
Fairyland Lustre is characterised by bright underglaze colours, commercial lustres and printed figures (often elves and fairies), scenes and landscapes.
The wares produced fall into three main categories, most items being bowls, jars and vases of various shapes and designs of which there were about 32 designs), and not seen so frequently, plates and plaques, for which there were about 12 designs of each. The names given to the designs, reflected the subject matter, examples being "Willow Fairyland", "Imps on a Bridge and Tree House", "The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of", and "Firbolgs and "Thumbelina."
As production increased, Makeig-Jones took on an increasingly supervisory role. Consequently, She did not decorate some later Fairyland Lustre pieces and collectors should check that pieces bear her original monogram and not one from an engraved plate.
Daisy Makeig-Jones retired in 1931 and only one new pattern was designed after that date. Production of the range continued until 1941, and once all the stock had been sold there was little interest in the range until a revival in popularity in the 1960s, leading to a consequent rise in prices which has since been maintained, making Fairyland Lustre one of the most valuable and collectable types of Wedgwood porcelain.
A fine hard stoneware introduced by Wedgwood in 1744. It was made in various colours by staining with metallic oxides, the most common being blue, but also including black, lilac, olive, pink, sage or yellow and decorated with relief ornamentation usually in white, and in the classical style. Rarer pieces have three or more colours used in their manufacture.
As well as the larger and more common vases, plates, bowls and urns the technique was also used in the manufacture of plaques buttons cameos, portrait medallions and furniture ornaments.
Hans J Wegner (1914–2007) attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen at the age of 22 and worked as an assistant to Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen before opening his own office in 1943. The real beauty of Wegner’s genius must be seen in context with his collaboration with master cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen. The attitude with which Hansen accepted the young designer’s ideas was the perfect combination between designer and craftsman. Their collaboration went on for many years, and they presented their work at the Cabinetmaker’s show every year from 1941-1966. With his love of natural materials and his deep understanding of the need for furniture to be functional as well as beautiful, Wegner made mid-century Danish design popular on an international scale. With more than 500 different chair designs Wegner is the most prolific Danish designer to date. Wegner’s design went on to win worldwide recognition through the 1950’s and 1960’s and his furniture, in particular his chairs, are to be found in the permanent collections of the world’s most prestigious museums.
This type of chest was first seen in the 1820's and is characterised by their tall narrow shape, and usually with a locking flap on one side, which when closed, prevents any of the drawers from opening. They continued to be made in the Victorian period in mahogany, walnut and rosewood.
Some had a fitted secretaire occupying two drawer heights, but these are not considered as desirable as the all-drawer model. Due to their compact size, Wellington chests are keenly sought and command high prices. Because of the price differential, be aware that some secretaire versions may have been converted back to full-drawer models, the give-away being the new drawer linings in two of the drawers.
Wellington chests were also made in Continental Europe, and these are usually in decorative timbers, with gilt metal mounts, without a side locking flap.
Wembley Ware was the name given to a range of ceramic figurines and functional items produced between 1946 and 1961 in Perth, Western Australia by H. L. Brisbane and Wunderlich Ltd., whose primary business was the production of baked clay tiles and earthenware items.
The range, titled the "Fancy Ware Range", included Australian flora and fauna - koala, kangaroo, emu, fish etc., Aboriginal figures as well as functional items including vases, ashtrays, plates and bowls.
After the austerity as a result of World War II, there was a ready market for these new, decorative but non-essential items, whihc were sold by both mail order and in department stores..
The now unfashionable ashtray, often mounted with an animal, was a signature piece of Wembley Ware. Made in a variety of sizes and shapes, their range from the plain, circular ashtray to fancy types that were mounted with well, modelled figures or animals. Most of these are identified with a factory mark either printed or impressed in the base
Being an Australian company, many of the Wembley ornaments featured Australian fauna. Well modelled and naturalistically coloured figures of kangaroos, emus and koalas are all sought after. Less Australian, but just as collectable - and not as commonly found - are the penguin, tortoise and black cat.
A series of fish figures was also produced in the Wembley ware line, with the most common being the dhufish.
Amongst the more functional items, vases were made in a variety of stles and finsishes including tan-shaped, flared nexk and swan posy vase.
Other trade names used by the factory during several changes of ownership were 'Calyx Ware' and 'Bristile China'.
Wemyss ware (pronounced Weems) was first produced in 1882 when Robert Heron, the owner of the Fife Pottery in Scotland, brought a group of Bohemian craftsmen to the factory, one of whom, Karol Nekola, became Heron’s master painter. Nekola died in 1915 and was succeeded by Edwin Sandland who, in turn, was succeeded in 1928 by Nekola’s son Joseph.
The name Wemyss was given to the new style of pottery in honour of the Wemyss family of the nearby Wemyss castle, who were early and enthusiastic patrons of the ware. The most outstanding feature of the ware is the free-flowing and naturalistic hand painting.
Wemyss was fired at a low temperature in order to preserve the brilliance of the underglaze colours. The body is soft and therefore prone to damage.
Wares were initially sold through Thomas Goode’s china shop in Mayfair, London. A victim of the economic depression, the Kirkaldy factory closed in 1932, and Joseph Nekola moved down to the Bovey Tracey Pottery Company in Devon, which had been producing unmarked Wemyss-style wares since c1916.
Bovey Pottery also acquired many of the Fife Pottery moulds and the remaining undecorated biscuit pottery, as well as the rights to the goodwill in the Wemyss name.
One of Bovey Pottery's largest customers was London wholesaler, Jan Plichta, a Czech citizen who migrated to Britain in the early 1900s. As such, the items he purchased were marked with his name, and generally not with the Wemyss mark. Not all objects carrying the Plichta marks were made at Bovey Tracey as he is also known to have bought from The Elton Pottery of Thomas Mayer.
At Bovey Pottery, Joseph Nikola taught his apprentice Esther Weeks the techniques of painting Wemyss Ware, and after the death of Joseph Nikola in 1952 Esther Weeks became Head Decorator until the Bovey Pottery closed in 1957.
The Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd started producing Wemyss style pottery in the Wemyss home town of Fife in 1985. The Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd acquired the Wemyss Ware trade mark in 1994, and over the years the pottery has developed a range of Wemyss Ware which can easily stand alongside the originals.
A set of standing shelves for holding books, ornaments and whatever. The French term for this form is étagère. Georgian and Regency whatnots were usually square in form, with three or more shelves supported by finely turned spindles. There was generally a small drawer at the bottom. Some examples of red cedar whatnots have survived from colonial times.
Victorian whatnots, which are rather more common, were intended to stand in a corner. Usually triangular, they have staged or graduated shelves, supported by spindles and often with a fretwork gallery at the back of each shelf. They were often made in burr walnut, sometimes inlaid. Bamboo whatnots date from the late 19th century.
Usually the finials have a threaded wooden screw which fits into the matching threaded hole in column, so the units can be disassembled. Often at least one of the threads have worn, and to overcome this, the finials and columns have been glued.
William Morris (1834-96) was one of the key figures in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The firm of Morris & Co. produced various types of furniture, mostly designed in collaboration with others and had an important influence in breaking with the over-ornate, vulgar and derivative traditions of the Victorian age.
The furniture was always very well made and always with an eye to beauty and originality of design, however plagiarized and hackneyed it may have become later on. But it was furniture intended for the machine age, and as Morris himself wrote: 'It is the allowing of machines to be our masters and not our servants that so injures the beauty of life nowadays'. Words that are equally as applicable today.
There are two types of chair known as a Morris chair both named after the design or influence of William Morris. The first is a reclining easy chair with upholstered seat and back and padded arms. The adjustable back fits into a series of grooves along the extended rear arms. In Australia the nearest equivalent would be the squatter's chair.
The second is a rush or cane seated cottage armchair, called a Sussex chair, usually made from ebonised or stained timber and which continued in popularity until the 1920s.
The brothers Richard and Thomas Willis arrived in Melbourne in 1858, and soon established themselves as jewellery importers and wholesalers. Over the next decade they becoming manufacturing jewellers. In 1874, the partnership was dissolved and the firm T. Willis & Co. came into being in 1875, under the control of Thomas & V. J. Willis. During the rest of the century the firm prospered, becoming importers of clocks, silver and electro-plated wares, as well as being wholesale jewellers and silversmiths, with premises in Melbourne Sydney and Perth. In 1904 the company changed it's name to Willis & Sons Pty. Ltd. selling to retailers throughout Australia. The manufacturing side of the business was closed in 1931 and the company reverted to importing.
Although several potteries including Minton and Spode claim credit for design of the Willow pattern, the design is generally attributed to Thomas Turner of Caughley Porcelain Works in Shropshire, about 1780.
Whilst borrowing from the Chinese style, it was not a copy of a Chinese pattern.
The blue-and-white chinaware on which it appeared became immensely popular and the design was reproduced with variations by many English and European factories including Royal Worcester, Spode, Adams, Wedgwood, Davenport, Clews, Leeds and Swansea.
It was even copied in Asia, where it is still produced, with the wares being exported to Western countries.
The pattern portrays the garden of a rich mandarin whose young daughter elopes with his secretary. The lovers, overtaken on the bridge by her father, are transformed by the gods into birds and flutter beyond his reach. The scene with its willow tree usually covers the central part of a plate, dish, or bowl, with a border of butterflies, a fret, or other motif.
Traditional Willow pattern is in cobalt blue on white, though very occasionally other colours are used, such as purple or brown. The main part of the object contains the trees, houses, bridge, figures, and birds of the story and there is usually a fairly abstract pattern around the extremities.
The firm of Thomas Willson, cabinet makers and retailers was established in London in 1818 dealing in new and second-hand furniture. Some sources list the firm as furniture brokers only, but this is likely to be because the firm sold second-hand furniture, and overlooks the fact they also made new furniture.
A makers label on a Willson piece reads: "THOMAS WILLSON, Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer, & Co. 68 GREAT QUEEN STREET, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. Every article of furniture for the Drawing, Dining, Bed Room and Library of first-class make."
From 1830 to 1837 the business was run by Thomas Willson's wife Mary, and from 1838 to 1854 by their son Matthew.
The Windsor chair, the prototype of most stick or spindle chairs, has been made since the 17th century and is probably the strongest, most enduring and most influential of all the wooden cottage chairs.
With the spread of the British Empire, the Windsor chair has been taken in all its diverse forms to every corner of the English-speaking world. In Britain, these chairs have traditionally been manufactured in the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire, hence the alternative name 'High Wycombe chairs'. The derivation of the name Windsor is uncertain and suggestions that it was bestowed by George III, who ordered some, have been largely dismissed.
Loudon, in his Encyclopedia describes Windsor chairs as 'one of the best kitchen chairs in general use in the midland counties of England' and his general description is still one of the most succinct:
The seats are usually of elm, somewhat hollowed out; the outer rail of the back is a single piece of ash, bent to a horseshoe form by being previously heated or steamed. Its ends are then inserted into two holes bored though the seat and are wedged firmly in from the underside. An additional support is given to the back by two round rails which are also made secure by insertion in two holes formed in a projecting part of the seat.
The chairs were sometimes painted but more frequently stained. Quicklime slacked in urine and laid on the wood while hot, was also used to stain the timber a red colour, and Loudon remarks that 'this is said to be the general practice with the Windsor chair manufacturers in the vicinity of London'.
There are many varieties. Some, made during the 18th century, were fitted with cabriole legs, but the results were a somewhat curious melange. The back spindles may consist of simple turned rods, flat laths or slats, but many contained a wide central vertical splat, usually pierced with a wheel or after the fashion established by Chippendale.
The stretchers may consist of straight, rounded and tapering spindles, or be decorated with simple turnings. Some 18th century versions had steam-bent curved stretchers known as 'crinolines'. The chairs were made both with and without arms. At first, the arm rests were supported by curved timbers, though these were later replaced by the typical 19th century baluster turned upright.
There are many versions and varieties, most of them imported but some surviving from the days of infant Australian enterprise, before the market was flooded with cheap American chairs in the latter part of the 19th century.
As with all dining chairs, the more chairs in the set, the more higher the price per chair. Many "sets" of Windsor chairs are what may be termed a "matched set" or "harlequin set", meaning the chairs are not a true set but closely matching, and therefore should be priced below the level of a true set.
Silver, silverplate and Sheffield plate wine coolers (also known as ice buckets or ice pails) accomodate only one bottle and are designed to sit on the table, in contrast to the much larger timber versions which hold many bottles and sit on the floor.
Shapes vary from a plain bucket to a more elaborate vase or urn shape and often include an interior container to hold the ice and bottle, and handles to the side to assist on moving.
Most wine coolers were manufactured from around the 1770s to the Victorian period.
A cellarette is wooden container, either rectangular, round or sarcophagus shaped, the interior lined with zinc, lead or block tin, in which bottles of wine were cooled on ice in the dining room, prior to consumption. The interior casings were to prevent the ice-melt from leaking into the timber of unit.
The size and shape allowed it to be placed between the pedestals of a pedestal sideboard.
They are also sometimes called a wine sarcophagus, in reference to the shape of the top.
Many are mounted on castors to make moving easier.
The most common timber used in their manufacture was mahogany.
Stand-alone cellarettes were common in the 18th and early 19th century, before the function was incorporated into the body of the sideboard, in a "cellarette drawer".
Smaller versions, usually termed a wine cooler, were made in silver, glass and porcelain, and were designed to sit on top of a table or sideboard.
Wine funnells in silver, Sheffield plate and electroplate were mostly made between 1770 and 1820, their purpose being to remove sediment from wine decanted from the bottle to the decanter, or from the decanter to the glass.
Most wine funnels are one or two piece circular constructions with a fixed or removable strainer or gauze, or else an inner ring to hold a muslin straining cloth. They often also usually include a small hook on the rim.
A small pedestal table, usually on a tripod base, with a round or square top. Used as an occasional side table, and handy to place wine glasses.
A chair, usually upholstered, with extended wings on either side of the head rest, essentially to keep draughts away from the occupant. Introduced in the early 18th century they have remained popular ever since. Their other advantage is that they help to hide the sitter from view which is convenient for the reader who does not wish to be interrupted.
Among the most popular of the English porcelain factories among collectors is Royal Worcester. The Worcester porcelain company was founded in 1751.
The First Period of Worcester (1751-76) is sometimes called the Dr. Wall period after John Wall, one of the founders and major shareholders. During this period, Worcester was using the formula for soft paste porcelain which was obtained when they took over Lund's Bristol Porcelain works in 1752.
Worcester also introduced the use of transfer printing on porcelain in 1757, which reduced the need for hand painting which was time consuming and expensive.
In 1783 Thomas Flight purchased the factory for his sons Joseph & John. This period led to a change in the porcelain paste used, achieving a much better, whiter body. The style of decoration during this period became much more neoclassical in style.
In 1793 Martin Barr became a partner in the firm. As the partnership changed so did the names, Barr, Flight, Barr (1807-13), Flight Barr, Barr (1813-40).
In 1840 Worcester amalgamated with the Chamberlains' factory, also located at Worcester, but still producing from both works. Worcester eventually moved its entire operations into the more up to date Chamberlain's factory in 1847, becoming known as Chamberlain's Worcester. In 1852 W.H. Kerr joined the firm, which was renamed Kerr & Binns.
In 1862, it was renamed the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company, and more everyday works were produced.
In 1976 the company merged with Spode and the company reduced its staff from 2003 to 2005, with the company going into administration in 2008 and then ceasing trading in 2009. The trading name and brands (including Spode), but not the factories in Stoke-on-Trent, were acquired by Portmeiron Pottery Group.
A rectangular box, usually portable which, when opened, folds down to reveal a sloped writing surface. Usually equipped with small ink wells and pen holders.
Any small table, usually fitted with drawers and a flat writing surface, which may or may not be leathered.