Wednesday 8 April 2009

Thatched cottage biscuit barrel, 1930s

Here’s something that I picked up recently at Alfie’s Antique Market in Marylebone, where you can immerse yourself in decades of twentieth century design. It’s a piece of Carlton Ware, (pattern no.806) part of a set known as cottage ware which included a honey pot, cheese dish, milk jug etc along with the biscuit barrel.

Carlton Ware was originally a trade name of the pottery firm Wiltshaw and Robinson which was founded in Stoke on Trent in 1890 and subsequently changed its name to Carlton Ware Ltd in 1958. Between the two World Wars, supplementing their high end output, the firm found a good deal of success with novelty and other ranges of bright and cheerful tableware aimed at the popular end of the market. The registered design number on the biscuit barrel (778973) puts it to 1932.

There can be few more iconic symbols of the English countryside than the thatched cottage and its associations with the rural picturesque that go back beyond the nineteenth century. In truth, it was a humble, poor man’s dwelling but yet an object of desire when viewed from an urban perspective. The reality of the countryside in the early 1930s, deep in agricultural depression, was that many thatched cottages were falling into ruin but yet the cosy symbolism remained.

Thatched roofing today scores highly on status value, the more so as interest in sustainable materials has increased. It is also high maintenance and not without controversy as owners, conservationists, planners and thatchers argue about the ethics of using cheaper and more convenient imported materials, instead of the home grown and ‘traditional’.

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