Sunday, 24 November 2019

Large and Slow Service

I was told, by someone who caters for shoot banquets in the area, that posh china is required for visitors to Balintore Castle. The building, after all, is a shooting lodge. I did not need any convincing to ditch the IKEA plates and bowls, and hunt down such china as an auction challenge, as I had spotted that huge Victorian dinner services can go for a complete song. Interestingly, Greg had insisted I needed plain white modern crockery. You can't win! :-)

After missing out on a number of occasions, I finally bagged a late 19th Century dinner service for £20 on the 23rd July of this year. The china was in five cardboard boxes, and the auction catalogue photographs only partially showed the contents of one box.  It was going to be a gamble.

auction catalogue photo: 1 of 2

auction catalogue photo: 2 of 2
I was dreading the transportation cost to Balintore as the auction house is in Surrey, but as I was going to be in Oxfordshire imminently for a week, I booked the delivery for that week even though specifying dates comes at a price premium.

The dinner service never arrived, but the transportation company kindly agreed to ship it to Scotland instead, as they had missed the delivery window that I had paid for. In fact the service did not arrive for the next 4 months, and was left at the bottom of the castle drive in the dark and in the rain, only last night!

I was at my wit's end as the reasons provided for non-delivery throughout this period increasingly stretched credulity. I was left unable to determine whether these were fabricated excuses or whether life really is that strange. Having had to go through court actions for non-delivery of other items by transport companies, I was dreading more of this pain.  Anyhow, it was a huge relief when the china did arrive. I had to get a neighbour to help me move the china to the castle with his car, as I currently have no functioning vehicle. I had moved some of the china in a ruck-sack, but given the quantity it was going to involve many more hikes up and down the long and steep castle drive.

Here are some of the alleged reasons for non-delivery:
  • driver stuck in France
  • driver stuck in Norway
  • puncture
  • broken alternator
  • van un-fixable
  • van impounded
  • broken wrist 
Apparently, the last one goes as follows: the van hire company spotted the plaster cast on the driver's wrist and refused the rental. I was promised the driver would wear an anorak on the next trip to the hire company. :-) Given all of these hurdles, one has to admire the tenacity of the transport company.

Anyhow, I washed and counted the dinner service and assessed the condition. Miraculously, there was only a single casualty of the transport: a side plate had split in two. Aside from this, there were just two historic cracks (you can tell from the staining) and one historic repair.

the entire dinner service

large bowl 15
large plate 38
small bowl 8 2 cracked
small plate 11
side plate 12 1 split
outsize serving dish 1
large serving dish 2
medium serving dish 1
small serving dish 1
tureen 1 historic repair

I thought it would be interesting to date the service. The mention of SPODE and COPELAND dates it to after 1847 see here.  The lack of an impressed date-mark puts it to before 1870, see here. The COPELAND mark (without &SONS) implies before 1867, see here. The style of the COPLAND mark implies 1851 to 1885, see here.

So amazingly, with limits of between 1851 and 1867, the service belongs to the same era as the castle (1860). Naturally, these deductions could be way off. You have to pay a fee to the Spode Archive in Stoke-on-Trent to date your china, so perhaps someone reading this blog, can assist? The pattern number is 9499.

this COPELAND mark indicates 1851 to 1885

inside tureen lid

bottom of large bowl - is "J" the artist?

tureen - lid does not really fit

edge detailing

centre detailing


  1. China does not go in dishwasher, so now need scullery maids, and underfootman and will be upstairs downstairs and Talley-ho! ;)

    1. :-)

      Judging from the gilding losses, they might have indeed gone into dish-washers!

  2. Beautiful! We have been accumulating Grindley "the Beatrice" 1880s--grandma's) & now have service for 28 (thanksgiving...) Love old china!

  3. Hi Nancy, delighted to hear someone else values old china too, and particularly that you have started with your grandma's service. :-)