Collecting Antique & Vintage Chintz Tea Cups
The Charm of Antique Tea Cups
We recently acquired an original Royal Winton Beeston Chintz Tea Cup for our store's vintage and antique chintz collection. It was so strikingly beautiful! I never cease to be amazed at the skill and the artistry of those long-ago hands that created such charming pieces. And with each new teacup, I find myself wondering: What have they been witness to? What joys were celebrated? What sorrows were comforted? What frustrations soothed? What would they say if they could talk?
What Is English Chintz?
An all-over, tightly grouped, multi-colored pattern, usually floral in nature
How to Collect Old Chintz Tea Cups
Collecting antique chintz teacups, or anything vintage, is always an adventure. Sometimes you'll find a bit of history or a rare treasure. Other times, you'll find a common piece that you really love. With chintz teacups, there are so many patterns and manufacturers from which to choose. So, how do you determine what to collect?
Some people collect chintz made in specific regions such as England or Japan. Others collect specific manufacturers such as Royal Winton, Shelley, Lefton or Ardalt. Some collect a specific pattern or stay within certain color/flower themes. So look around on the internet or read some books such as Chintz Ceramics by Jo Anne Walsh. Decide what appeals to you and what doesn't. However, our best recommendation is to choose teacups you love. This is our top deciding factor in acquiring new pieces and we offer the following simple guidelines for your consideration.
- First and most important, choose what you really love and will still enjoy 10-20 years from now.
- Don't collect for value or profit. Chintz teacups or anything vintage are like fine art. It will only be as valuable as the consumer demand for it. A teacup purchased for little money may never be worth much except to you or it may someday be valuable to collectors. Conversely, a teacup in high demand and highly priced may eventually lose value if the demand for it goes down. So again, buy what you love.
- Finally, make memories with your collection. It's easy with teacups! Make sure you have tea parties with your collection: big, small or even just you. Celebrate joys, comfort sorrows, sooth frustrations, share your life and enjoy your teacups.
Resources for Collectors
If you're serious about getting into chintz, I recommend , which is a great book for beginners. This excellent reference deals with English chintz manufacturers. It gives some very nice history along with the identification of several chintz patterns, back stamps, and shapes. As with other references, any valuations should be weighed against the fluidity of the market, which is influenced by demand and availability. The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Chintz
I also recommend the . This is a comprehensive reference on chintz patterns, shapes, and rough dates of production. It's extremely helpful and lovely to browse! It also includes a list of resources for further research. Shelley Chintz Reference Book
A Note on Collecting Antique & Vintage Chintz Tea Cups on eBay
If you already have a collection or you're looking to start one, eBay is a universal garage sale and a good place to look. It can be a great resource for adding to your collection, but you can end up with both good deals and duds. Know what you're purchasing and be careful who you buy from.
The Wileman Shelley Pottery
In a nod to all those wonderful and dedicated Shelley collectors, I'm including a history of the Wileman Shelley pottery. The Shelley pottery was prolific in producing a large variety of very fine patterns in fine bone china. As the Shelley Pottery, it operated from 1925 to the late 1960s. However, the pottery got its start under Henry Wileman. Around 1860, he was producing earthenware products at the Foley pottery in Staffordshire, England. He started a second pottery center for the production of fine china which became the Shelley pottery.
The Shelley name comes from Joseph Shelley who joined the Wileman family as a salesperson. In 1870, Joseph became a partner with James Wileman, Henry's son, in Wileman & Company. James ran the original earthenware pottery and Joseph focused on the fine china pottery. Joseph Shelley worked hard to produced the finest-quality china and expand foreign export. His son, Percy, joined the business in 1881.
Percy Shelley brought in top artists and litho designers thereby improving the appearance of the fine china wares. He was so successful that the reputation and demand for Shelley wares grew both at home and abroad. Both Wileman and Shelley wares are still avidly collected today and the value of many patterns remains high.
Upon the death of his father, Percy took full control of the pottery and ran the company for about 50 years. Around 1910, he became involved in a legal battle over the name "Foley", the name of a pottery region. After losing, he renamed his pottery Shelley around 1925. Thus the Shelley brand was born.
As is true of other major English chintz manufacturers, production and creativity were greatest from the 1920s through the 1950s with a brief drop in the years surrounding World War II. In 1966, the company was sold to Allied Potteries.
Wileman Shelley collectors have at least three collector's clubs accessible online with a wealth of information on history, shapes, patterns, and back stamps.
Online Club Sites:
The Grimwade Brothers Pottery
One of the most successful chintz producing potteries, Grimwade Brothers, began in 1885 at the Winton Pottery, Stock-on-Trent when Leonard Grimwade invited his older brother Sidney to join his manufacture business. Sidney was a potter, however, it appears that Leonard was the enterprising force behind the prosperity of Grimwade Brothers. He was described by business associates and employees alike as a man of vision, energy, and generosity.
His company grew quickly receiving patents for a number of innovative products including the Paragon coffee pot with a removable strainer, a Safety Milk Bowl and a Quick-Cooker Bowl. Earthenware for the kitchen, toiletry, hospital, nursery, and table was produced by the company. The chintz ware for which the company is well known may have been produced as early as 1913 in more traditional patterns such as Jacobean ware, Hampton chintz, and Spode Chintz. These patterns were large and widely spaced.
Today, we generally associate chintz with smaller closely packed patterns. The first chintz of this nature produced by Grimwades was Paisley in 1923. However, the pottery's first major success with a "modern" chintz pattern was the design of Marguerite in 1928. This pattern is said to have been inspired by a design Mrs. Minnie Grimwade was working on a cushion at the time. The success of Marguerite was followed by numerous new chintz patterns during the next 20+ years. Some patterns remained proprietary to Grimwade such as Julia and Welbeck, while others were sold for use by other potteries such as Rose Du Barry.
Although Leonard Grimwade died unexpectedly in 1931, his company flourished for many years. By the 1960s, due to a number of factors, the market for chintz ware had dropped off. The Grimwade company was sold to Howard Potteries in 1964 with the Royal Winton trade name kept intact. Various company buyouts proceeded over the years with the Royal Winton name still remaining. As far as we know, the latest company to trade as Royal Winton is still producing chintz ware. There are 12 patterns available with some of the most popular original chintz designs reintroduced in the 1990s.
Royal Winton chintz continues to be a favorite with collectors. Listed below are some excellent resources available for those who wish to explore the rich history of Royal Winton.
The above brief summary was gleaned from Collecting Royal Winton Chintz by Muriel M. Miller, Francis Joseph Publications 1996 which is available on Amazon below.