Crested China , what is it?
As an avid collector of crested china miniatures, this is one of my most favourite subjects! In essence, these items are holiday souvenirs from British seaside towns, many of which are now antique.
Taking a vacation in Britain in the late 1800s, one wouldn’t travel very far. Mostly families would take by bus or train to the nearest popular seaside town, such as Blackpool, Brighton, Southsea etc. The china artifacts were created as a souvenir to take home from to remind you of your vacation.
W M Goss (William Henry Goss, 1833-1906) was the owner of Falcon Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, he along with his sons Adolphus and Victor were credited to making “Crested China” popular.
The items take all forms, from ashtrays, bowls, teapots, cups, butter dishes, animals, trains, cars, musical instruments, shoes, monuments, cottages, military items and more. What they all have in common however, is the official crest (or heraldic badge) and name of the town, village or county.
Goss took the ‘historic’ theme a little further, by creating replica artifacts that were featured in various museums around Britain. Each is described on the base.
Their maker’s mark is very specific – a black stamp with Falcon bird logo with text of W M Goss.
This ewer has the crest for Southsea, the seaside resort at the south of the island of Portsmouth. The model is from an early English ewer dredged up in River Yare, now in Yarmouth Museum No 495671.
In 1995, I was seeking gifts to bring to my Canadian cousins for a visit. I hit a gold-mine when I discovered a worldwide centre for crested china right in my tiny village of Horndean. Known as Goss & Crested China Ltd., Specialists in Heraldic Porcelain. Their website description reads….
“Established in 1970 the Goss China Club have been the leading dealers in Heraldic Porcelain and we are the leading authority on the subject, having published the definitive encyclopaedias for both Crested and Goss China and numerous other books.”
It is said that by late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Goss china souvenirs were immensely popular. An estimate of at least 95% of homes had a piece of Goss Crested China on their mantelpiece, tallboy or whatnot. WWI caused a decline, in 1929 the Goss family sold their factory which continued to produce souvenir-ware until the end of the 1930s….. More information.
Other popular makers were: Arcadian China, Willow Art, Grafton China, Charlton China, Swan China etc.
My personal collection was very specific – small vases, no larger than 2″ from my favourite villages and towns. Special places where I went on holiday as a youngster, where my parents were born, or lived, and small country villages in Hampshire near where I lived. My collection is not ‘pure’, I prefer Goss items when available, but will take a good ‘other-brand’ if it is a village name on my wish list.
Visiting the village store regularly between 1995 and 1997, when I moved to Canada, I had collected most of the village names I needed. I even have one marked Dominion of Canada…. unfortunately one item on my wish-list, which I am still seeking…. is the village of Portchester, where I was raised.
Portchester village, in Hampshire, is one of the oldest in our area, with a fort that was constructed 3rd century AD by the Romans, 700 years later the Normans build a castle within it. 7000 people were held prisoner in the keep during the Napoleonic war. The church (St. Mary’s) was built in 1120.
In a map from around 1600, the village beside the castle was far more populated with homes, than most of the City (island) of Portsmouth at that time.
Lots of these souvenir items have traveled here to Canada over the years. As our population ages, they are now finding their way into second-hand stores and antique sales. Check it out – you will nearly always spot one piece in every thrift store, or flee market.