June 21, 2015

Finest Hour 100, Autumn 1998

Page 56


The two principal golden anniversaries occurring in 1990—the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s first appointment as Prime Minister and of the Battle of Britain—brought a rich crop of Churchilliana. For the first of these, in May, Caverswall produced a plate, a lion head beaker, a mug, a miniature cup and saucer and a thimble. Sutherland China weighed in with a limited edition (2000) mug inscribed “Walking with Destiny” and the Gerry Ford Designs mug had a wraparound transfer depicting Churchill superimposed against a background of the Houses of Parliament. From the USA, Zippo contributed a chrome-plated cigarette lighter with a coloured enamel portrait of Churchill, a facsimile of his signature and the inscription “Let us go forward together, 13 May 1940.”

The best Battle of Britain commemorative was Spode’s loving cup in a limited edition of 500, richly decorated in cobalt blue and gold, with the Royal Air Force and Fighter Command badges and the inscription “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” Designed by Ray Trigg, and priced at £149, it quickly sold out and now commands a premium of 35% and rising.

Mugs came from Coalport and Sovereign China and the Hamilton Collection marketed a group of six “Finest Hour” plates, made by Royal Worcester, carrying scenes from notable World War II events. Winston’s of Harrogate, that very high class “emporium for the discerning gentleman,” commissioned (“exclusively for its customers”) a nineinches-tall figure of Churchill standing on the cliffs at Dover in 1940. Kevin Francis Ceramics had an immediate success with the first of their Churchill standing Tobies (the one with the subject in “naval” dress and standing astride a bulldog). Issued in a limited edition of 750 at £90, the jug now fetches around £140/ $250.

In 1991 Kevin Francis Ceramics capitalised on the success of Peggy Davies’ 1989 “Spirit of Britain” toby jug with a “shrink” titled “Little Winston.” In an edition of 2500, the toby sold at £40. Current UK price is £55 and secondary market prices are often higher.

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Royal Doulton finally withdrew, after a production run of more than fifty years, their best-selling trio of Winston Churchill toby jugs which had been designed by Harry Fenton back in 1940. At the time of withdrawal a “first edition” set had reached over £400 in the UK and $800 in the USA. A set of later editions could be had for £130 or $230. As a replacement Doulton introduced a small, 4-inches-tall character jug designed by Stanley Taylor, with a handle in the form of a replica front page of a wartime edition of the “News Chronicle.” It was merely a pilot for Doulton’s next peice Churchilliana: their large “Character Jug of the Year” for 1992, which applied a bulldog and Union Flag handle to an enlarged version of Stanley Taylor’s portrait sculpture.

Kevin Francis Ceramics added the second in Douglas Tootle’s series of standing tobies, depicting Churchill in the uniform of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports standing astride a map of the British Isles. An unusual 1991 release was “The Churchill Collection,” a set of six place mats carrying reproductions of Churchill paintings. Manufactured to a very high standard by Lady Clare for Churchill Heritage and the National Trust, these quickly became collectible both for their decorative and their utilitarian properties.

Nineteen ninety-two was very much Royal Doulton’s year. Their “Character Jug of the Year,” available only during 1992, was launched at £75. However Doulton’s “Finest Hour” was to come in the shape of Alan Maslankowski’s superbly detailed 11-inch-tall figure (5000 issued at £275) portraying Churchill on one of his famous walkabouts during the London Blitz: arguably one of the finest porcelain images.

The year saw the 50th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and a limited edition (2500) mug designed by John Ball for Peter Jones China was issued.

Kevin Francis kept the band-wagon rolling in 1993 with the third in their series of standing tobies, “Political Churchill” by Douglas Tootle, depicting Churchill standing, with a bulldog, alongside a lectern with a BBC microphone. Another limited edition of 750, it was not so successful as its two predecessors. Another KFC innovation was Ray Noble’s character bust, a sort of cross between a bust and a character jug, sold at £65.

Two 1993 tinplate commemoratives are worthy of mention. Grumbridge of Bedford launched a range of decorated storage tins featuring “Heroes of British history”—appropriately, Churchill featured on a colourful cigar tin. The Imperial War Museum introduced a golden portrait silhouette of Churchill on various souvenir items.

In 1994 Kevin Francis introduced Churchill into their series of “Fiddler and Midshipmite” tobies featuring modern politicians in the style of some of the earliest 18th century jugs. The Churchill “Midshipmite” had the subject dressed in tricorn hat, frock coat, breeches, stockings and buckled shoes, seated and playing a violin. Limited to 150 pieces, the tobies sold at £120 and have quickly acquired a rarity value. In May, Kevin Francis commemorated the 50th anniversary of D-Day with a toby modelled by Andy Moss. Limited to 750, it had a seated Churchill in siren suit and steel helmet, making his famous V-sign, with small figures of Montgomery and Eisenhower peering over his shoulders. It sold briskly in the UK at £140. Also commemorating D-Day was an 8-inch diameter plate from Royal Doulton marketed by the Bradford Exchange. Not amongst Doulton’s better pieces of Churchilliana, the plate sold at £19.95 but has since traded at a discount of 25% on the secondary market.

The 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995 was a vintage year for Churchilliana. From the potteries, the star piece was undoubtedly Noble Ceramics’s “8-inches-tall x 9 1 /2-inches-wide V-E Day Churchill character jug. It featured one of the finest china images of Churchill and an imaginative handle decorated with excellent cameo portraits of Eisenhower, Montgomery, Stalin and Roosevelt. Modelled by Ray Noble, the jug came in a limited edition of 1000 and sold for £199 in the UK.

Kevin Francis Ceramics also celebrated VE-Day with another addition to their popular range of standing tobies. This one had Churchill on the Buckingham Palace balcony on 8 May 1945, flanked by a British bulldog and an American eagle. ICS members were able to purchase an exclusive colourway, limited to 250 pieces, at a discount, and can be confident that the value of their investment will appreciate.

Peter Jones China also used the Buckingham Palace balcony theme to decorate a “Celebration Vase” (edition 100, £595), a lion head beaker (edition 500, £42), a plate (edition 3000, £37) and a mug (unlimited, £27) whilst from potteries throughout Stoke-on-Trent and beyond came various items of VE-Day commemorative tableware selling from just a few pounds upwards.

Windsor Crafts of Burlington Arcade, London, one of the capital’s most expensive shopping streets, offered a hand-painted pewter figurine of Churchill just over three inches tall. The price of £115, they claimed, was “exceptional.” It certainly was. I don’t think they sold very many.

A nice new UK £2 “Peace Coin” featured a dove on the reverse and had inscribed around the rim Churchill’s maxim, “In Peace – Goodwill,” ensuring that those abiding words will be as permanent as the pounds in our pockets. A most excellent reason for resisting a common European currency….

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