Crested China Souvenirs

Blackpool Tower souvenier from the collection of Blackpool Heritage Service

Collecting heraldic porcelain miniatures or ‘Crested China’ as it is now popularly known, became a national craze in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. During the period of its production, around 1880 to 1930, it was thought that some 90% of all homes contained at least an item of Crested China. It was also known that no holiday or trip to the seaside was complete without a porcelain memento, which bore the arms of the place visited.

Crested china from Barry Shaw's collection

In the 1880’s, the pottery firm W.H. Goss of Stoke-on-Trent had begun a new line in miniature souvenir ware and along with Crested China Ltd were the leading manufacturers in heraldic porcelain. However, times were hard for the British pottery industry in the 1880s and 1890s so other manufacturers jumped on to the bandwagon to cash in on Goss’s prosperity and fame, producing more light-hearted, often comical or whimsical souvenirs of every conceivable theme. These included hats, shoes, alcohol related objects, black cats, musical instruments, animals, pillar boxes, modes of transport and even everyday domestic objects. While Goss kept more to the representation of objects of historic importance.

Crested china souveniers from Barry Shaw's collection

Other pottery firms included Arcadian, Carleton, Corona, Florentine, Gemma, Grafton, Shelley, Victoria and Willow Art. The British market was also flooded by German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian potteries, even the inmates of German prisons were used as cheap labour to produce their own souvenir-ware.

At the peak of its popularity, Crested China could be purchased from newspaper stands at railway stations, lending libraries, tea rooms, fancy goods shops, chemists, specialist china shops and even Boots and W.H. Smiths.

The First World War saw the production of a whole new set of souvenir models of a military nature including tanks, guns, boats, shells, grenades and military figures. However, after peace had been signed in 1919, the mood of the nation changed and the craze for Crested China began to decline. Many collections were packed away in boxes in attics. From the late 1960’s onwards, boxes of Crested China were to be found unwanted in corners of second hand shops at ‘a penny apiece’ with few takers.

It is quite likely that only 10% of what was originally made has survived. This has resulted in many items of Crested China, especially by Goss, costing upwards of £25 per item to purchase.

Barry Shaw

Blackpool Council’s heritage collections feature a large selection of crested china. The pottery souvenir of the famous Great Wheel attraction pictured here was used in the Lancashire 70 objects trail in 2017, celebrating 70 years of Lancashire Life magazine.

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