Grimwades Bairnsfather Ware ChinaTowards the end of 1917 the publishers of The Bystander granted Leonard Grimwade of Grimwades Limited of Stoke on Trent, exclusive permission to reproduce a limited number of Fragments from France cartoons on items from their war time every day pottery range then in production. The first piece to be made by the Staffordshire firm bearing one of Bruce Bairnsfather's cartoons was their 'War Time butter dish for a family of ten' and this was quickly followed by a whole range of pieces, from plates and plaques to teapots, flower pots, jugs, tobacco jars - in fact, just about any item of pottery you can think of, all featuring the famous Bairnsfather cartoons.
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Bairnsfather Ware was an immediate success, and for the remainder of the duration of the war, the Grimwades factory churned out thousands of pieces featuring the Fragments from France drawings.
In January 1918 the Pottery Gazette reported that “the first Bairnsfather butter dish has been signed in indelible colours by the Mayor of Stoke on Trent (Ald. W.E. Robinson) and will be put up for auction for the benefit of the Great Hanley Red Cross effort.”
The Pottery Gazette also made a rather prophetic observation, commenting that “though people are likely to purchase these various articles for the ostensible purpose for which they were fabricated, it is almost inevitable that most people will want to put by pieces of this ware as a reminder to their children and children’s children of the most stressful period in the world’s history.”Many early pieces feature the backstamp “Made by the Girls of Staffordshire during the Winter of 1917 when the boys were in the Trenches fighting for Liberty and Civilisation.” With the end of the war in November 1918 this was changed to either “A Souvenir of the Great War” or “A Momento of the Great War”, with the dates of commencement, Armistice and the Signing of Peace underneath.
Although no records survive from Grimwades, it has been possible to establish, through identification of shapes of pieces and later backstamps, that Grimwades continued to produce various items featuring Fragments from France cartoons for several decades after the end of the First World War—in fact some pieces have recently been dated to as late as the early 1950’s.
One of the most intense areas of Bairnsfather and Old Bill collecting has always been the cheap pottery (or “Bairnsfather Ware” as it was known) produced by Grimwade’s, on which various Fragments from France cartoons were reproduced. Many enthusiasts have vast collections of plates, teapots, cups and saucers, vases and numerous other items. Evidently more and more collectors are beginning to buy pieces not for their different shape or style, but with the aim of acquiring an item featuring a cartoon they don’t yet have on a piece of pottery. But just how many Bairnsfather cartoons were used by Grimwades? Judging by the frequency with which I am asked this question many of you are unsure of the answer.
Those of us who have countless examples of pottery featuring, for example, “Well, if you knows of a better ‘ole go to it” and “When the ‘ell is it goin’ to be strawberry?” - might find, on counting, that we have about seven or eight different cartoons in all. It may therefore surprise some collectors to learn that there are in fact fifteen Bairnsfather cartoons known to have been used by Grimwade’s. These are:
1. “Well if you knows of a better ‘ole go to it “
2. Happy Memories of the Zoo
3. ”When the ‘ell is it goin’ to be strawberry?”
4. “Where did that one go to?”
5. Keeping His Hand In
6. Dear _____ At present we are staying at a farm
7. The Dud-Shell or Fuse-Top Collector
8. Coiffure in the Trenches
9. The Historical Touch
10. I likes me a drop o’ rum
11. Gott Strafe this barbed wire
12. The Innocent Abroad
13. Omar the Optimist
14. My Dug Out
15. The Push in Three Chapters
One of the most commonly found cartoons on Bairnsfather Ware is, not surprisingly, “Well if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it.” The first piece of pottery to be produced by Grimwade’s featuring this - or any other Fragments cartoon - was a small, circular butter dish (also frequently referred to as a ‘pin tray’), which appeared in late 1917. This most famous of all Bairnsfather cartoons was soon reproduced on a whole variety of pieces to emerge from the Grimwade’s kilns, along with more than a dozen other popular drawings, which the firm had secured for use exclusively on their pottery.
Some of the cartoons had a more limited use, proving suitable for reproduction only on certain pieces. Others were more practical and appeared on almost every conceivable item of pottery imaginable. “The Historical Touch”, “Happy Memories of the Zoo” and “Where did that one go to?” tend to come up several times in the average Bairnsfather Ware collection, whereas “Gott Strafe this barbed wire”, “The Innocent Abroad” and especially “I likes me a drop o’ rum” are less frequently found.The rarest of all the cartoons on the pottery is “The Push in Three Chapters. This has only ever been seen on a spill vase illustrated in a Grimwade’s Bairnsfather Ware trade sales catalogue - no example of a spill vase featuring “The Push…” has been heard of in any collection anywhere in the world!
Another cartoon apparently only reproduced on one item was “My Dug Out.” This appeared ‘wrapped around’ a particularly large mug, and is fairly scarce and hard to find, today. Personally I think this is one of the most appealing of all the pieces produced by Grimwades.
As many Bairnsfather Ware collectors know, a large number of the items made by Grimwade’s, such as teapots, cheese dishes, vases and jugs, featured two different cartoons - a bonus for anyone trying to collect all fifteen used on the pottery!
Hopefully this article will have the pottery enthusiasts among you rushing off to check up on which cartoons you have, and those you don’t, and maybe also give some of you a new approach to collecting Grimwade’s.
A complete checklist of all the Fragments from France used by Grimwade’s follows, with details of some of the pieces on which they appeared. Please note that the list of items attributed to each cartoon is not intended to be complete, but is based on knowledge at the time of writing.
Used on items including
“Well if you knows of a better ‘ole go to it”
Cheese dish, teapot, bowls and dishes, plates and plaques, mugs, vases, cups and saucers, tobacco jar, butter dish
Happy Memories of the Zoo
Vases, teapots, shaving mugs, spill vase, jugs, cheese dish, sugar bowl, candle holder, plates and plaques
“When the ‘ell is it goin’ to be
Cups, plates and plaques, jugs, dishes and bowls, gravy boat, cake stand, cheese dish, teapot stand, vases, tankard
“Where did that one go to?”
Jugs, vases, cups and saucers, shaving mugs, teapots, tankard, mugs, plates and plaques, gravy boat, dishes and bowls, candle holder, tea caddy, cheese dish, trays
Keeping His Hand In
Dishes and bowls, butter dish, teapot stand, plates and plaques, cups, rose bowl
Dear _____ At present we are staying at a farm
Plates and plaques, teapots, rose bowl, jugs, cups and saucers, tobacco jar, cheese dish, shaving mug, cigar tray, vases, trays
The Dud-Shell or Fuse-Top Collector
Flowerpots, vases, butter dish, tea caddy, dishes and bowls, plates and plaques, jugs
Coiffure in the Trenches
Flowerpots, jugs, dishes and bowls, spill vases, plates, cheese dish, cups, jugs, tankard, tea caddy, trays
The Historical Touch
Vases, dishes and bowls, jugs, tankard, plates and plaques
I likes me a drop o’ rum
Jugs, plates and plaques, cups, gravy boat, bowls
Gott Strafe this barbed wire
Beakers, dishes and bowls, mugs, teapot stands, butter dish
The Innocent Abroad
Plates, bowls, jugs
Omar the Optimist
Plates, dishes and bowls
My Dug Out
The Push in Three Chapters