- Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 January 2010 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 20 January 2010 05:00
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Last month I wrote about a pair of Staffordshire lions. That column caught the eye of a reader, who now asks about his small Staffordshire "vase" (quotation marks are mine). His wife inherited the piece from a friend of her mother, but she does not know about its origin, and it bears no maker's mark. It is in perfect condition.
This piece is not really a vase, but rather a spill holder. It served a decorative and utilitarian purpose in the days before matches appeared on the scene. In the evenings couples would sit by the fire and twist pieces of paper, usually newspaper, into small rods, called spills, which they would store in this container. They were about six to eight inches long.
The spill would be used for carrying the fire from the fireplace to candles to illuminate the passage from the sitting room to the bedrooms. The spill played an important part in the daily ritual of going to bed. Its use was both an English and an American custom. Here in this county, glass spill holders were quite common as well.
With the advent of the match, items such as this one could be used for flowers, but principally they became purely decorative. This dates form the early 19th century, and is a good example of the genre. Staffordshire, as I noted last month, was the host to a major industry because the clay deposits there made for good molds into which plaster of Paris could be baked.
This spill holder is worth $150. The cobalt blue coloring of the clothing makes it worth significantly more than more plainly decorated ones. Potters stopped using cobalt coloring about 1860, thus this piece is at least 150 years old.
As I noted last week, this coming Saturday is the Saint Clement's Island Museum's annual appraisers' fair, always a delightful experience. The museum is about 30 minutes drive after crossing the Nice Bridge, and is worth the trip in its own right. The fair never fails to draw a large attendance, and I look forward to seeing many of our Northern Neck friends there.