Ask the Antique Expert: Porcelain

by Allan Blackburn

Dear Allan,

I have enclosed a few photos of crockery items from the family archives and as I am “downsizing”, I would welcome a valuation, especially the “Shelley Bone China tea set,” which to me as a humble layman does seem special. I also have a few items of Royal Standard which seems to pre-date Royal Worcester.

I also have an 18 piece “Crown Devon China tea set,” in pink roses similar to Royal Wores, sorry no photo’s.

Any advice welcome.

Mr J Scott.

Wow, there are some lovely pieces here. It’s always heart warming to see a good quality tea service, that’s been looked after. On both the photos the tea services look in excellent condition but they are going to be hard to value as you don’t say how many pieces are in each service. If the sets are complete then the value is considerably more than if any pieces are missing. In fact even missing just one piece can diminish the value by at least half.

For a tea set to be complete it needs to have 21 pieces: 6 cups, 6 saucers, 6 side plates, 1 large bread plate, 1 sugar bowl and 1 milk jug. If a service has a matching teapot (making the set 22 pieces) then that’s a huge bonus as the teapot will double the value of the whole set.

The Shelly tea service is simply gorgeous and the best out of the three different manufacturers you mention. I can see from the picture that it still has the sugar bowl and milk jug – this is good news, as these are usually the first pieces to go missing!. It looks like there are at least 8 saucers – would I be right in thinking  there are 12 side plates? What you need to do is collect together 6 of each as described above and then you’ve one complete set. The extra plates or cups that are left, literally are extras. They are handy to have in case one from the set gets broken, but they are only worth a few pounds each as “spares”.

You don’t mention if there is the large bread plate but if there is one and the set is complete then the Shelley would be worth around £60 – £80.

The value of this set is not just in its manufacturer. It also has an unusual design in the handles of the cups and the shape of the plates. Along with the beautiful gold gilding and gold handles, these additional details give it an extra value. Shelley produced many different shaped cups. The 1930s were a real high point for Shelley’s in terms of their design.

Shelley has been established since the mid 19th century. The Wileman family already owned a Staffordshire pottery, but in 1860, they opened a second factory which was to specialise in producing the finest china. At this point, James B. Shelley joined the By 1870, James Shelley had taken over the management of the china works and became a partner in the business. They became Shelley Potteries Ltd in 1925.

When Shelley was at its creative peak it began to employ well known artists like the children’s illustrator, Mabel Lucy Attwell.

By the end of the 1950s, Shelley was fast losing its market share to cheaper manufacturers. In 1966, the business was sold and sadly, Shelley is now no more, so please look after this set, as breakages won’t be able to be replaced!

Now to your Royal Standard set. Royal Standard was one of the brand names of Chapmans Longton Ltd. Established in 1916 the back stamp on this tea set dates it as early 1950s. The company was among the famous Staffordshire potteries and Chapmans Longton Ltd also owned the “Royal  Mayfair” and “StandardChina” brands. They were based at Longton in Stoke-on-Trent which was the centre of pottery making from the mid-1700s.

The “Standard China” trademark was used between around 1916 and 1930. The “Royal Mayfair” trademark was used to identify the company’s bone china during the period from about 1938 to 1941. However the “Royal Standard” was perhaps the company’s best known trademark, and was used from 1949.

If your set is complete (21 pieces) then I would value it at £30 – £40. It’s a nice set but not as good as Shelley. The valuation is considerably lower than the Shelley because the demand for this type of tea set is limited.

The Crown Devon tea set is worth about £20 -£30.