I have always found the codes and numbering on early W&R items to be some what of an enigma. On the production from late in the W&R era - 1916 and onwards out through the Carlton Ware era – the pattern numbers are concise and are an appropriate tool to fix a pattern’s creation date to within a year or two. On the early production I have never been able to really understand or make sense of these numbers. Now, after photographing and the carefully inspection of the numerous W&R items held by the Parnell Collection the numbering of the early W&R production makes even less sense. While some of the numbers seem to fit, many others just don’t. It is for this reason I have decided to list these early W&R patterns in alphabetical order.
Both of the above Royal May items are marked with the Swallow mark, so they must have been produced between 1890 and 1994 at the latest. The barrel on the blush apricot ground has the 509 on the base while the fluted tray has 2506 – now if these numbers are pattern number then this just does not make sense. To me it would fit that the pink example would be a different pattern to the apricot, so I would expect the pattern number to be 506 and 509. The "2" in front of 2056 could be an error, but it looks fairly clear to me.
Some of the early W&R productions have a British registered design numbers on their bases; for example both of the Poppy items that appear above have the same Reg. No. 157120. This reg. number was issued in 1890. Just because a pattern was registered in a certain year it does not mean that it went into production in that year. The round fluted tray on the left has the Swallow mark so it was produced between 1890 & 1894. Were as the rectangular fluted has the crown mark so it was produced in 1894 or later. Note the both have a number: left is 304 – right is 307.
The Carnation Flow Blue Vase and the Blush Ware fluted tray both have the Reg. Number 30945; this number was issued in 1885. That is five years before Wiltshaw and the Robinsons formed W&R. There are other examples of pattern with Reg. Numbers that predate the formation of W&R. It is my belief that W&R either purchased some patterns or that when they took over the Carlton Works that some patterns may have come with the factory. In style both of these example are Victorian (pre 1901); not Edwardian (post 1901). Why then does the tray have the number 2486, if this is a pattern number it puts the production of this tray as circa 1920. Also please note the “R” under the pattern number on the tray, this is an artist monogram, the latest item that I have seen with this monogram has to have been produced before 1910.
To further confuse some items have two Reg. Numbers, one is for the pattern and the other is the shape. The image above is of a cheese dish & cover and a scalloped tray. Both are decorated with the Heather pattern over a green apricot blush ground. Both have the two reg. numbers; this is how I read it – the Cheese Dish and Cover shape is reg. number 213522 (issued 1893); the scalloped tray shape is reg. number 462037 ( issued 1905) – and the pattern number is 488460 (issued 1906). So this item had to have been produced post 1906. Now let us consider the number 418 ½ which both are marked with; I have been told that the ½ stands for 1 of 2 produced, but they are different shapes so this still does not quite make sense.
In the collage above I show two examples of the Petunia pattern, one is marked with and Reg. Number the other is not, but they are obviously veriation of the same pattern. The Teapot (on the left)has the Reg. Number 258145 which was introduced in 1895, this item which has a crown mark also has the hand written number 534. The other item has the very rare “All The Round World” mark; I have only ever seen a couple of examples of this mark. Francis Joseph dates it to 1900, but interestingly this item has 2210 hand printed on the on the base.
Pictured above on the left is a W&R Picotees fluted tray. The Picotees tray has the Swallow mark, it also has the Reg. number 213314 (issued 1893) and the hand written number 624. We can be accurate with this trays production date, as the Reg. number was introduced in 1883 and the Swallow mark was discontinued in 1894, it had to have been made either late in 1893 or early in 1894. I cannot be sure what the hand written “624” stands for. The Castor Sugar Shaker pictured above on the right has two Reg. numbers 267782 (issued 1896) is the shape number and 290283 is the pattern reg. (also issued 1896). What the hand written 1991 stands I just don’t know.
I believe that the numbers and the systems that govern these numbers are much more complex than we will ever fully understand. There may quite well be more than one system of numbering. The numbers may well be nothing more than batch or order numbers, then there may have been one numbering system that was them abandoned for another, perhaps sometime after the split up between Robinson’s and Wiltshaw. I really don’t have the information available to decide which and I have a feeling this is now information that is gone forever. So let us just be happy in our ignorance and enjoy the accomplishment of the unknown artisan’s work.