A poignant collection of over 50 nursery teacups and plates, made in the 19th century by children as young as eight years old, will go under the hammer in Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Interiors sale on Tuesday 20th May 2014, at their Donnington Priory Saleroom.
Mass produced at potteries throughout the UK, these highly collectible and brightly coloured teacups and plates are decorated with nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Manufactured by the cheapest form of labour at the time, children, they were designed as ornamental ceramics for the nurseries of middle class families.
The potteries producing these wares were split into workshops that employed adults skilled in throwing, pressing, transferring or painting. In turn, these adults employed between one and three children to assist them in the workshop, and their wages were paid directly by the adult worker. As the children were not employed by the factory, there was no restriction on how long they worked, or how badly they were treated.
Throughout the 18th century a number of factory acts were passed restricting the hours worked by women and children, and in 1840 a Parliamentary Commission investigated the state of child labour in the UK. Whilst many felt it was justified for children as young as eight to work a 72 hour week, the general consensus was that it was having a detrimental effect on the children’s health and education.
As the potteries were split into skilled workshops, they were not classed as factories, and worked independently of the Factory Acts that were passed. As a result, it was not until the Factory Acts combined with the Educational Acts in the 1870s that children were gradually removed from potteries, although children aged 13 still worked there full-time until the 1920s. This collection, comprising 10 Lots, is a visual, moving memorial to the children who worked in the potteries, and are historically fascinating collectibles.
The teacups and plates will be offered alongside ceramics, works of art and furniture in Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Interiors sale on Tuesday 20th May 2014. The full catalogue will be available to view online at www.dreweatts.com in the week preceding the sale.