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posted: 11/30/2013 5:51 AM

How old is this Wardle vase?

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  • This beautiful vase is hand-painted, but does it have great value?

    This beautiful vase is hand-painted, but does it have great value?
    SHNS photo courtesy Helaine Fendelman and Joe Ross

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. This vase was given to my wife by her aunt over 50 years ago. Her aunt said she got it from her mother and father in the late 1880s as a wedding gift. We have never been able to get an honest value of it. Can you help?

A. Yes, we can discuss the value of this piece, but we cannot really give it a firm value because we were not told the size in the letter.

This is a crucial piece of information that is left out more times than we would like to think, and everyone who writes to us should remember to tell us exactly how big something is because often we cannot tell from the photos. And please remember that we cannot and will not respond to inquiries without clear, in-focus photographs.

In the photographs, the mark of the company that made this piece is not very clear. But we believe this was made by Wardle & Company. But was it made in the 1880s?

This pottery concern is not very well-known in this country, but the company's history is rather interesting from what we've gleaned during our research. It started with William Wardle, who was a Staffordshire potter. Staffordshire is perhaps England's main district for the making of pottery and is located in the West Midlands area, not all that far from Wales.

William's son James established a pottery in Shelton, Staffordshire, but it was not very successful. When James died in 1871, his wife Eliza took over. She was more successful than her late husband and soon moved the family operation to a larger factory called the Washington Works in the town of Hanley.

Traditionally, Wardle & Company made earthenwares, as well as Parian (a type of white porcelain meant to resemble Parian marble) and majolica (a colorful lead-glazed earthenware popular in Victorian England and elsewhere). But in 1885, it added a new grouping of art pottery -- which is what the piece in today's question happens to represent.

The company continued to expand and did a thriving export business. In 1899, Eliza's son-in-law, David Jones, took over and added slip decoration and tube-applied decorations. When Jones died in 1908, Wardle was taken over by J.A. Robinson and Sons Ltd, another Staffordshire-based pottery company.

The company moved to the Wolf Street Works in Stoke-on-Trent in 1910 and the name was changed to Wardle Art Pottery. The company become part of the famous Cauldon Potteries in 1924, but ceased operations in 1935.

As for the rather nice pottery vase in today's letter, it is a tad younger than the aunt's story maintained. The addition of the word "England" in the mark means that this particular piece could not have been made before 1891, and the beautiful slip decoration of flowers on a mahogany-colored ground strongly suggests it was made between 1899 and 1908 -- and no earlier.

As for the value, the floral decoration is rather standard, and rare designs (such as bats and the like) or pieces designed by the company's art director, Frederick Hurten Rhead, fetch much more. This piece should be valued for insurance purposes in the vicinity of $200-$350 depending on the size and overall condition.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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