“He took me up to a south-facing room that was thick with summer light, and there he opened the two pale-blue doors of a large wooden cabinet that stood against the back wall. It was, he explained, a cabinet of curiosities of his own devising, in homage to the great Wunderkammern or ‘wonder-rooms’ of the Renaissance and the baroque, in which examples of natural history (naturalia), precious artefacts (arteficialia), scientific instruments (scientifica), findings from distant realms (exotica) and items of inexplicable origin and form (mirabilia) were gathered and displayed.

He reached into the cabinet and retrieved object after object, explaining to me the skein of stories that each drew behind it.” p215-216 Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

I don’t have a large cabinet of treasures, but I do like the idea mirabilia, of curio, and of an object that draws a skein of stories behind it.

This ‘Home is Best’ ceramic kettle-cum-teapot was bought very cheaply years ago. I know it’s not an original, the colour of the clay is too white, and the motto is roughly painted on rather than pressed into the clay but nonetheless it exudes a canalishness. It’s part of my pictorial history of boat life and a momento, a bit of bargeman’s fancy and it represents the story of the skills of a saleswoman…


Ugly and brash, the kettle is characterised by treacle glaze and polychrome sprigged decoration.


Measham Ware, as the original was called, was typically decorated with rather coarsely modeled applique flowers, foliage, fruit and birds highlighted in red, blue and green and often with a panel or banner personalised by being impressed with a printer’s typeface whilst wet. The majority of Measham pottery came in the form of teapots, but bowls, jugs, beakers and tobacco jars are not uncommon. The teapots are often generous in size, the covers with fancy finials modelled in the form of acorns and sometimes (several) small teapots.

The pottery, also known as Rockingham or Motto Ware, was produced from the 1870’s by William Mason, a South Derbyshire potter based in Pool village near Church Gresley, with smaller manufacturers in Woodville and Swadlincote.

Legend has it that it become known as barge ware because it was extensively marketed through a shop on Measham High Street owned by a Mrs Annie Bonas. The shop, being close to the canal bridge at Cut End Measham, was favoured by passing bargees who were able order a piece and collect the personalised gift on their return journey.

The last known pieces being dated 1914.

Further information can be found HERE.


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