Dec 152016

My grandmother’s dinner service originally consisted of an eight place setting: large dinner plate (8 ½ inches), sandwich plate (5 ¾ inches), bowl (5 ¾ inches), tea cup and saucer (4 ¾ inches). It also had a milk jug, sugar bowl, two gravy/sauce pitchers, two oval platters (14 inches) and a soup tureen with lid (11 inches). They have an ivory background colour with a pink rose transfer pattern and gilt edging. (see Fig.1)
Figure 1 Cup and saucer in Luxor Vellum rose pattern
They were made by Swinnertons Staffordshire England as per underside markings (see Fig 2).  Swinnertons registered their design number 837606 and this design was registered in 1940. [i] British potteries had been registering their patterns since 1842 with the Board of Trade. They are kept in numerical order by date registered with the original registrations kept at The National Archives Kew England. [ii] (see Fig. 2)
Figure 2 Potter  mark underside of items
 Swinnertons were a company formed in 1906. They were based in Hanley, one of the six towns that are now Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. They specialised in earthenware, rather than the much more expensive fine bone china, aiming their product at middle class households. Earthenware has more plasticity and is more easily able to be shaped but is more porous and needs to be glazed for use. The earthenware formulation is 25% kaolin, 25% ball clay, 35% quartz and 15% feldspar and are fired to 12500C. [iii] By the 1940s they had purchased five other factories, three of whom made teapots.[iv]
     Figure 3 Luxor Vellum)
I was unable to determine the price of the set from contemporary resources in England but an indication may be seen from a 1949 advertisement in the Broken Hill, New South Wales paper Barrier Miner which has a 40 piece Swinnertons Luxor Vellum set at £6/19/6. [v]  This 1949 advertisement from the Beaudesert Times showed you were also able to buy single replacement pieces. [vi] (see Fig 3)       
My grandmother Lilian Maud Philpott married Leslie Smith 10 September 1938 in St Stephens Tonbridge Kent England.[vii] Family story was that due to financial issues the traditional dinner service was not able to be given by the parents at the time of marriage.  The Second World War meant full employment and Lilian’s parents found the money and the dinner service was instead given on the occasion of their son, David’s birth 16 February 1940. Lilian and Leslie were living at 45 Burnham Crescent, Crayford at the time of the birth and Leslie was working at the Vickers Armstrong factory as a carpenter and munition worker. [viii]
The dinner service suffered its first casualties in November 1940 when a high explosive bomb exploded one street over and knocked two cups from the dresser.[ix]  Lilian packed the dinner service away for safe keeping and although more than 50 further bombs were dropped around their home in Crayford no further damage was done to the service during the war.
Sadly Leslie Smith was injured on military exercises in 1944, becoming a quadriplegic and dying of his injuries at Edenhall Hospital, Inveresk, Scotland, 14 December 1944. [x]
Lilian, as a single mother, then worked as a cook/housekeeper for a number of years and the dinner service remained packed away.
In May 1949, the dinner service accompanied Lilian and David aboard the Asturias as they emigrated to Sydney Australia arriving first in Fremantle, before their final destination of Sydney. [xi] At this time in Australia there was an acute housing shortage and Lilian was unable to establish a home on arrival, getting work at the Peoples’ Palace in Sydney while David entered the Salvation Army Orphanage in Goulburn. Finally in 1952 Lilian was able to rent a home in Goulburn and they were reunited and the dinner service was unpacked with another cup as a casualty, broken sometime over those years.
The service traveled with Lilian in a number of further moves over the years, being used only for special occasions, until her death in 1976 when it joined David in his home. Then it went from Brisbane to Melbourne in 1978 and then back to Brisbane in 1983, quite well packed as there were no further casualties. My parents and the dinner service moved in with me in 1986 and the service has followed us on some further moves until 2001. Since 2001, it has had pride of place in the china cabinet in Pallara, as a well loved, and well traveled family item.

[i] Pottery pattern registration number
[ii]National Archives Kew England
[iii]Wikipedia  Earthenware
[v]Advertising (1949, August 4). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved 20 August, 2016, from
[vi]Advertising (1949, November 25). The Beaudesert Times (Qld. : 1908 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved 20 August, 2016, from
[vii]Marriage Certificate England and Wales 1938 Sep Q Tonbridge 2a 3720 (10 September 1938) PHILPOTT Lilian Maud and SMITH Leslie
[viii]Birth Certificate England and Wales 1940 Mar Q 2a 2143 (16 February 1940) SMITH David
[ix]Personal communication from my grandmother Lilian Maud Smith
[x]Death Certificate Scotland 14 December 1944 SMITH Leslie
[xi]National Archives of Australia; Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600.; Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and Western Australian outports from 1897-1963; Series Number: K 269; Reel Number: 103