The tale of the black teapot; Ellen McGill and Rhoda Evans

Ellen McGill was Rhoda’s grandmother and she would often talk of the so called black teapot and its presence in her childhood home – a miners cottage in a small mining community in South Wales.

As you can see from the photo the teapot is unusual and commemorates the Golden Jubilee year (1887) of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Following the death of Rhoda’s great grandparents and the subsequent house clearance the teapot could not be located and it was suspected to be lost forever. However, Rhoda’s Gran always wondered where it had got to and kept on saying how she had always wanted it! Out of the blue the teapot came to light and was brought from Wales to Wolverhampton. Unfortunately, the perfect reunion was short-lived as on arrival it was found to have suffered a chip to the spout! Rhoda’s Gran was nonetheless overjoyed to be reunited despite imperfections! However, fortune nearly turned again as the teapot was almost lost once more when following the death of Rhoda’s Gran it was by accident or design (it’s unclear!!) placed with other miscellaneous china destined for the charity shop! That is, until Rhoda swooped in and has given it pride of place in her kitchen dresser ever since.

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The headmistress’ tea cup and saucer – Winifred Aspinall and Gail Millington

Unlike some tea sets, which leave you guessing at their history, there can be no doubt about the original owner of this item, because her name is beautifully displayed in Gold across the front of the tea cup; “Winifred Aspinall’. The date that the tea cup and saucer were presented to her is also stated as “1899”. Winifred was Gail’s grandmother. They had an especially close relationship because they lived together as Gail was growing up.

Winifred married James Robson on 16 August 1913. Unlike many tea cups and saucers, this was not an engagement or wedding present. Gail believes it was presented to her Grandmother on leaving school. Winifred was obviously a very intelligent woman and she went on to study at Cambridge, before becoming a headmistress herself. This was a great achievement, especially for a woman at that time. Her husband James was also a headmaster. Gail knows from direct experience that her Grandmother was an excellent teacher because she herself benefited from her patience and ability to make learning interesting and fun.

The photo shows Winifred on the far left standing with a book in her hand. The photo is marked “August” and Gail believes this was taken in August 1909 on an outing from Cambridge. The photographs of Winifred show her to have been a beautiful woman.

Gail has a second cup and saucer from her Grandmother, which I have also included a photo of. This cup is marked “FerneyHough, Longton Hall, England Bone China”. For more information about this please see “made in England”.

Both cups and saucers sit beautifully together as a special connection to Gail’s Grandmother’s past. The presentation cup and saucer serve as a reminder of her education, which through her professional life and family life she was able to pass on to the next generation.

The cup and saucer do not have any markings as a clue as to who made them. Does anybody else have tea cups and saucers that were presented to their relatives/friends on leaving school or to mark other special occasions?

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Tea at Mushroom Green – Eliza Ena Bradney and Olwen Meller

Aunty Ena, as she was known, was born on April fools’ day in 1907 and lived until 2006. Sadly, she just missed her 100th Birthday. She lived her whole life in the Black Country, Dudley Wood – an area known for chain making. Her family had a chain shop. Olwen Meller who now owns the tea set was her niece and Olwen is my mother-in-law.

She married her husband Ralph Parsons in July 1934. They had their wedding reception at Mushroom Green, pronounced “Musham”. It was a very hot day because Aunty Ena told Olwen that instead of having a stiff collar, the Minister’s collar was like a limp wet rag by the end! The tea set was a wedding present. It is stunning. The tea cups have a lovely shape and the floral design is very pretty. It is marked “Lawleys Regent Street”.

Aunty Ena and Ralph lived very happily in a house built by her brother in Mushroom Green. It had a wonderful garden, which my husband recalls had half a railway carriage including a gramophone, which was quite magical as a child. People travelled from miles away to see it. The area seemed more special by virtue of the contrast with the industrial feel of the rest of the area and Aunty Ena loved it there.

Sadly Ralph was killed in a car accident in 1953. Aunty Ena felt this loss terribly for the rest of her life. Although Aunty Ena no doubt felt very alone, her family rallied round and ensured that she played a major part in their lives. Although she had no children of her own, my husband has many happy memories of family holidays they spent together and of her constant willingness to play games with him. She was a much loved Aunt and Great Aunt. She saw so much change in her long life. She would be surprised to find she was on the Internet (or to know such a thing existed) and if I were to have told her of my plan to write about her and her tea set she would have told me not to be so “saft”.

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