Roses and Castles - Origin

As you can tell from Albert's decoration we are keen on the tradition of narrowboat decoration. As a result, few years ago we purchased a small decorated can bearing the name Forget me Not and, as part of our research into its origin, we met with Tony Lewery who identified it as probably being painted in Nurser's yard around 1911. At the time Tony had just published his excellent book Flowers Afloat, so we became familiar with his hypotheses concerning the origins of "Roses & Castles".

It was therefore with some interest that I came across a blue underglazed transfer plate for sale on ebay which claimed to show a scene from the "Middlesborough Canal" and dated c. 1840. I knew that the details appeared to be suspect, and it was cracked, but nevertheless it was intact and I managed to get it for £5!

The scene of the plate is very interesting because it shows a boating scene and a "castle". Looking up the plate on the web, and correctly reading the auctioneers label on its base, it appears that the plate was produced by Middlesborough Pottery between 1832 and 1840. Further research revealed that the cartouche pattern is actually called Wild Rose and that the "canal scene" is actually of Nuneham Courtney on the River Thames. It is based on an engraving by W. Cooke, after a drawing by S. Owen published in 1811. It appears that Nuneham Park house was the seat of Earl Harcourt and one of the most celebrated of Eighteenth-Century English gardens. A good condition plate with the same design, but from another pottery, is currently for sale on the internet at an antiques dealer for £65.

Middlesborough Pottery blue underglaze transfer print plate

The plate design strongly supports Tony Lewery's idea that the origins of Roses & Castles lie in the popular art of the early nineteenth century. In Flowers Afloat, on page 45, Tony shows an illustration of a blue underglaze transfer printed meatdish that shows a castle scene and a river. Our plate appears to go one stage further since it clearly links a castle scene and a roses pattern - in one item. In fact, a complete roses and castle decoration - circa 1840.

NB Gifford's decorated cabin table

For reference above is a more familiar mid-20th century example of Roses & Castles.

Steve Parkin

Albert's Blog passes a milestone

Since November 2006 we have been running a sitemeter on our blog. This week it passed a milestone - our 10,000th visitor. We are not exactly a big hitter in terms of canal/waterways blogs, but most of the really popular blogs are published by continuous cruisers.

We got a lot of hits courtesy of Granny Buttons when Andrew Denny ran a feature about the conversion of NB Lion. Also, we recently got some heavy hitting when Andrew used my You Tube video about locking techniques in one of his posts. Unlike someone who recently left comments on Granny's blog complaining that Andrew had stolen his video, I was very pleased. It appears that Granny is very influential. More power to Andrew's elbow.

So what of the 10,000th hit? It appears to have originated from Holland.

Best wishes to all for Christmas and the New Year if we don't manage to get on-line again.

I have it in mind to write about a couple of other old cruising books I have recently read, but we might go boating over New Year if ice doesn't come. We're thinking about a grand cruise of the North this coming year.

The Thames from Mouth to Source

Just got another bargain book from Ebay (i.e. less than £10).

I recently managed to acquire a very tidy first edition of Thames from Mouth to Source by L.T.C. (Tom) Rolt. It was published in 1951 and apart from Rolt's very readable text it includes some excellent colour plates, all of which are from watercolours, aquatints or oil-paintings - no photographs. Because the book is essentially historic in its view, this fits in well.

I recently read Peter Ackroyd's Thames- sacred river, which at 447 pages and with a literary style is a big read. Getting back to Rolt's easy style and only 75 pages was light relief! The emphasis is on the history of the great river but he manages to include many references to his voyage along the river with Angela. For me it's a very accessible book. I have included some boat related plates here. They show some early prints of narrowboats (or should it be narrow boats). You should note that they are not decorated.

I also found it interesting that David Blagrove is currently examining the history of the Thames up to the 1860s in the winter edition of the Narrowboat magazine. Particularly since the article is ilustrated with several images found in Rolt's book; they are now very familiar to me. David, of course, is able to provide a fantastic amount of detail about each of images, as only he can.