A Tablescape of History

My mother in law is 99 years old, and has decided to start cleaning out her attic.  DH was there recently, as she is only 3 hours away near Atlanta, and was helping to pull boxes out for her.  She has a set of fine china that was given to her by her own mother-in-law some 60+ years ago.  The story was that it had been in the family since it was purchased in 1891 as a wedding gift by my husband’s great-grandfather for his bride.  None of the kids want this china, and she herself didn’t use it much after she got a new set of white china of her own. She wanted it sold to the replacements china store that sells vintage china so someone else might complete a set or replace a broken piece.  DH brought it home for me to look over and see about selling it.  The shapes on the covered dishes are just exquisite.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

She would use a few of the serving pieces at holiday meals, but I only remember the place settings being used once for Thanksgiving in the 1970s.  I did remember that it was green, and I like green transferware better than any other color.   The paper that the china was wrapped in was so old and fragile, it fell apart as the pieces were lifted from the box.  I was naturally curious, and since I was the kid in school that cheered when a research paper was assigned while everyone else groaned, I began looking for information.  While there is a great deal about the early years of the Ridgway Potteries, and the succession of subsequent generations, very little is written about the family after the 1860s.  These pieces are marked England, which would have occurred in 1891 when the law changed and pieces imported to the US had to have the country of origin on them.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Two people in England were very helpful in finding out about this pattern.  Steve at The Potteries let me know that the pattern was made by Ridgways at the factory known as Bedford Works. The Ridgway family of potters and their various companies were in operation from 1802 to the mid 1960s.  Grecian Green was made by Ridgways between the 1890s and at the latest 1920 – the clue is in the use of the name ‘RIDGWAYS’ with the ’S’ at the end.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Angela Grant who maintains the website Ridgways Pattern Books said “Your service is interesting. The print set was originally introduced by William Ridgway at the Bell Works in the 1830s. When he went bankrupt for the second time in 1854 the contents of the Bell Works were sold off to the highest bidder in May 1855. The printing plates would appear to have been bought up by his son Edward John Ridgway who was in partnership as E J Ridgway & Abington at the Church Works down the road. In 1866 E J Ridgway moved his production to the then new Bedford Works. In 1879 the firm name was changed to Ridgways with an ‘s’ and that name continued until 1952. This firm brought a lot of the old patterns from the Church Works and the Bell Works back into production. They were not alone in this. There seems to have been a wave of nostalgia for the 1830s in the 1890s. And that was when your service was made.”  The scenes on each serving piece are different.  This is the small platter.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I also asked Angela about the insert in the butter dish. I was thinking that only the very rich could afford to have ice delivered, and perhaps it was to keep the butter above some ice chips. Angela wrote back “Your ‘butter dish’, if that is what it is, is something of a puzzle. I will admit I have seen nothing like it. It is possible the flat liner was used to cover crushed ice, and the butter was placed on it to keep cool. Alternatively it could have covered hot water if whatever was in there was required warm. Perhaps it was used both ways.”

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The soup/cereal bowls have a river scene.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

This large round platter would most likely have held a meat or fish course.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The size of the sugar bowl is huge.  Some of the gold edging is worn away.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The delicate detail of the edge shows the gentle scallop edge and the floral design.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Place settings have five pieces, and there are six intact settings.  As is usual for the era, the dinner plates are smaller than we use today.  The gold edging is worn away in some spots, but the lovely shape of the scallop edges retain a grace of days gone by.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I place the settings on gold chargers and added goldtone flatware for a tablescape.  I had to stack the fruit bowls on the bread and butter plates for space.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

At the corners of the table, I placed more serving pieces.  This table is all about the china.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

For the centerpiece, I placed the covered oval vegetable dish between two clear candlesticks with gold candles.  Rounding out the centerpiece are pine cones that I had spray painted gold.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

On either side are two platters, filling up the center of the table.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The butter dish graces one corner.  Wine glasses with gold rims are placed at each end of the table, with cut glass ones on the sides.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The square covered vegetable dish is placed on the other side.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

As befitting a more formal table of yesteryear, cut glass knife rests, individual salt and pepper shakers, and dessert forks are added to the settings.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

About now, with the table full, I realized there were no napkins on the table.  So I added gold ones between the plates and the dishes, as there was really not enough room to put them next to the forks.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

It is staying on the formal dining table for a bit, so I can enjoy it for just a little while before it is sold.  I am quite sure that if I wanted to keep it that my mother in law would give it too me, but I have too much china now.  And I agree with her, it should go to someone who has been looking for it for a while and needs replacement or additional pieces for a set they love.

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

But, just for a bit, I think of having a Victorian style dinner.  Can’t you just see it?   All of the guests would be wearing Victorian style clothing, entertaining each other in the gentle art of conversation over a multi-course meal…

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

that someone else cooks and cleans up, LOL!!!!!

Ridgways China at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

I may sneak out one covered dish to keep, after all.  We’ll see.  Do you have family heirlooms of china or dishes?

Sharing at Vintage Charm.

47 thoughts on “A Tablescape of History

  1. I have His Majesty by Johnson Brothers. I would love to have more but they are so very expensive, but not nearly as much as your set here. As I looked at your setting, I kept thinking of all the holidays that would be so perfect for them. Christmas, You have a wonderful story to go with the pieces. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have my MIL’s china and her mother’s china also. Nothing like the quality of yours but it’s family. When our daughter married, she said she didn’t want china for ‘good’, just give her great grandma’s china, so I did! Enjoy while you have it.

  3. Judi Mitchell

    This is a lovely display and story… I remember such dinners while growing up in Louisville , KY. I would love to have had my families Spode China. Thanks for the thoughtful display. Made me smile this morning.

  4. Lovely china. I think a SPECIALTY auction house would fetch a good price for the pieces especially since you have so much information on the history. Keep MIL in comfort for a few more years. We eat on china that was my MIL’s whenever there are more than 2 of us here for dinner. I never had “my own” when I was first married; so when I was “second married”; I appreciated what #2 already had. With both sets of parents long gone, we often talk about what will happen to ours, as the kids have no interest. The next generation isn’t interested, but I enjoy & use it. Tagged you in a Facebook post about napkin folding. When I saw the video I thought of you & your lovely table settings.

  5. Mary Stori

    WOW…..stunning and elegant. I’ve never seen green transfer ware and found it beautiful. It’s so generous to make these pieces available to other collectors and yes, you should enjoy it, if even for a short time. Thanks for sharing….and how wonderful to have a MIL at age 99!

  6. Linda B

    Many years ago we had a neighborhood potluck dinner. The host arranged what I thought was just a marvelous dinner. He assigned seats for the 6 couples. There were three tables of four set up…one in the dining room (with fine china and silver), one in the family room (with every day china and flatwear) and one in the kitchen (with paper plates!). We had three courses, and were assigned seats at the different tables for each course. The four in the kitchen served the other two tables. Everyone got to be served and to serve, everyone experienced elegance and casualness, and sat with different people at each table. So fun and clever. I think the host may have been English. I hope I explained this correctly! Enjoy the china!

    1. Joan Sheppar

      What a wonderful idea! That might be just the thing for a church or club fundraiser too. Maybe I can convince my scout troops to try this – to serve and be served with equal grace.

  7. What a beautiful picture of grace and style carried over from such a different generation. I love the look totally and send you kudos for setting this table to such a degree that we can all see the photos and reminisces about the style and grace of our ancestors. Amazing history tracking work you did a well. Thank you for the step back in time…..

  8. So beautiful! I always loved transfer ware patterns and this is probably the most fabulous one. As to the butter dish…..I was given a butter serving dish by an dear family friend many years ago. I has a ceramic disk with pattern transfer ware on it. She told me that the disk was chilled before being put on the table to keep the butter firm. So your idea about the ice chips could be the earlier version. And I would want at least one dish for the memory 🙂

  9. mary

    I have a large set of my grandmother’s ‘wedding china’, white with a gold rim and sort of a gold medallion center. It would have been purchased about 1919. My mom inherited it in the early 60’s and used it once or twice a year for a while, but not when she was older. I inherited it 3 years ago and have used it for a lunch for some of my cousins. My daughters probably won’t want it. I wonder if it will be around for my grand daughters to have if they want—maybe by then it will be valuable again, sentimentally at least. Can you use it for a dinner party for some of your husband’s family before you let it go? I agree with a comment above– perfect for a Christmas table!

    1. Felicia Hamlin

      Wow, Carole! Those are beautiful pieces! You did such a beautiful job of setting the table with it. My MIL had an incomplete set of Limoges China which had belonged to her MIL, it was pink roses around the dishes. Before she died she gave those to one of her daughters and then she died. She only had boys and I don’t know what happened to the dishes.
      Yes, I think it is sad that within this generation there’s no place for sentimentality or a desire to know about the family’s connections to the past. Thank you for sharing those treasures.

  10. Rosemaryflower

    Ohhhhh my. This is a treasure. Yes, if you could, I would save a piece (if you sell the set) just for a family treasure and reminder.
    I adore the color, and the style. I love this stuff.
    I do have all of my mothers Noritake Japan from the 50s. It is beautiful
    And I purchased some years ago, a set of cups and saucers from an online friend in Georgia in need of personal funds. Those are also Noritake Japan. All are sweet.
    I have many many many tea cups from various English potteries, and boat loads of Limoges pieces AND three childs tea sets. One is mine, one is mom’s and one is my gramma’s
    I love your table setting. I will have to check my wardrobe and choose a nice victorian outfit. haha

  11. I had to smile at your opening line, that your mother-in-law is 99 and thinking about clearing her attic. I hope she enjoys many more years with that kind of spunk 🙂 The china is so lovely. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any like that. I’d be so tempted to keep it, if I were you, so definitely keep at least one dish. You have a knack for setting beautiful tables, Carole!

  12. Sylvia anderson

    What a treasure Carole. I think, keeping a piece of her china for yourself is a great idea. It will be something from DMIL that you will be able to use, and will keep her memory ever visible within you home. It’s such a beautiful set, but storage is always a problem, and this way, you will be ale to enjoy whichever piece you select.

    Neither of our parents, or grandparents ever had good china, just everyday dishes, which is what we have, and we’re fine with that. DMIL’s china did make a beautiful table setting though!

  13. That is a beautiful set of china. I hope it sells well for her at Replacements. When I took my MILs China there were a few pieces that they didn’t want to buy. That gave me the opportunity to keep one. I gave them the others to keep it all together.

  14. Beautiful tablescape. I didn’t like mom’s first set of china. When she decided to buy new china she wanted to get something we both liked since I would inherit it one day. When we told my brother what we chose he said in a disparaging tone of voice, “Mikasa? Who inherits Mikasa?” When he saw it he admitted it was quite nice.

  15. farmquilter

    I have three sets of china…2 from my mom and 1 from my wedding. Luckily I have 3 daughters, so they will each get a set. None of it has as many serving pieces as your set. Your china is gorgeous and I really love the covered serving dishes!!

  16. jean fletcher

    What a treasure was found in MIL’s attic! I love transfer ware, but I too have never seen it in green, and to have so many serving pieces! Beautiful!

  17. bonniecoleman

    That is a beautiful set of china!!  I love the green too!  You did a beautiful job of putting that together and I just love it!  I have sold several sets of china to Replacements.  They are usually pretty helpful.   Love this post on your blog too!  Always interested in history, whether china or other antiques.  Thanks for sharing!  Bonnie in Georgia

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  18. Joan

    Your set is amazing! Like a fairy tale where the Queen comes to tea. Thank you so much for sharing this treasure.
    My Grandmother was born in 1882. She got her mother’s china and then at age 90 she decided to pass it on. She gave all the place settings to one niece and gave my mother all the “extras”. I don’t know why she made the split like that but both of us appreciated that we were able to enjoy these pieces. When we have dinner, our table is much like my quilts. Each piece has a story to tell, a spoon from here, a glass from there. We tried matching dishes for a while but everyone found themselves back in the kitchen reaching for “their” special bowl, or spoon, and no one seems to be able to make bread without Gramma’s stoneware bowl and her flour sack towels over the rising dough.

  19. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole, Your table setting is gorgeous with this spectacular china! I can understand keeping a piece, but which piece will you keep? After reading all of the comments written so far, one thing that is really rather sad is the fact that so many of our children are not interested in the China we have all collected or saved and passed down through the generations. My daughter is one of those who wants nothing to do with the History or the fantastic family stories that go along with the beautiful set of China that my Mother has. I would love to come to your English Party, by the way!! Keep us informed of any of the other glorious treasures that are found while going through the attic. My husband and my Mom are going to begin a long process of dating and pricing her complete Avon Collections that date back to the late 1960’s from Cars, Horses and every other item they sold into the late 1980’s. Because no one wants her treasured collections either. Have a great day!

    1. Kathy Inozarks

      I agree that this is just sooooo sad that this new generation cares Nothing about their family history or even about our nation’s history. very sad generation indeed

    2. Joy B

      Oh how beautiful. I love transferware, too and I’m glad you can enjoy this for a little while. I sympathize with not having enough space to keep it all! But, oh, it is tempting!

  20. Donna McCormack

    So very. Interesting. I love transferware. It would be hard to give up. Your idea of keeping a covered serving dish is a good one. Thank you for this.

  21. Kathy Inozarks

    I really enjoyed this post-and I just wrote a post about dishes too-it will post around 5pm I loved learning about the history. I was wondering how you stored all of your beautiful dishes. now that I finally have cupboards I am really enjoying my family dishes and my handmade pottery dishes. I think you should keep at least one piece as well

  22. I have one serving spoon and a pie server that belonged to my great grandma. The spoon was always called the “mashed potatoes spoon!” They were silver plate, but the spoon’s been used so much that it has worn away! I also have an old China plate given to me by my adopted grandma on my wedding day, and a very delicate cup and saucer from my aunt’s collection. Each niece was given one. All of these are treasures to me!

  23. Phyllis Smith

    Hi Carole, Lovely pieces, I do so enjoy the old time patterns, they were quite intricate but lovely all the same. I do see a lot of the patterns my mom used back in the early 47 and up and wish I had some of them now, oh well, plates didn’t have the importance then like they do now. You have to have quite a collection of place settings and additional dishes to go with them. You have to have a special room for them all.

  24. These dishes are quite beautiful. I also like the green color. The square vegetable dish is very different! I hope that it is easy to sell to replacements. I went there once to buy some things for my mom.

    I do have some very old Heisey leaded crystal dishes. I hadn’t figured out if I can have hot tea in the tea cups or if they are just for punch. But I have plates and bowls too.

  25. dezertsuz

    I would keep your favorite covered dish or platter, personally. When food was served in courses, larger plates weren’t needed. Some of those meals had a *lot* of courses! It’s a beautiful set. No, I don’t have any inherited china. I thought I would, as my adopted mother had several lovely sets, but nothing at all came to me. I would have liked just one set, but it hasn’t ruined my life. =) Your tablescape is beautiful, and the napkin placement creative.

  26. Irena

    Love your mother-in-law law China it’s beautiful. I agree. With everyone here save one piece for your self. also how fortunate your husband is to. Have his mum at 99. Years. Next year she would qualify for a letter from the Queen.

  27. Paula

    This China set us lovely! You and your MIL are generous in letting it go. I have some silverware and crystal I’m trying to match. Perhaps someday I’ll find the pieces I need because of another generous soul.

  28. KJ

    That is beautiful. My mother died a few years ago, at age 89, and I got her Grantham china set. It is formal, yet not scary fragile looking. My own set is a lot newer but still discontinued – Mikasa silk flowers..I had a tea set of Royal Albert American Beauty Rose but sold it as I no longer have room. I miss it. I DID manage to keep 4 coffee mugs from the set. 🙂 We are moving to a condo soon and I plan to eat at the dining table at least once every two weeks, using the ‘good’ china. Why not enjoy it?

    It is so wonderful that your MIL is still with you, and you are close enough to be able to drive to see her.

  29. Myrna Watson

    What a great story on China Dishes, Butter dish? interesting. I have many odd plates/dishes/cup and saucer from family and wonder the stories. You certainly got my interest up. How long did that table setting take, would take me all day.
    Carole, it is lovely and Yes for sure would leave up to admire for a few days/ weeks.

  30. That china is beautiful. I had a friend who asked for a cup and saucer as a keepsake when our family was clearing out my parents’ house. She displayed the set with others that had belonged to people who were dear to her.

  31. I’ve always enjoyed seeing your tablescapes but this one is just phenomenal! Much like with a cherished quilt, all the history of the china itself that you diligently researched and your personal family history in relation to it just makes it that much more enjoyable and of value. Like others have said, I do hope you are able to keep at least one (or a few!) pieces as both a momento of your generous MIL as well as an appropriate addition to augment some of your own tablescapes. I have both my (maternal) grandmother’s and my mother’s china. Simple stuff but fortunately my grandmother’s was plain white with platinum edging and my mother’s has a floral pattern on white with platinum edging so both sets can be used together. I only take them out when I host our extended family at Thanksgiving at which time I can also use my (paternal) grandmother’s and my mother’s silver utensil settings. Ironically, growing up I never even knew my mother owned a china or a silver set — I only found them when I cleaned out her apartment after she passed (including cards and pictures from her wedding!). I had taken possession of my grandmother’s set about fifteen years prior when my Mom moved my grandmother in with her because she swore she didn’t have space for it. My grandmother’s set had always been used when the family gathered for Thanksgiving at her house and I admit I was glad to be able to continue that tradition after both of them were gone.

  32. This china is beautiful and your research is quite fascinating Carole! I was really taken with the butter dish and the insert to perhaps keep the butter cool or something else warm…I am also very impressed that your 99 year old MIL is up to cleaning out her attic! How will you ever go about shipping that china to sell? I am so glad to get to enjoy it for a little while before letting it go…

  33. Such a lovely set of china! I agree that there is more grace in antique china than in more modern patterns, even though the latter can be very beautiful. If sell you must, sell it as a set where the whole is worth more than the parts. But for family memories, I’d definitely keep a piece, perhaps the unique butter dish.

  34. Oh my my my! Your green transferware is amazing! I have a small collection in several different color stories. To have such a collection in one is amazing.

  35. Kathy A

    I enjoyed your post, but cringed when you said it was to be sold. It is a great piece of family history. I hope you can have a formal dinner–maybe con a friend into being the maid, eat by candlelight, etc. to make it memorable. When I have had to let stuff of my late mother go, I have often taken pictures of it! Helps me keep the memory without the stuff (none so beautiful as yours, though!).


    Oh my dear friend, I’m so happy you chose to keep such an amazing heirloom, this gorgeous green transferware. The sceneries are lovely as is the beautiful vegetable covered bowl.
    Heirloom pieces are my fav. I received
    from my dear MIL her wedding china, made in the USA and that factory doesn’t exist anymore.
    Can you please let me know what brand is your gold flatware, as I am going to Miami and wish to order one for us. Thanks in advance.

Comments are closed.