Breakfast was important to the Victorians, whose tables were covered with an array of delightful pottery created specially for the meal.
A Victorian breakfast was not a hasty affair. Even the poor tried to make a
proper meal of it, and for the rich, it was a banquet. Fish, game and cold meats were included, is were bread, muffins and devilled kidneys. Bacon and eggs were added to the menu towards the end of the century.
A Qianlong Chinese Export
tureen, circa 1760.
The introduction in the 17th century of the fork, followed
soon after by tea and coffee, had fuelled a huge increase in the production of domestic
The fork added scope to people's eating habits, while the new hot drinks required
cups, saucers and pots, not to mention such accessories as slop basins, jugs and sugar bowls. What's more, cups got broken in use,
so the market was never sated.
Dinner china was not considered suitable for breakfast use. Items such as muffin plates circular dishes with a domed cover for serving hot muffins - tea and coffee pots, egg cups, toast racks, jam and honey pots, butter dishes, cold meat platters and potted sardine boxes were all essential to the breakfast table.
Breakfast cups, which took about half a pint of tea, were considerably larger than those to be found in tea sets, and even plates were different; breakfast plates were smaller than dinner plates, but a little larger than tea plates.
Decorative styles were different, too. While most dinner services were fairly restrained and formal, wares made for the breakfast table tended to be brighter and more colourful.
The bountiful provisions and relative informality of the Victorian breakfast was expressed in the range of cheery, colourful china with which the table was laid.
There is Such a vast range of English breakfast china that space may limit you to collecting
Toast racks make a good subject and so do jam pots and butter dishes. You may decide that you wish to collect only colourful majolica ware, which was often
chosen for serving platters, pots and dishes, or blue-and white china.
Another option is to stick to one or two manufacturers. Every major manufacturer made breakfast china. Spode's 'Italian' pattern blue-and-white ware was very popular for breakfast ware, as was imitation delftware.
There are no specialist shops which deal only in breakfast china, but most junk shops, antiques shops and markets will have bits and pieces
for you to look at.
You may pick up some pieces at a boot fair, while auctions are another rich source. There is
no need to be nervous it a sale, simply set yourself a budget and don't allow yourself to get carried away by' the excitement.
You are not likely to come across a complete set of Victorian breakfast china, and even if you did, it would probably be wildly expensive, because such sets are rare.
However, searching out selected attractive pieces can be great fun and is well within the means of a collector on a budget.
As always with china, check for hairline cracks, chips and repairs. Repairs to handles and spouts are especially likely as they are particularly vulnerable. A hairline crack can cut a piece's value by half, so look closely.
Examine gilding and enamel carefully for signs of flaking or wear. The under edges of plates and saucers and the inner rims of lids are particularly prone to gathering chips.
Age, condition, popularity and maker are all taken into account when valuing china. There are literally hundreds of makers' marks, so if you intend to get serious, you need to study them.
A Wedgwood teacup and saucer are likely to fetch a lot more than an almost identical, but unmarked cup and saucer, for example.
If a piece of china is expensive because the dealer says it was made by a respected manufacturer, it is good if you can check the maker's mark yourself.
Ultimately, however, it is how much you like and value a piece that really counts. There's no point in you buying a piece by a famous maker if you don't feel you can live with it.