Sunday, February 2, 2014


Along with regrets about not buying more bookshelves I also have regrets about not buying more collectable malt whisky (I have spent a chunk of my working life recommending people buy very reasonably priced bottles which are now worth a relative fortune without ever managing to nab any for myself - although if I had I would probably have drunk them which might have been worse) and not buying more cornishware. I have a few bits pretty much all bought new and often as seconds but how I wish I'd get more when the getting was good.

Just in case anybody doesn't know cornishware is the blue and white stripy crockery that legend has it was inspired by the blue sea and white sandy beaches of Cornwall (or something similar), it was actually made in Derbyshire, or at least it was until 2007 and it's a bit of a design icon. It's been around since the 1920's and for most of it's production life was at the cheap and cheerful end of the market. I like it because it has an undeniable retro appeal as well as the timeless quality of a proper classic, I also like it because it's practical - I don't have room in my kitchen for anything I don't use (with the exception of some egg cups, not a fan of the boiled egg) which along with price is why I'm not a collector, but oh how I wish I could afford to be.

I got my first bits in Stoke-On-Trent, I guess when Mason Cash took over the company and there were bits floating round cheap as discontinued lines and then used to pick up odds and ends until Mason Cash pulled the plug on it in 2007. It's a shame they couldn't hang on for just a little bit longer until the baking boom really hit. As it is the company name was bought up and cornishware is still made but in China and it's not quite the same. Pre 2007 it wasn't exactly cheap but you could buy it from habitat and all sorts of kitchen shops, there was a good range of core lines and a collectors club that released special editions (my particular regret is not getting a cinnamon shaker) now it's definitely not cheap at all, hardly anyone stocks it because supply is so erratic, and so is the quality which is indefensible when something is so definitely not cheap. In fact having read around a bit about it today it seems as if the current stuff is seen in the light of copies rather than proper authentic cornishware which is a huge shame.

The other problem with it is that the limited range also has limited use - the storage jars which only come in two sizes are both a bit on the small side - the large one won't hold a kilo of porridge oats. Nor do they say what should be in them any more and what use is a row of anonymous jars when you're looking for raisins and not sultanas? It seems a shame to me, with average prices for old storage jars (the sort with names) being between £50 and £80 these days and running into the hundreds for rarer pieces it looks like there's a market out there and I'd love an affordable (even if it was only just affordable) set of jars for baking stuff - I can't be the only one.

Very happily for me though I found a piece yesterday that was both practical and affordable. I got a lovely jar for baking powder for a very reasonable £25 (I think it was miss-priced but when I questioned the dealer about it he knocked a fiver off so I stopped asking and paid up). It is the most lovely shape, tapering slightly towards the base and would be desirable even if it wasn't useful. Now I need to track down an affordable sugar shaker...  


  1. It's a gorgeous collection (love that baking powder jar - and the result of questioning the price!). My neighbour must have received the dining set as a wedding present in the late 1950s, and she still has a few pieces doing well among her other things. They are completely ageless in design and I love that she still uses them everyday, even though family attrition has carried away most of them.

  2. My godmother had it as well, and every time I see it I'm reminded of her lovely kitchen - it was such a warm and welcoming place. It's crazy that it's so expensive now and crazy that it's not in proper production.

  3. When I got married in 1956 everybody seemed to get either Cornish ware or Denby pottery as presents. I had green Denby and still have nearly all of it in use.

  4. So nice to still have those things and to still be using them. The china I bought when I moved out of home was all super cheap stuff from spode sales none of which matched but was great value. A few years ago mum gave me a whole lot of burleigh ware so I got rid of the mismatched stuff since when I've somehow managed to start breaking plates (most frustrating). I'm planning a trip to Denby with a friend sometime this year and maybe that will serve me better. I would have had Cornishware if it was a choice though.