Five Top Hats, showing the size compared to a matchstick with examples of the crests

Exhibitor : Mike Tree

During a recent removal of a large Phillumeny collection from a dear deceased Member’s home, I came across a selection of 10 Crested China Ware ‘Top Hats’ which made me wonder about the history and manufacturers of these items as it seems very little data exists.

Typically with an oval design, resembling a ‘Top Hat’ they measure around 4 x 4.5 cms on the topper base with the brim being around 7 cms x 5 cms, a ribbed striker section on the base, for strike anywhere matches!

Base view with the ribbed striking surfaces and manufacturers markings

Following extensive research, it’s suggested that the general production of similar items was started during the 1880’s by the Stoke On Trent Pottery of  W H Goss to be followed by many various competing producers running through the decades culminating in an end of the craze following the Great Depression in the 1930’s.

The demand was centred around the Tourist market where it was popular craze for visitors to collect souvenirs of their holidays, with a Top Hat bearing the Civic or Heraldic Crest of the site visited being a typical example.


Top view, showing the capacity for around 100 matches

The identification of the manufacturers is somewhat awkward to establish with any certainty given the lack of markings, however, firms competing with W H Goss included Carlton, Shelley, Grafton, Savoy, Swan, Willow Art, and Arkinstall’s Arcadian ware.

One such clear base marking is ‘Gemma’ indicating the manufacturer to be the Czechoslavakian, porcelain factory of Lazarus & Rosenfield (founded in 1883) which was bought in 1885 by Franz Schmidt. 

It is therefore clear that the craze for Crested China ware had indeed attracted foreign production with Imports to supply the market demand alongside that enjoyed by the traditional Staffordshire producers.

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