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Rochdale Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

O, what do you buy a child for Christ­mas? It used to be so easy, but now I’m not so sure any­thing cur­rently in the shops will stand the test of time.

Per­mit me to rec­om­mend any of the pieces il­lus­trated here, par­tic­u­larly if your gift is an at­tempt to in­stil an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the child­hood of a past age.

Each is a prod­uct of the Shel­ley pot­tery com­pany, de­signed by friends Ma­bel Lu­cie At­twell and the some­what less well known Hilda Cowham.

Each made their names as il­lus­tra­tors of chil­dren’s books, pop­u­lated only by the cutest of chil­dren de­serv­ing all the good for­tune life be­tween the wars could of­fer.

Al­though it was Ma­bel who is per­haps re­mem­bered best, and con­se­quently col­lected most, it was Hilda who joined Shel­ley’s first.

Born in 1873, she stud­ied at Wim­ble­don and Lam­beth Schools of Art and fi­nally the pres­ti­gious Royal Col­lege of Art, win­ning a com­pe­ti­tion in The Stu­dio mag­a­zine, kick-start­ing her ca­reer.

Hilda was one of the first women artists to con­trib­ute to Punch mag­a­zine and also con­trib­uted to The Graphic and The Sketch among oth­ers, as well as il­lus­trat­ing var­i­ous chil­dren’s books, some of which she wrote her­self.

One of her char­ac­ters whom she de­scribed as a “bush-haired, black-stockinged imp with big sash bow and in­fin­i­tes­i­mal pet­ti­coats”, was so fa­mous it be­came known as “the Cowham child”.

The re­quest from the Shel­ley fam­ily to work for the firm came in 1924. Their in­volve­ment with the com­pany did not be­gin un­til 1862, when Joseph Ball Shel­ley left his job at Dres­den and joined Henry Wile­man, owner of the Fo­ley Pot­tery. Its name is taken from an area be­tween the Stafford­shire towns of Long­ton and Fenton, where it pro­duced do­mes­tic earth­en­ware.

In about 1860 and recog­nis­ing the need to branch out, Wile­man built a sec­ond fac­tory to con­cen­trate on fine china table­ware. He died in 1864, leav­ing his sons Charles and James to each run the two fac­to­ries and when Charles re­tired in 1870, James took over both and made Joseph Shel­ley his partner.

Shel­ley’s son Percy joined the com­pany in 1881 and on the death of James Wile­man and his own fa­ther, Percy took over the busi­ness, in­tro­duc­ing new lines and tal­ent in the shape of

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