Handsome Gifts

A Woods’ Ivory Dinner Set from Singleton

A dinner set has long been one of the most useful wedding gifts a couple can receive. Historically, porcelain and bone china tablewares were both highly valuable and fragile, so many recipients only dined on them on special occasions. But this cream earthenware set, probably given to Lurlie (Lurline) (née Bailey) and Arthur Jakins, as a present at their 1923 wedding in Singleton, is more modest in quality. Though fancy in style and decoration, it may have been purchased with the everyday meal in mind.

These pieces from the set carry the maker’s mark ‘Woods Ivory Ware’ – a ‘utility’ tableware range produced with various transfer printed patterns. They were manufactured by Woods & Sons (established 1865) in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, England, which became one of the most successful of the Staffordshire potteries. Their Ivory Ware was usually sold in sets of 32 or 40 various pieces, and even if they arrived the long journey from England to Australia intact, inevitably, households usually broke or chipped at least a few.

Describing the Jakins’ wedding, the Singleton Argus noted how ‘The happy couple were the recipients of many handsome gifts.’ Nobody now knows who gave this set to Lurline and Arthur but newspaper advertisements tell us that Woods’ Utility sets were commonly sold in stores in Australia from about 1930. Perhaps this set was bought at James Moore’s Bargain Store in Singleton? In 1936, the store was closing and advertised its one remaining set of Woods’ Ivory Ware for sale. If this example was produced in the early 1920s, before the wedding, it may have then been a very new design, making it a very fashionable, and possibly expensive, ‘handsome’ gift.