During the past year I have ‘seen’ more Maling pottery and ‘met’ more collectors than ever before. The quotes should give it away – these have been virtual encounters in cyberspace.
It was in August 1997 that I acquired the technology. The World Wide
Web was finally open to me, and one of my first searches was for articles
on Maling – a pottery which has been an interest for more than 15 years.
It used to be said that an infinite number of monkeys, if equipped with
typewriters, would eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare. So
I was surprised and disappointed when my search revealed that none of
the higher primates had yet got around to producing a Maling website.
If you want a job doing… as they say! A trip to the bookshop provided
me with a manual on basic HTML coding. Holding the book open with one
hand and typing rather slowly with the other, I gradually learned the
perils of omitting closing quotes and tags, and the pleasure when a page
of raw text in Notepad suddenly blossoms into a formatted, hyperlinked
document when opened in a web browser. (Well, sometimes!)
The site began as a few modest pages – after all, who else was going to
read it? If there was any interest in Maling among the citizens of
cyberspace, surely someone would have produced a site already.
I registered the site with search engines and made contact with
established antiques resources such as World Collectors’ Net in the hope
of encouraging some traffic. In a short time, my first e-mail arrived.
I was amazed to find it was from Steven Moore – author of ‘The Trademark
of Excellence’ – the standard reference work for Maling collectors. He
kindly praised my efforts and said that he had been thinking of
something similar, but didn’t have the time to administer a website on a regular basis. Would I be interested in a collaboration in which he
would provide the expert knowledge if I would act as webmaster? It was
an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Soon we were in touch with collectors around the world – answering
queries, identifying pieces, or simply exchanging news and chat. One year on, the site has grown considerably and is now attracting several hundred
visitors a month. The interest has promoted a spin-off – the formation
of the Maling Collectors’ Society. This will allow website visitors to
meet in person and extends the services of the site to those who do not
yet have access to the Web.
The society is working hard to fill in some of the gaps in the factory’s history and to locate ‘missing’ pattern numbers and shapes in the hope of publishing these for the benefit of collectors. Again, the Web is proving a useful tool.
Without exception, the collectors I have met via the Web have been
enthusiastic about their love of Maling and generous in sharing their
knowledge, as the following anecdote illustrates.
One of my main areas of interest is royal commemorative wares. On a recent visit to London, I spotted a 1911 coronation mug which, from a distance, appeared to be a typical Maling shape. However:
It didn’t have a Maling mark;
When I got closer, I didn’t recognise the transfer; and
The dealer said it had been purchased in the Midlands, which would lead one to assume that it may have been made there.
The only clue to its provenance was the inscription on the rear – ‘From the Stella Coal Company’. It had to be worth the gamble of buying. If it was Maling, it was a rare find. If it wasn’t, it could always be sold on again. But how to turn the suspi
The best chance was to track down the Stella Coal Company. If, by any chance, it had been close to Newcastle (the home of Maling ware) it would be almost certain that the company would have gone to the local factory for its ‘pots’.
Within days of my posting a query on the society’s website, a correspondent in the south of England e-mailed to say that she had contacted a friend who was a mining engineer in the north east. He had access to maps showing the local coalfields prior to
A circuitous route to confirmation – but evidence that the Web really can help the antique collector in unexpected ways. Unfortunately, not always. I have another unmarked mug (Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee of 1897) which resembles Maling ware. The
Searches of the Web have turned up an address in London (now an office block, I believe) but no further details of this organisation. Perhaps visitors to the World Collectors’ Net site will be able to help with this one?
The Maling Collectors’ Society website
Postal address: PO Box 1762, North Shields NE30 4YJ.