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Cunard White Star Line, 1st Class Art Deco Foley fine bone china tea & coffee service. 1936-1968.

by Jonathan Quayle |

This weeks arrival and bumper haul is a quantity of the ever popular banded ivory ware for the 1st Class by Foley & Grosvenor, especially designed for the the new Cunard White Star Liner, RMS 'Queen Mary', in 1936.

Original advertisement as featured within:- 'The Shipbuilder and Marine Engine-Builder', 'Queen Mary' Special edition, June 1936. Page 57.

The service was chosen to match the liners striking interiors, in a subtle 'ivory' tone to complement the liners as built light wooden paneling of native & exotic timbers. The set was striking modern and can be classed as an example of British Art Deco Modernism at its purest and finest form. The cube shaped tea service was chosen for its streamlined shape, primarily for its suitability for use within the riggers of a ships interior. No longer would fragile spouts and handles be as much of an issue with the built in design, as well as their unique stackable quality. Although looking like the epitome of classic Art Deco design of the 1930's, it is actually much early, pre dating this period. It was developed for its stacking ability in England around the turn of the century and found its first flourishing of mass use when chosen by Minton for use as the deck service of the Aquitania pre WW1, but wasn't widely used by the company fleet wide until post war. So in 1936 with the advent of the new Cunarder the design was used again, this time in a pattern that matched its striking design and shape qualities, the design is said to represent the sun rays over the grey atlantic. In time for the ships maiden voyage of 30,000 items were ordered!

A large collection of the rare 'souvenir' range, dated and stamped 'M 1936' for May 1936, compare and contrast to the far lighter tone of a similar service as produced in the 1950's and used onboard the Queen's.


The complete cube tea set, c-1950's.

Cunard had always employed the finest of china for the services onboard its liners, Minton, Spode etc had always been employed to design the best of the time in high hotel ware for the Atlantic. It's no surprise then that the fine china was envied travelling passengers as a choice 'souvenir'. The company was well aware of this so as early as the turn of the century into the 1900's the company also order matching items in the same used onboard ranges to be sold as souvenirs. To differentiate these legitimate souvenirs from those in use onboard the word 'souvenir' was applied to the underside of each piece. The service designed for Queen Mary was no different, so when she entered service Cunard White Star from experienced gleaned from the ships predecessors Mauretania and Aquitania, and the famous 'Birds of Paradise' pattern, commissioned Grosvenor to produce a tea service that passenger could purchase to remember their crossing. Few of these sets survive to this day, it appears they were produced for Cunard White Star in 1936/39, and for Cunard for a brief period from 1947 ending in the early 1950's. Those produced in 1936 are amongst the rarest and sport the same dark ivory tone as intended that would gradually be replaced over time with a far paler production.

Left, c-1950's pale ivory cube milk jug. Right, c-1936 the far richer dark ivory tone as originally intended for the ships service. This example showing one of the rarely seen 'Souvenir' examples, the two clearly showing the differing colours.

The service was in use from day one of the ships Maiden Voyage in May 1936, right up until the end in 1967. The pattern only finished being produced finally in 1968 when the Queen Mary's sister ship, Queen Elizabeth was withdrawn from service. Cunard rolling out the new service designed for the QE2 across the remaining fleet.

The seldom seen coffee cups and saucers (above), and example from the Kosher service for demitasse coffee (below). 

The standard tea cup, saucer and side/cake/sandwich plate. This example c-1936.

The seldom seen cake/sandwich serving plate, this example c-1936.

Interesting detail of the manufactures mark on the reverse of the cake plate, clearly showing the early and seldom seen 'Grosvenor' mark used only pre war, with the addition of the word 'souvenir' again a seldom seen mark. This example is also date stamped by the factory, 'M 36' So we can without doubt tie this service being made for the maiden month of Queen Mary's entry into service.

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