Pottery Mark - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers

by Corinne
(adelaide ,SA, australia)

Pottery Mark - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers

Pottery Mark - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers

Pottery Mark Query - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers:- My mother was given this set of 5 handled soup dishes and saucers in 1955 as a wedding present. Despite extensive web searching, I can find little information on Royal Imperial, and nothing with this pattern.

I wonder if you could assist in dating these, and advise whether or not they were a commercially mass produced item, and hence of little value, or individually hand painted as she believes.

I was unable to get a clear individual photo of the marks, but it shows clearly in the group photo.

Royal Imperial in red, and has the letter F also in red underneath.

I am sure she would like some history of the company or details of the set if these were indeed a part of a dinner set.

I appreciate your assistance.



Reply from Peter (admin) below - just scroll down


antique china values

Reply by Peter (admin)

To:- Pottery Mark Query - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers

Dear Corinne

Many thanks for your query and for becoming a friend to the site by subscribing to the newsletter.

It is an interesting query for many reasons, not least the story about your Mother’s insistence they are hand painted. Mother knows best, you know! Well mostly anyhow.

Firstly, I have never heard of Royal Imperial and they are not a famous maker as such - not a mention of them in any of my books. However, there are a few other makers who have used the name “Imperial” within their pottery marks (which I list below). To me, the name sounds like a made up name – possibly by a more recent firm who, in the 1950s, needed a trading name that sounded suitable for marketing bone china – possibly an off-shoot of a larger concern, or ex-employees.

Not many makers can legitimately use the word “Royal” in their trading names. One maker who held a proper Royal Warrant was the (now defunct) former giant of a company Ridgway.

Interestingly, the pottery mark on your Royal Imperial wares look almost exactly the same as various Ridgway pottery marks of the 1950s - similar oval shape with similar crown on top and bone china, made in England in the same places and a Red makers name in the middle. If it is a trade mark of Ridgway, why were they using a rather silly made up name of Royal Imperial, which means nothing, rather than one of their stable of at least a dozen or so famous historic backstamps? Who knows?

There is quite a bit of Royal Imperial bone china for sale on ebay, but I notice none of the sellers attempt to identify exactly who this maker actually is, because I doubt they know. If anyone knows, it would be great to have it identified here on this site, so please write in or leave a comment below.

Here are the other makers who use the name “Imperial” within their wares:-

    1. There was a firm unconnected with Josiah Wedgwood, calling themselves Wedgwood & Co, who had many different trade marks for their wares. One such mark listed in my books is “Imperial Porcelain”. Another is “Royal Tunstall”, another is also “Royal Semi- Porcelain”. They are not listed as having used the “Royal Imperial” pottery mark, but as they survived from 1860 to 1965, there is a chance they may have used the term “Royal Imperial” as a mark from the 1950’s onwards.

    2. There was a firm by the name of William Hulme of Staffordshire who also used the name “Imperial Porcelain” for a short period of time in the 1950’s (but not identified as using “Royal Imperial”).

    3. Two US firms used the term “Imperial” in their pottery marks. One was Hull Pottery of Crooksville OH, founded 1905, and the other was the Pioneer Pottery of Wellsville OH (1884 to 1900).

    4. The Europeans also got in on the act with Imperial Wessel of Bonn (1893 to present) and Imperial wares by the Amphora Works, Bohemia (1892 to 1945)

Now the next interesting topic you bring up is the issue of hand painting.

Can an over-enthusiastic owner mistake hand painting for transfer print? Answer, YES, often.

Is it likely in this case? Answer, probably yes.

A slightly bogus sounding name of a modern firm like Royal Imperial would be unlikely to have dabbled in the highly expensive arena of hand-painted bone china, unless they were possibly quite mad and really wanted to go out of business fast. If it IS hand-painted you would have something unique and very rare, so treasure your collection. Hopefully Mum will prove me wrong!

How to tell if your wares are hand painted?

A transfer print can easily fool the eye because, of course, the original artwork is painted by a real person of great artistic talent. Sometimes tricky manufacturers can partly hand paint a finish and describe the wares as ‘hand-painted’.

First Look Up Close

A good magnifying glass is a must! Look at the areas of shading, for example, where a petal goes from light to dark – you will see the strokes of the brush before your very eyes. A transfer print will have fine dots, rather than brush marks. If in doubt, the best way to confirm printing rather than painting is to compare the same pattern on different pieces in the same set. On the printing it will be identical. On the painting of course it will be different each time.

Mixed techniques (part hand painted, part transfer) will have obvious transfer printed outlines, within which the painter ‘fills in the colour with glaze’.

Then Feel the Wares

Transfers are mostly done ‘overglaze’ (ie. over the top layer of glaze). There is a slight ridge where the print starts. Run your finger across to see.

Well that's my tuppence worth about your mystery soup dishes. If you can't wait for an answer via this public forum, or if you'd like some professional input, feel free to use my 'fast track to an expert' page


where you can contact a bona fide professional appraiser - one I’ve checked out myself - who can tell you if your mark is identifiable by experts without you having to pay any money upfront. This service is unique online and is designed to protect my site visitors from wasting their time and money online.

On my China Replacement page, I show you how to search the internet properly and find the value of your Royal Imperial wares.

I give general tips on pottery marks here .

Hope this helps!

Best regards,

Peter (admin)

Comments for Pottery Mark - Royal Imperial F-handled Soup Plates & Saucers

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Royal Imperial (with a red "E")
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the answers to the young ladies question about the Royal Imperial. I too have a few sets that a friend gave me that their family was no longer using.

Had painted or not, they are beautiful and I'll enjoy my cup of tea with them.

Aloha from Honolulu!

Royal Imperial - Cost a Weeks Wages in 1963 - From Oldham Market
by: Harvey

Hi Peter, my wife and I have read with interest your comment on Royal Imperial. Just to add to the mystery, we purchased a coffee set, consisting of 6 cups, 6 saucers, a coffee pot, sugar bowl and milk jug in 1963 on Oldham Market for the sum of Two pounds ten shillings, which was a fair amount of money at the time!!! well it was a least a weeks wages!!! The set is also edged in gold, decorated with roses both inside and outside the pieces and bears the same marks that Corrine in Adelaide indicates. In my view the pieces are transfer printed.



Peter (admin) says:- Thanks for that, Harvey. Nice story. Let's hope the mystery is solved soonest!

Royal Imperial and Ridgways
by: Tommy Hodgens

I read your article reply to the question about Royal Imperial. My mother has Royal Imperial Bone China. I came across this on ebay and thought you may be interested in, since you thought it could be connected to Ridgways Potteries. Here is the link:


The seller claims..

''Royal Vale, Royal Imperial, Colcloch etc were all made by Ridgways Potteries in the 1950s Staffordshire, England''

hope this helps.. Tommy


Peter (admin) says:

Thanks for that Tommy. I think this Royal Imperial may well be Ridgways. However, I still don't understand why they used this made up name. Colclough and Vale were both important antique brands (see my Antique China Online Guide) but Imperial is not - just a marketing label as far as I can see. I can only think it was for the purpose of selling into markets where they were unable to use their other names due to exclusivity contracts.

The comment form Harvey (above) gives us a big clue maybe. Harvey bought an expensive coffee set in 1963 form Oldham market. That was a big light bulb moment for me. If you were a brand name trying to maintain the integrity of the brand, you wouldn't put your top labels into market stalls. However, you would make up a name unassociated with your prestige names to fulfill that market. Thanks Harvey and Tommy - we may have another solved mystery!

Peter (admin)

Imperial / Ridgway /Adderley
by: Tricia

Hope i can help. I also have a beautiful teaset in Royal Imperial. One of the cups however was stamped with two marks over each other. Royal Imperial Mark is in pink/red. The mark underneath is Royal Adderley with Ridgway Potteries Ltd over the top and a crown - having checked the mark this Ridgway stamp was used between 1962-1964. Presumably one of the employees mixed up the stamps. This would also explain why Imperial added Royal to their name. Hope this answers a few questions.

Similar Royal Imperial set
by: Kerry

I have an incomplete dinner set of Royal Imperial, comprising 6 dinner plates, 6 side plates, 4 soup bowls with saucers (same shape as Corinne's query and photo). We bought these from an op shop in South Bucks. The stamp is almost the same but has a red "U" instead of "F".

The soup bowls have a gold line about 7mm from the rim on the inside. Interestingly several of the pieces are marked as Shelly, intead of Royal Imperial. These ones do not have the gold line on the inside and the small floral design on the back is slightly different. Otherwise they appear the same to my untrained eye.

I thought maybe the Shelley pieces were fakes, or perhaps whoever made Royal Imperial copied a Shelley design.

Shelley Ridgways Allied English Potteries
by: Peter (admin)


This is the final piece of the jigsaw, many thanks for making this definitive contribution to the thread.

Shelley continued in production until 1966 when it was taken over by Allied English Potteries, also known as Ridgways.

As I had suspected, Royal Imperial was a backstamp of Ridgways. I would still like to know why they used this brand when they had so many famious names in their stable.

Any ideas, please post.

Peter (admin)

Imperiale&Royale 1789
by: Frank Shardlow

Hi I live in France and have many items stamped Imperial & Royal with the date 1789 Nimy Belgique stamped on the back also impresed numbers and coloured dots and a mame Ivoire that i think is the base colour .My French naboure has asked me to sell them for her ,all the items have birds butterflies flowers incects ect .All are diferent ie in colour shades and patern shapes .These items from large tereines large dinner plates to small plates and bowls have been pased down from her grandmouther and have been in the famalie over 70 years i have photos if you want to see them best Regards Frank

Royal imperial
by: Billy

Hi There.
My mother had a small platter plate maybe going back to the 1956,it has Royal Imperial in the middle with finest bone china above and the crown above that with made in England below, and to the left of that is a gold cross, can you help.


Royal Imperial
by: Lisa

Hi there,

Thanks for this interesting post. I've just bought a tea set of Royal Imperial, I would be interested if anyone has come across any books/websites to help identify the patterns used. Mine has a blue rose design.


Royal Imperial Bone China
by: Jan

I have a complete tea and dinner service in the Red and white rose design edged in gold.What is very strange is that although identical in colour and design, the six tea cups, milk jug, sugar bowl and bread and butter plate are marked Dorchester not Royal Imperial ,all the other pieces have the Royal Imperial stamp, including oddly the saucers that go with the cups. I have wondered if in fact they were all marketed by Ridgway as seconds as there are odd firing flaws on the backs of some the plates. My set is in undamaged condition and I'd love to know if it has any value.

It is very pretty.


Comment by Peter (admin)

Hi Jan

Yes, I think you have given one big clue as to why the giant Ridgway firm used so many different made up backstamps when they had so many really high quality (and old) labels in their stable.

I had a bit of a light bulb moment when I read your comment. Of course, this diverse labelling was to do with volume and quality. They may have produced mass-produced 'cheaper' volume lines to sell to more down-market retail chains such as Woolworths, the Co-op and even market stalls (in the UK) or Wall-mart and other chains in the US. The quality was pretty much OK, but it was just that they dare not put a 'nice' label on the wares as this would cause a great outcry by the more upmarket China & Glass retailers who would immediately close their accounts with Ridgways.

Your Dorchester label, may well be a way of getting rid of slight seconds. Now I am starting to get it. Thanks for that.

Also have imperial china
by: Sarah

I have a dinner set that is royal imperial in white china with gold roses. I got to from a dear friend after she died. I had information on the pottery. I have found the comments helpful. Would like to find out more information.

Royal Imperial China
by: AjR


I have some plates marked "Royal Imperial S Finest Bone China Made in England."

They are similar to the Colclough and Royal Vale china I have in terms of colour, texture, weight etc so I was surprised to see the backstamp.

I was searching for clues re: Royal Imperial and ended up on this page...Jan's comment above about "odd firing faults" is spot on. There is some odd bubbling in a few places under the plates. Everything else is fine. It would've been a shame to waste such pretty pieces and I guess Ridgway thought so too!

Thank you for this site, it's very useful.

Ridgway Seconds?
by: Peter (admin)

Yes, thanks for your kind comments. Your contribution gives us more evidence of this theory of a seconds label. Great post! That's why this site is so useful. Everyone making their own small contributions!

Peter (admin)

a match
by: Anonymous

Found some of these here in shrewsbury UK. ..

I have inherited a beautiful pink and dark rose and gold Royal Imperial teaset from my mother.
by: Anonymous

I was with her as a child when she bought it from a specialist china ware shop in Manchester in the 50s.
Might it be that rather than these beautiful tea sets being seen as seconds, companies like Ridgways wanted to move into wider markets freed up from the limitations of their own exclusive brand names and saw a new name as a way to open up their products to these markets?


Reply from Peter (admin)

Hi and thanks for this interesting first hand account of this brand being purchased new from the shops. I really love this type of contribution.

We now know where, how and when this brand was marketed. It was in a specialist china shop in a big city in the UK, not a cheaper type of chain store mentioned earlier.

So I think you may be right, Ridgways were opening up markets, making the luxury of bone china available to more people. They were carefully marketing and distributing their various brand labels, designs and patterns to different retailers and their different positions within the market.

Very insightful, thanks.

Peter (admin)

Royal imperial set with Shelley's dainty shape
by: Jamee

Hi, thanks so much for this discussion. I was in a charity shop today when I saw these trios in Shelley's well known dainty white shape. I thought wow I've found a bargain but when I picked them up to check the backstsmp they had Royal Imperial on them. I thought maybe they were fakes because Shelley were the only company that produced this shape. I was a bit disappointed but they were still lovely so I bought them anyway. I went home and compared the two and found that the Royal Imperial is not as fine as the Shelley so perhaps Ridgway produced Royal Imperial for the working class.

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