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Glass Discussion & Research. No ID requests here please. => British & Irish Glass => Topic started by: Bernard C on April 28, 2014, 04:06:02 PM

Title: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Bernard C on April 28, 2014, 04:06:02 PM
Faintly acid stamped to base pre-1950 "Stuart / ENGLAND".   h. 9" 22.5cm, w 1101g 2lb 6¾oz.

See three images with click main image to enlarge feature at

Benson/Hayhurst tells us that the Ellesmere design was by Ludwig Kny, unsurprisingly as it incorporates Kny's outlined mitre cuts.   Most examples of Ellesmere such as stemmed glasses and footed items have a narrow base, so only room for one slanting outlined mitre cut between each fern.   Here, with a broader base, two have been incorporated between each fern, in turn separated by a simple apostrophe.

Benson/Hayhurst tells us (p14) 1940s-50s, but Kny left Stuart in 1937, and Benson/Hayhurst notes that it was in the 1964 catalogue, so the production time span must be larger.   Anyone know?

The stopper is not the style regularly seen with Ellesmere decanters.   All those I could find have what I think of as a truncated spire shape.   Is this squatter full cut star stopper indicative of the decanter's date?

Was this chunky shouldered shape of decanter for a particular drink?

I am particularly pleased with how my third image turned out, clearly showing the stopper number on both parts.   Pure luck, I can assure you!

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Paul S. on April 30, 2014, 04:00:46 PM
it's an attractive cut design, and as you say those outlined leaf shapes are very much a signature feature of Kny - they are in fact are shown more strikingly on some Stuart/Kny vases in Hajdamach and Jackson (it's exactly the same photograph in both books).
Regret I've not the remotest idea for how long Ellesmere was offered by Stuart, but when you think of the longevity of other Stuart cut patterns such as 'Beaconsfield', 'Stratford Rings' and 'Woodchester', then 'Ellesmere may have had a longish life.         Maybe not as long as some though  -  perhaps the cutting of curved mitres wasn't cost effective - Miller's doesn't give a date post 1950's for this pattern.          Unfortunately, I've not yet found an example of 'Ellesmere'.

As mentioned by Nigel Benson both Reg Pierce and John Luxton continued using this feature for Stuart, as did David Hammond for T/Webb and it can be seen on pieces from other factories.

I'd suggest unreliable to link a stopper shape to a specific C20 date - there was so much copying of shapes  -  with the exception perhaps of Continental liqueur and perfume bottles, where stoppers became an art form in their own right.

Stuart in fact offered this precise body shape with an alternative traditional very boring cut design - and on both they linked them with Georgian style mushroom stoppers, as they also did with one or two copies of Georgian shaped bodies.               Traditionally shaped decanters (Miller's example of 'Ellesmere' - page 239) probably warranted a tallish stopper for aesthetic reasons.
However, this decanter is more of a deco looking squat shape with the neck emerging out of a flat shoulder, and a tall spire would be out of place.
This piece might be for liqueur or spirits rather than sherry or port.

Again, as pointed out by Nigel, Stuart benefited from some of the 1930's most avant garde designers, and for such pieces tradition was ignored completely and both bodies and stoppers reflected the influence of what was the entirely new art deco fashion, and novelty broke with tradition in many areas.
Stuart produced many wonderful shapes of decanter/stopper during the 1930's.

Am assuming I'm seeing the No. 11  -  is that correct?? 

Sorry this doesn't help, but a very nice bottle. :)

Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Bernard C on May 01, 2014, 02:35:50 AM
Paul — thanks for your comments.   A neighbour who saw it today was sure that the shape is for spirits.   He also suggested that the squat rounded shape of the top of the stopper would make it more suitable for and, therefore, easier to sell to tantalus manufacturers.   I can certainly visualise three of these in a tantalus with a lockable swinging top.

Does Andy McConnell discuss this in his book?

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Paul S. on May 01, 2014, 09:57:11 AM
he does, but unfortunately it would seem that his comments don't favour your suggestion that this one might have been part of a tantalus set Bernard.

Andy McConnell's book devotes two or three pages to the relationship between decanters, stoppers and the tantalus, which was a mid C19 invention  -  prior to which the Georgians used what they called a decanter frame (bit like an oversized cruet holder).           The earlier Georgian 'frame' omitted the all important device which prevented 'surreptitious withdrawal' of the booze, and because of this the frame allowed the use of a variety of stopper shapes and sizes, and the bottles themselves might be round, square, or barrel shaped.
But for obvious reasons, the invention of the tantalus - with its top bar - restricted stopper heights, and most are some variation on the faceted ball type or other squat/square design.
There are, however, some late C19 and early C20 tantalus designs which don't incorporate a top bar, and instead use a system whereby the stopper is locked to the rim of the neck directly - yet even on these it would seem that some sort of faceted ball shaped stopper was used, rather than a spire etc.

But most importantly the answer to your suggestion that this piece might have been produced as suitable for a tantalus, is 'no' it probably wouldn't have been by reason of its shape.
'Square bottles, dating from Roman times, contain the greatest volume in the smallest space' might be one reason for the shape of bottles destined for the tantalus, but the more obvious one would be that flat contiguous surfaces conserve space and allow the tantalus to be of a more compact shape.
But whatever the reason/s all examples of the tantalus in McConnell's book show the bottles to be square (or at least rectangular) in cross section.
That's not to say that stand alone spirit bottles couldn't be round  - many were  -  although individual bottles seem mostly to have been of some truncated shape or at the least slim barrels or pyramids, and not the zillions of other bulbous shapes designed for sherry, port, claret etc.

I'd like to express my debt for most of the above information to Andy McConnell's book  -  it's a real goldmine of information  -  not just on decanters  -  but on much glass history in general.
I'd recommend that you buy a copy Bernard, but don't want to be responsible for your inability to be able to pay the rent for the next six months ;)

Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Bernard C on May 01, 2014, 10:52:32 AM
Paul — Thanks for your detailed comments.   However, I've already considered the bottle shape with my neighbour.   Ellesmere doesn't work on square or rectangular decanters — they have to be round.   So an Ellesmere tantalus has to contain round bottles.   A tantalus doesn't have to be portable, the prime consideration being to keep the wife, children, mother-in-law, and servants from drinking your expensive single malt.

I am not saying that an Ellesmere tantalus was ever produced, just that the possibility might have been included in the way all their spirit decanters were designed.   Suggestions of "But that's the way we always do it..."

Interesting contradiction of two apparently worthy and sensible design considerations.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Paul S. on May 01, 2014, 01:25:24 PM
sorry to hear you're having trouble with the servants, Bernard. ;)

One of the reasons, I believe, that Andy McConnell was going to revise his decanter book, was to increase the content regarding C20 bottles, which presently is rather meagre in comparison with material from preceding centuries.
Whether it'll ever happen I don't know, but would be very useful.
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: ahremck on May 01, 2014, 02:39:10 PM
If you look in my part of Yobunny it has a copy of the 1964 catalog.  Ellesmere was definitely in there, BUT your Spirit Decanter shape is not shown and I suspect it had stopped being made by then, but quite a lot of Ellesmere shapes are shown.

Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Carolyn Preston on May 01, 2014, 11:19:01 PM
Does anyone have a picture of a tantalus? I'm having problems imagining one here.

Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Anne on May 02, 2014, 01:04:38 AM
Here you are, Carolyn:
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Bernard C on May 03, 2014, 09:09:26 AM
Ross — Most useful.   Ellesmere is shown with a square decanter, with a ball stopper!   I wonder how they adapted the pattern to that shape.

So all the speculation above is really hot air, except, of course, it introduced the tantalus to Carolyn.

Paul — while I might buy and sell a tantalus in the course of dealing, I would never use one to its full extent.   Just imagine what message you would be giving visitors.   Makes me shudder to think.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Re: Stuart "Ellesmere" decanter queries
Post by: Carolyn Preston on May 03, 2014, 09:54:52 PM
Oh, I see those at the antique sales frequently  ::)