Utility China

This morning I walked past our local organic shop to find a box of junk with a label saying  

‘Feel free to take what you would like’

Well how could I turn down an offer like that? I mean, really? Thirty seconds on my hands and knees rummaging around won me this beautiful, bright, jug of happiness. A beautiful Jasmine milk jug.

Isn’t she lovely? I do already have one, which I use to store my eyeliners and lipliners upstairs in my bedroom but this little lady shall become a permanent feature of my dinning room table.

I’ve mentioned this fantastic war time stuff in the past and my love for it still rages on. Utility china in it’s pastel shades is so tempting and easy to mix and match that I knew it couldn’t possibly be just me that loved it.

Over my years of blogging I have come across a great many women who love it too, most notably Vintage PleasureKitschen PinkThe Vintage Cottage and Mrs B over at After All The World is a Beautiful Place, who has to put up with me man handling and drooling over her china collection every time I enter her pretty kitchen. Kitschen Pink even set up a flickr group. Which allows for china based lusting on all new levels.

I tend to find a lot of Johnson Bros Greydawn (notably a whole dinner service for £7 whilst we were on holiday in Wales a couple of years ago) and Wood’s Ware in blue (Iris) and green (Beryl). I love those tones and the quality of the pieces means that we can use them as our every day plates. The fact that they have none or very little decor means they can also be shoved in the dishwasher from time to time (not everyday in case it ruins the glaze) for a pep up, which is always a bonus. But oh how I lust after more pinks and yellows.

Those rosy pinks and sunshine yellow colours are just the splashes of colour that I need to pep up my utility china collection. Now I know these colours were produced and exist because I’ve seen them on blogs, in books, war time magazines and of course on ebay but why are they so terribly rare in charity shops and my usual thrifing haunts? Are people at loathe to part with these colours or were these so precious to the young girls of the family that they were over used and became smashed over time? Or simply were less made and bought in the pinks and yellows compared to the blues and greens?

I have one, single piece of pink utility china. It’s a small J&G Meakin Glamour Rosa plate. The glaze is going, the edges are bashed and chipped and a crack is sadly developing and yet I love that plate more than my entire collection of Johnson Bro Greydawn and that is quite some considerable collection that goes from serving platter all the way down to a set of cake plates.

Are you a Utility China fan? Or have you never heard of it? If not have a quick read of this discussion in the Flickr group to learn more.

Utility china includes the following items :-

Woods Ware: Iris, Jasmine and Beryl.
Johnson Bros Rose Dawn, Grey Dawn, Golden Cloud, Green Dawn
J&G Meakin Glamour Rosa, Celeste, Sunshine.
Grindley Petalware, Lupin
Swinnertons Chelsea Blue
Barratts Delphatic Blue
Conway Lavender Blue

And perhaps more that we enthusiasts don’t yet know about.

If you have some utility china perhaps you could do a post on your letting us have a peak and telling us anything you know about it’s history. If you do post please share the link in the comments section of this post so we can have a real utility china frenzy/resource.


The Thrifty Mrs


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  1. Awww that was lovely to read all that about the china. I live in an undecorated, child filled home so I cannot indulge in china just yet as it wouldn’t last but I love looking at others :)

  2. Great finds and the discussion on Flickr is really interesting!
    Do you know if somewhere there is a group/discussion also for enamelware? I’ve a couple of Barrett items at home and I’d like to know a bit more about them.

  3. Have been following your adventures in Utility China for a while now and your new find is fabulous – just such a gorgeous shape and colour! G

  4. Emma Kate, this stuff is great because it is so cheap you can pick it up for pennies so it’s not too much of a heart in mouth situation to have it in use around children.

    Green Thumb, I have no idea but I suggest having a look on flickr and perhaps I can put a shout out for you on twitter, are you on twitter?

    Gillian, lucky find huh?

  5. No Twitter for me, anyway thank you for your tips!

  6. I’ve put a shout out on Twitter so hopefully someone will know and be able to point you in the right direction. Fingers crossed.

  7. Thanks for the mention.As you know I’m going to thinning my collection out over the next few months. I have quite a bit of Rosedawn and also some early bowls marked Pinkdawn!(same colour though).I might even be persuaded to hand deliver any purchases you make;)
    Johnson Brothers also did a range called Welsmere I only have one jug in the ‘Blue Horizon’ colourway (greydawn really)
    I have some Grindley Peach Petal too which is pretty and also Grindley Roseleaf. I must take some photos to show you.

  8. Ooh I forgot my favourites Johnson Brothers Rose Cloud, Green Cloud and Blue Cloud! (aswell as Golden Cloud)

  9. Oh Kristy you tempt me so!

  10. Having been an active member of town and countryside Methodist churches over the decades, I’ve grown very blasé about Utility china – every church I ever drank tea at had a mis-matched set of the blue and green ones! Therefore, Mrs Thrifty, I think there must have been many more blue and green sets made than the more feminine colours. It’s taken me a while to get to like the china – familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps. But I do like it now!

  11. My mum had the Green Beryl china and granny had the pink not sure what that was called, I recall there was blue too!
    Julie xxxxxxxx

  12. Another great post. So interesting. I have the Jasmine jug the same as you although unfortunately mine wasn’t free. How lucky you are.
    I rarely see any utilty ware at all. I am sure that I must live in the wrong part of the country.

  13. this is gorgeous, i collect bone china… so to see such a great buy is fantastic!

  14. Wow what an incredible find.

    I love utility china, but like you all I ever seem to find in grey dawn and a couple of pieces of green – hey ho, here’s to hunting the pinks and yellows down.

    Nina xxx

  15. oh my goodness i am extremley jealous!! what a lucky find!!

  16. Great post, I love this china too. The colours are so pretty and I love the simplicity of it. I haven’t had much luck finding it though. I do have one thing quite similar (not sure if it counts). It’s a green bowl with markings that look I’d say 1940s or 1950s and it’s made by Crown Devon.


  17. Hi Thrifty, I found my first piece the other day, a little blue jug which I love and will be hopefully adding to over time :) BUT I think the only reason you love the pink one more is because it stands out against the rest! Hope you find some pinky love soon xx

  18. I love this china but don’t have any…. I keep looking but no luck :( Not going to pay EBay prices! x

  19. Hello Thrifty, I checked my enamelware, the right name is “Baret ware”, thanks!

  20. WOW you were super-fast to comment on my blog today :-) thank you X

    What a fab find :-)
    I have to admit I don’t have much vintage china, when Chris & I moved in together we both had kitchen items, so we wended up with two lots to start with, so I tend to not pick stuff up when I see it because I think can I justify it, even if it is lovely, or cheap, because we don’t REALLY need it…

    That said I have bought a red & white pattern jug & matching serving plate when I saw them in a charity shop… I justified this purchase with saying they will be for “christmas” lol.

    Have a fab weekend :-)

    Rose X

  21. Great Post. I love the jug! I have one in baby blue

  22. I love it too – our daily plates are utility ware, and I have to confess that they go in the dishwasher everyday. I have 3 pink dinner plates and a pink jug, but the rest is either blue or green, with a few bits of yellow. I have a green teapot which is my favourite piece, that I use to keep my dishwasher tablets in. I didn’t know about the flickr group, so I’m off to check it out!!

  23. My collection of utility china is very very small consisting of 1 jug and a large bowl which I using. I’ll do a post soon when I get my camera back and can start taking some photos.

    Victoria xx

  24. midcenturylass says:

    I didn’t know they made Utility china – but of course they would have done, silly me! The colours are beautiful. Thanks for educating me. My eyes are now peeled to find some of my own, and get rid of my bog standard china! Yay.

  25. Hi from Vancover!
    I never see such fab stuff labeled “free”. You are one lucky girl.
    This was a great post! I collect Red Wing pottery from the 50’s. I need to slow it down a bit though…. 😉

  26. I love Utility china too and have a small collection. I have just posted about it on my blog and have done a link back here. Thanks for sharing.
    Ann x

  27. oooh, thank you for posting about utility china, i think it may become a new mini obession, i found a johnson bros jug and a wood’s ware coffee pot at my local flea market this week, and i would never have know what they were had it not been for readin your blog!

    Cate, x

  28. I have been a long time collector of the Grindley Petal Ware preferring the yellow (laburnum), green (almond) and blue (lupin) colors. When I started collecting, the china was very affordable and easy to find. Then…in the background of a picture in a china cabinet in a Martha Stewart magazine, Petal Ware was seen and it went to hell in a hand-basket from there. I have purchased pieces from around the globe…a bit of an addiction I admit! I have really enjoyed reading your article and posted comments! Enjoy your china!!

  29. I am an Aussie guy living in Sydney who travels a bit and loves to look for utility war wherever I go. I am developing a multihued collection which delights me whenever I use it and delights friends as well. I am in Melbourne at present and visited a small vintage shop in balaclavas road filled with interesting things. Nothing really that I wanted, so I spoke to the owner whose eyes lit up as she told me about some things I might like. Sure enough, a lovely little ,like jug ,green dawn from English Johnson, a beautiful Celeste meakin bowl and a dinner plate in rose dawn, from the uk . I look often for Australian Johnson ware, as it is simpler and still in those beautiful co ours. They are not as easily found as in previous years. Still, I love looking. They remind me very much of my childhood in tasmania. In little fishing villages, with the beautiful colored, often chipped teacups etc. All gone now. But I find myself more and mor loving the finds I make. It is nice to read of other’s enthusiasms, too. Am I the only man looking for this type of ceramic? Oh well…

  30. Hi I picked up a load of the pink utility china at a charity shop, some is stamped J K Meakin Rosa Sol, some rosa glamour some has engraved J&C Meakin and some has no markings at all but all look exactly the same, does anyone know why they would be marked so differently?

  31. Helen Miller says:

    I absolutely adore utility chinaware. I thought I was the only one. My Aunty had a whole dinner set in pale blue, had it for decades, don’t know where it went when she died. Looked for it for years in junk shops and eventually found one big blue bowl, which I treasure because it’s good looking and reminds me of her. When I told my mum of my find, she was surprised and pulled out a rose colour bowl from the cupboard !
    When I show people these bowls, they don’t return the same enthusiasm, so I thought it was just me !
    And now I’ve joined technology with an iPad and I discover all you lot love it too. Wow ! Makes me smile to look at all these pictures of loveliness. Thank you, Helen.

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