Archive for the ‘alresford crafts’ Category

Alresford lamb seen shopping in Minneapolis….

Yet another of the Alresford Crafts animal owners has written to keep in touch, as their white lamb has been passed on to the next generation, and is in use in Minneapolis: as the photo shows he is still fit and well, at the ripe old age of 37, and enjoying life in the USA, despite the snow!


The photo is of Giovanni Howell, taken in January 2017 while out shopping in a supermarket in Minneapolis, in Minnesota. The lamb is in a mini-trolley, or a ‘kiddies shopping kart’, a clever (or cunning) idea the supermarkets there use to encourage the younger shoppers, particularly in the chocolate biscuit aisle it seems! (Giovanni seems to have resisted the biscuits and chosen some healthy vegetables instead).

The Alresford Crafts lamb was bought in 1980 for his father, Eric Howell, when he came on a visit to Alresford with his parents: at that time their home was in Basingstoke. The lamb was possibly purchased from Pastimes in West Street (or at the Old Bakehouse in Broad Street). Gay Revi, Eric’s mother, tells that the family used to enjoy a visit to Alresford, for lunch at the Globe, which was a favourite destination.

The good news is that Giovanni seems to be a discerning shopper: the kiddies kart is pictured below still using the lamb to protect the final shopping selections in the checkout lane by the till, and there are no chocolate biscuits in sight!


The photo below from back in 1986 shows the Pastimes shop in West Street.


Cynthia’s new life in Australia

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Cynthia, the Alresford doll

Cynthia is one of the Alresford Dolls, and she was made by Alresford Crafts in 1980. Once completed in the Town Mill in Alresford she was shipped off to by sea-freight on a cheap passage to Australia, and presumably sold through one of various shop or exhibition outlets over there.

Thirty five years later, in a story reminiscent of the TV “Heir Hunters” programme, the latest owner of the doll was Wilma Dunne. Wilma, now retired, had spent her working life helping a plastic surgeon work with children born with cleft lips and palates in the Philippines. On her retirement to Perth in Western Australia, Wilma was presented with the OAM, the Australian Medal of Honour, for her services to the people of the Philippines. It was because of this career and knowledge that she visited the Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) in Peppermint Grove, a suburb of Perth, to talk to two Year 6 students there, Isobel and Lucy, about the challenges of working in a Third World country.

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Isobel Lucy Dunne, now in her PLC kilt and uniform

Making the link!

Sitting in the PLC library she suddenly realised that the girls filing back and forth in their school uniforms were dressed in exactly the same way as one of her three china dolls – these dolls had been bought from the estate of a deceased lady of Maylands, in Perth, maybe 30 years before. On returning home to look at the doll more closely, Wilma realised it had been carefully re-dressed in the green and black tartan kilt, the similar tie, and the green stockings of the PLC uniform: presumably the uniform remembered by the original owner of the doll, 30 years before, and maybe worn by her, years before that!

Wilma offered the doll to the Ladies’ College, and it was gratefully accepted by the College Archivist and Historian, Shannon Lovelady, who set about the quest of trying to identify more of the doll’s history and origins. Shannon saw some Alresford dolls advertised for sale on the Australian Ebay website, so soon contacted this Alresford Memories site to enquire about her PLC dressed doll (now rechristened as Isobel Lucy Dunne, to show her pedigree).


The doll with Isobel and Lucy, in their current school uniforms

The marks on the back of her head soon proved that the doll was indeed an Alresford Crafts doll, made in 1980, and from the catalogues of the time in the Alresford Museum the original identity was established as that of Cynthia, also known as CD22.

Now back at School

When Cynthia arrived in Australia she was dressed as a classic English schoolgirl, in a black gymslip and red tie on top of the white blouse. It seems that only the black shoes, the white blouse and the straw hat have been retained, plus her distinctive plaited fair hair. Now Isobel Lucy Dunne is happily back living in her original school environment again, but we still don’t know how many years before 1980 the memories she stirred in the lady from Maylands were created.

The story is being written into the PLC archives, and Shannon has been kind enough to send us some photos, as seen here.


The doll with some PLC schoolgirls in their latest uniform hats!

Alresford Crafts Doll’s head markings

DSC01991 alr crafts dollsAs with most manufacturers, Alresford Crafts wanted to be able to identify the manufacturing date and methods used on each doll sent out of the factory, in case they were ever returned with a fault or other problem. So following the traditional route, some code numbers and letters were placed on the back of the neck of the doll’s head, which was normally not visible, under the hair.

In their 1980 catalogue – they started making dolls in 1978 – these markings were explained, and as far as we know this system was not changed, but was modified a little. The doll’s heads were made in Alresford, in the moulding department of Alresford Crafts, which until 1982 was in a building near the Town Mill, which is on one of the streams emerging from Alresford Pond. During 1982 most of the production, and the ceramics department, was moved to the Station Mill site, near the Alresford Station, famous as the end of the Watercress steam railway line. The heads are made from porcelain, which is often referred to as “china”, as the material was first seen in Europe in cups and saucers, and bowls, exported from China.

acrafts 3Making the heads, arms and feet

The ceramic clay paste was formed into shape inside a mould, to create a relatively soft “green” moulding of either the head, hands or feet of the doll. These were then fettled (to remove the extra material from the feeder tubes that delivered the paste), and for the head, the eye sockets were cut through, and careful finishing produced smooth unblemished porcelain pieces, for the first firing, which took around 12 hours. This produced a “bisque” – a harder moulding – which was then decorated before firing again. Finely ground on-glaze enamels were then applied by hand, to achieve the final colour -after a further six hours in the kiln.


acrafts 7The typical marks on the back of the dolls head are seen in the diagram. All but one of these marks are moulded-in, at the first stage. At the base of the triangle “ENGLAND” is the country of manufacture: under ‘England’, the word “ALRESFORD” was usually added, outside the triangle, to identify the manufacturer. The “C A3” marks show the mould number, and the “80” refers to the year of manufacture, ie 1980 here. The initials (“AD” in this example) impressed in the head, are those of the girl who cast the head. The other initials (“DW” in this example) are painted on, and show the initials of the girl who then decorated the head.


scan185Staff in the moulding department

The only names we know are those of Denise White (DW), who was a decorator, and Colin Larkin (CL), who was the mould shop manager, seen in the picture on the left. The names of other ceramic workers would be of great interest, and will be added here, if anyone writes in.

The original moulds were formed from sculpted head models, which were created by skilled sculptors. One of these was Frank Garbutt, who lived in Stoke on Trent in the Potteries, and attended Glasgow School of Art in around 1934.



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