Sugarlump Studio was a small Hampshire pottery that ceased production in October 2002,citing high UK production costs.
Which may possibly have proved to be unfortunate timing.Because the subsequent emergence of Chinese outsourcing seems to have rescued what's left of our ceramics industry,underpinning similar small companies like Robert Harrop.
Although it's frightening to know that you can send even small production runs half way round the world and it still works out cheaper than doing it here.But,sadly,after 7 years of production that was that for Sugarlump.
And quite a sudden decision too apparently,because they were in the midst of producing the Herbs range at the time,which is incomplete as a result.
16 different hand-painted items made it into circulation,but some never made it into production at all,and others were only produced in limited numbers.
With the rarest by far being Bayleaf,with fewer than 10 [ten] in existance.
Which obviously explains why one sold on eBay for over £600 in June 2008 and another for over £500 in Feb.2012.
And I doubt the rather cruel irony was lost on company founder Andrew Clark,even if his first thoughts were probably something slightly stronger than "how ironic" !
And I'm glad I remembered to take some screenshots or I'd be struggling to believe it myself.But that's what genuine rarity value does for most things of course. June 2008 February 2012
After the Company's demise,Andrew understandably wanted to draw a line under the whole venture,and failed to renew the domain name in 2005.
But it was picked up by a fan and,with his blessing,the website is being maintained by the man who designed it,Adam Bull...
"....free of charge in my spare time,because I'm a big fan of Andrew's work,and believe that the information may still be useful to collectors".
The full Herbs range
The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley
If you skipped the text above ....
The company ceased trading in 2002.
But their website is still online and kept ticking over as an epitaph & source of reference. Showing the other ranges they produced,like The Magic Roundabout and Clangers.
As well as answering questions about the company and its products.
The Herbs featured in a series of 12 fine porcelain collector's plates entitled "The Golden Age of Children's Television".
Released in 1994,each one is approximately 8" in diameter,trimmed in 22ct gold,and came with a certificate of authenticity.
And the images are transfer-printed still photos taken from each of the following .....
Muffin The Mule .....The Woodentops ..... Bill and Ben ..... Pinky & Perky ..... Pogles Wood ..... Magic Roundabout .....
Trumpton ..... Camberwick Green ..... The Clangers ..... Paddington Bear ..... The Wombles ..... Oh,and The Herbs.
Are those the ones you would've chosen ? Full size pics much better quality than thumbs
And how many do you even remember ?
Personally,I'd have replaced Pinky & Perky with Bagpuss. Pink moggy 1,Pink Porkers 0
Good to see Pogles Wood included,as it's often overlooked.
And no surprise that Camberwick and Trumpton get a look in and poor old Chigley doesn't.
The Herbs ? Well it's a bit of an odd choice to include Mrs.Onion and a Chive rather than,say,Sir Basil
and Lady Rosemary. But hey-ho.
Any good ?
Well,hand-painted and lovingly crafted .... they ain't !
And they can all be picked up on ebay for next-to-nothing,which kind of says it all I suppose.
The famous John Beswick ceramics factory was established in 1894 in Stoke-on-Trent,
bought by the Royal Doulton Group in 1969 and finally closed at the end of 2002.
They were known primarily for their figures of animals and fictional characters.
So,this limited edition Herbs range seemed such a perfect fit that it's surprising it only
materialised in 2001,which was very late-in-the-day........for both parties.
I say "2001",but they're not in the very first Doulton Direct catalogue,dated "Spring 2001".
And whilst they do appear in issue 2,dated "Autumn 2001" (below right),none of them are flagged up as "new".
So they either came out in 2000 and weren't included in that 1st issue for some reason.Or it was an error not to mark them as "new" in the 2nd.And I'd probably plump for the the latter,in the absence of any confirmation either way.
But I can definitely confirm that there was no "Summer 2001" issue printed.
All four were modelled by Shane Ridge and based on Ivor Wood's originals.
2,500 were produced of each. And the original catalogue price was £45 each.
No. 4056 "Sage the Owl" Height 7.5cm
No. 4057 "Dill the Dog" 8.9cm
No. 4058 "Parsley the Lion" 9.5cm
No. 4059 "Bayleaf the Gardener" 14.6cm (ref.numbers source -"Storybook Figurines" by Jean Dale)
It's logical to assume that they would've brought out some of the other characters if those initial 4 had done well.
And you'd also like to think that the fact they didn't had more to do with the factory's closure than poor sales.
But only a Beswick insider would probably know the answer to that.
What are they worth now ?
Well,the usual glib answer is "what someone's willing to pay" of course.
But,fortunately,book prices and sale precedents do at least help to keep things slightly more predictable.
And,as of 2020,it's pretty evident that prices have definitely cooled-off from previous highs and,in recent years,have settled at a level actually not too far removed from their original retail cost ie.£45 each / £180 for all 4.
But still a good investment I'd imagine,as Beswick is not only a finite resource,but an ever-diminishing one too as more and more inevitably get damaged over time.
So a mint example with box & certificate should always ensure you get a decent return .... at least until the Chinese get around to faking them.And if prices spike again that may not sound quite as ridiculous as it does now.
On this page ..... All the ceramics,courtesy of Beswick,Sugarlump Studio and Danbury Mint.