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BrockiStop Blog

The Lake of Thun

It has to begin somewhere…

Many of the Swiss pieces I`ve found since my shop opened in 2014 came from the region around the Lake of Thun. About an hour drive down the road from there, the Swiss carving tradition has it`s roots. A lot of Swiss pottery was and is made in this region too. One of the prettiest embroidered samplers I have ever seen was stitched somewhere in these small villages more than a hundred years ago.

If you love history, Europe is a great place to visit and live. My jaw regularly drops at the things I find in normal second-hand shops or at auction and I`ve been here 19 years. Still finding surprises all the time.


Let`s get to the plates I mentioned in the news letter. These are English ironstone from John Ridgway and Company. How old are they? Well, they were made sometime in the 1840`s. On Wikipedia under Ridgway Potteries you can find a more detailed history of the company started by Job and George Ridgway in the 1790`s at Hanley, Staffordshire, England and then passed down to their sons.

What was happening in Bern in the 1840`s? It was the new capital of the Swiss Federation. There were still many wealthy families living there, although some had lost their political influence during the Regeneration period after Napoleon left.

According to,`Now the liberal winners had their chance to bring about radical change. Switzerland’s new federal constitution of 1848 not only established a federal state according to the model of the U.S.A. with both federal and cantonal authorities, it also introduced the Swiss Franc and the metric system of measure and weight instead of a jungle of cantonal units and abolished all sorts of internal toll systems – the basis for a common national market. The legislation on new key technologies (postal services, railways, telecommunication) as well as foreign affairs were put into the hands of the federal authorities, while the cantons kept control over traditional areas.`

It meant more freedom and protection for the less privileged in society and particularly the farmers. There was also more free trade between Cantons or States inside Switzerland and countries in Europe and the rest of the world. Many families benefited financially from trade. It`s not a wonder then that a huge, high quality, dinner service from England would find it`s way into a wealthy Bernese home.

How was transfer-ware made? First the design was engraved into a copper plate. The copper plate was heated and then impregnated with ink. After that, the inked design was pressed onto thin tissue paper wet with a soap wash. This paper and the plate were then returned to a heated surface to be dried and to soften the ink. The inked paper design was then very carefully removed from the plate, cut, pressed and rubbed onto the porous blank ceramic or porcelain pieces with soft soap. This left the transferred design on the plates and could then be glazed over for extra durability. Following is a link to an interesting video from Spode demonstrating this process.

So, although these were more mass produced items, unlike the hand-painted porcelain from manufacturers like Sevre, their production was still connected to a lot of individual attention from factory workers.

What I love about transfer-ware is it`s versatility. There is really a pattern and colour for everyone. From single colour woodland themes to ornate, multicolour historical scenes. Ironstone, in particular is incredibly durable. These platters are 170 years old and some of them don`t even have one chip! They are completely usable today. I can imagine bringing out a turkey surrounded by roasted vegetables on this great, beautiful platter and setting it down to complete a lovely table for my guests. Like they say, `we eat with our eyes`!

As a last tip I want to talk about one dish I love to eat in the winter. I just made some yesterday. Orange salad is a simple and delicious dessert that chases away the winter blues.


12 sweet oranges, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

1 small container of something creamy like sour cream or creme fraiche

pitted dates chopped, add as many as you like

some nutmeg to taste, I like fresh ground

a little sweetener (sugar, maple syrup etc.) if the oranges aren`t sweet enough

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. If you are making this ahead, leave out the creamy element until just before you serve. It`s a good basic recipe that could be added to. ( think nuts, dried fruit, spices, chocolate…) Enjoy!

I serve this on a Spode cranberry transfer-ware plate with the Camellia design. Would love to hear what your favourite winter dessert is and what you serve it on.

Next month I will be delving into the history of Fat Lava. Check it out on the 15th of February.

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