WE’VE long had a thing about toast, that peculiarly British way of serving bread and a primary comfort food. Think Marmite soldiers dunked into soft-boiled eggs and wintry afternoons toasting bread over an open fire.
As cookery writer Nigel Slater says in his
bookToast - the Story of a Boy's Hunger, "It's
impossible not to to love someone who makes toast for you... as
your teeth break through the rough toasted crust and soak into the
doughy cushion of white bread underneath... you're smitten. Putty
in their hands." For real lovers of toast there is also that
essential piece of tableware - the toast rack.
In Britain, toast has been eaten for centuries, yet it was
not until the 18th century that the toast rack appeared on the
wealthy man's table. Buttered toast, which has been eaten since the
early 17th century, is best piled high on plates. Some 100 years or
so later, fresh dry toast became fashionable and needed to be
served in a different way to allow the steam to escape to achieve
The early toast rack designers of the 1770s obviously knew
their toast and the first racks to appear on the market were made
of silver and silver plate, with fine dividers built onto either a
tray or a skeleton base. They were simple and
By the 1780s, creamware examples followed and the design and
decoration of the toast racks manufactured by so many of the
English potteries make them a good collecting subject. Printed,
painted or moulded, the decoration takes many forms but is usually
in the house style of the manufacturer, with the dividers in many
shapes and usually pierced to allow the toast to dry.
Collectors Peter and Margaret Crumpton discovered
that The Pottery Gazette was about the only
source of published material on toast racks, so they decided to
write this small reference work on British ceramic toast racks with
their focus being on shape. Many factories produced the same shape
for years although the colourway and pattern may have changed in
response to fashion.
Occasionally a rack may be found with two marks - one for
the manufacturer, the other for the decorating
The authors cover the history of toast and racks including
silver and plated pieces, with the main section and its 90 colour
plates being on ceramic toast racks. It's hard to identify the
early examples, but throughout the 19th and 20th centuries most
were factory marked, including Wedgwood, Crown Devon, Burgess &
Leigh, Poole Pottery, Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper.
Novelty racks appeal, as do the charming advertising
examples such as Golden Shred marmalade. Racks are photographed
alphabetically by factory and there are 23 colour plate pages, and
a useful index of manufacturers and retailers.
Nice little book for collectors and plenty of little
titbits, such as that hard toast plunged into a jug of cold water
was once prescribed for "those with weak bowels".
British Ceramic Toast Racks for Collectors by Peter
and Margaret Crumpton, published by Richard Dennis, The Old Chapel,
Shepton Beauchamp, Somerset TA19 OLE email:
firstname.lastname@example.org ISBN 090368585X £18
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