Hinks recently published a children’s book series, Tales of Ramion, but he also collects Staffordshire pottery – an interest that led to his ‘Jug Room’.
ATG: Why did you start collecting?
Frank Hinks: Since a child I have been interested in pottery and porcelain. At school I did a project on the Staffordshire potteries.
In 1983 my wife and I bought an old vicarage in Kent dating from 1530 but with many additions through the centuries – a rambling house with ample room for collections of various kinds.
In the late 1980s I started a collection of relief-moulded jugs.
What drew you to relief-moulded jugs particularly?
They combine great variety with restraint. I find sprigged or painted jugs comparatively fussy.
Can you remember your first?
I started with a single apple blossom jug inherited by my wife from her grandmother.
My mother-in-law (who shared my interest in antiques of all descriptions) bought us a few more. She was very generous to me at Christmas and birthdays: as my wife put it, she was always grateful to me for marrying her difficult daughter.
How did you get the collecting bug?
For reasons I cannot fully understand I somehow became addicted to buying jugs.
In 1989 and 1990 I bought over 100 jugs a year. No weekend was complete without getting in the car and driving off to an antiques fair in search of jugs.
The huge fairs with 1000-plus stalls in Newark and Ardingly were particularly fruitful.
Looking for one thing and knowing more about that one thing than the dealers, I could walk between the rows of stalls identifying at a glance any jug of interest. I would come home from each fair with up to a dozen.
Which are your favourite designers and why?
The jugs of Samuel Alcock are my favourites. The colouring is different from any other manufacturer: either a lavender ground with white relief or a white ground with lavender relief. Very beautiful.
What elements do you look for?
The jugs were often sold in sets of three different sizes.
Those sets are particularly prized, but I tried to go further and find identical jugs in as many different sizes as possible.
I have, for example, five different sizes of the William Brownfield Albion jug, a white unglazed stoneware jug which carries the coats of arms of the constituent countries of Great Britain.
What is the most you have ever spent on a jug?
On a single jug, £300. On a set of three, considerably more.
How many do you have now?
Two hundred and sixty.
How do you display them?
In or on the top of book cases mainly in the Jug Room (the library in a more normal house), with over 100 white stoneware jugs on a 19th century pine bookcase over 16ft long which fills one wall.
Do you think you had a ‘problem’?
By the end of 1990 the addiction had got out of hand. Even in The Old Vicarage we were beginning to run out of display space.
So how did you put it in check?
My collecting days were brought to an end by the 1991 property recession. Overnight half of my practice as a barrister (and half of my income) disappeared. I had to kick the habit.
The positive side of being (for a time) semi-unemployed was that it enabled me to write and then learn how to illustrate the Ramion fantasy stories.
In story No 7 The Magic Magpie it starts with the words: ‘The boys’ father loved buying jugs. As Julius said to him: “There are only two things you love: jugs and us”.’
That was what my eldest son told me in 1990 at the age of six.
Have you considered selling the jugs or becoming a dealer?
It is always easier to buy than to sell and I have had far too many demands on my time to act as a dealer.
Are you tempted to start collecting again?
Getting over my addiction was not easy. Every weekend in the first half of 1991 I would long to get into my car and set off on the hunt for new jugs.
Once free of the addiction I felt a sense of relief. Although I could afford to return to collecting (and from time to time am tempted), I have not yet succumbed to temptation for fear of the addiction’s return.
Giving this interview has renewed the longing.