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Registered British Figural Corkscrews

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a corkscrew? Is it a toasting fork or a door knocker? - Well the answer is probably "Yes - it could be all of them".

In the Quarterly Worme of March 1998 I raised some points and questions about British Figural Corkscrews with registration numbers. Now after some correspondence with fellow members of the CCCC and a year of research from Barbara and myself I can give you a much clearer understanding of what is registered and what is not.

Much of the research is incomplete and because of the size of the task it never will be complete. But what I have discovered is certainly a representative assessment of the whole picture I think. Designs for the figural handles of corkscrews started being registered in the second decade of this century, gaining popularity in the 1920s and peaking in numbers in the early 1930s.

However the first one that I am aware of is from 6th May 1895, Registration Number 254376. It is slightly atypical though having a silver salmon as a handle and one recently sold at Christie's (22 September 1998; lot 507; �1150). It was stamped with the registration number, the makers mark HW and hallmarked for Birmingham 1896. The markings all fit because it was Henry Wells of High Street, Shrewsbury who registered the design.

As I described last March, British Registered Designs range from the 1840's with the entries from Robert Jones and Cotterill (W & B pages 59 to 63) to the present day. Some of these designs are wonderful like the Cotterill which is rare and expensive.

Some have probably never been made, and some like the Surprise of 1884 are very common. The attraction of this area of research is that the Design Registers show a picture of the corkscrew and gives its date of registration and the name and address of the designer. There is a wealth of information, some of which you can seen in my best Sixes for 1997 and 1998.

But it is important to realise what a Registered Design means. It is specifically that. The Design is placed in a Register and copyright protection is granted for a period of years. This is normally 5 years for the period that we are covering here but it could be extended for an additional fee for any successful design. I am aware of some designs that were extended for a further 2 sets of 5 years. It is the actual design that is important - not the construction nor function. In this respect it is different to a patent. For a patent to be granted the invention had to be "new". For example, once Thomason patented his novel mechanism in 1802 no-one else could have protection for the same mechanism again. However someone could register a host of designs for new fancy styles of Thomason barrels. They didn't - but that's beside the point.

You can maybe start to see why there could be many designs registered for corkscrew handles. The worm and shank could not be granted protection because they are as old as the hills, but any new style of handle could be granted copyright protection.

There is a major consequence of this. Many of the handles of figural corkscrews that have got Registration Numbers on them were not originally drawn in the Register as corkscrews. Some were indeed corkscrews, but a number were door knockers, one that we are aware of was a toasting fork and some were just the handle with nothing attached.

Apart from the atypical salmon that I've already mentioned the first brass figural that I am aware of is a stag with a raised front foot. This has the Reg. No. 637421 and is known on a corkscrew as the Lynton Stag. This image was in fact registered on 18 May 1914 as a door knocker by John Jewsbury & Co. Ltd., Soho Works, Western Road, Birmingham. You may remember that Soho was the area of Birmingham where nearly 120 years earlier Matthew Boulton made a corkscrew patented by a certain Samuel Henshall (Obstando Promoves Soho Patent).

In 1922 John Jewsbury also registered a series of dog breeds also as door knockers (at least I interpret them as door knockers - the registration document gives no clue) These dogs figure as corkscrews using the same design but with changes in the moulding to allow for the attachment for a shank and the addition of an eyebrow pull and a hanging ring in the middle of the dogs' backs. Sadly for the dogs the tree stump was removed. There is no doubt that these are genuine corkscrews but the original design was depicting another purpose.

Similarly, a fairly rare corkscrew depicting a "Black Boy" is derived from another door knocker, Reg. No. 707063 of 17 July 1924, also from John Jewsbury. Once again the moulding has been changed but interestingly the sprig at the back for the original hinge has been retained as a hanging ring holder.

Another early manufacturer was Pearson Page Co. Ltd. of Ileene Works, Sherlock Street in Birmingham. Their first contribution to the area that I am aware of (but there may be earlier) was for the image of William Shakespeare leaning thoughtfully on a pile of books looking for further inspiration for his new play about Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s daughter. The corkscrew is again quite authentic but the original document shows the image as a handle for a toasting fork.

It was however Pearson Page who registered the first brass figural to be drawn as a corkscrew. Their two pixies, Reg. Nos. 711007 and 714013 of 10 February and 18 June 1925, are not the most aesthetic of designs unless you are heavily into the world of fairies.



The pixie theme was also taken up a couple of years later by John Jewsbury with Reg. No. 734053 of 16 December 1927. Thankfully the poor quality of the photocopy does not do justice to the sheer delight of this design. Despite my reservations as to the artistic merits of these designs, their common interest in the ethereal word brought the two firms together into a fairy tale marriage.

Their next offerings are as the new merged company Pearson-Page-Jewsbury Co. of Soho Works, Western Road in Birmingham. Under this name they registered a series of 9 very good quality and quite well known figural animals Reg. Nos. 779323 to 779331 on 4 January 1933. The first five of the series are an assortment of animals standing on 4 feet with the corkscrew as the tail. Number 779328 shows a pair of very friendly doggies indeed. The last four of the series do not actually show the worm in the registration picture although they all figure as handles on top of straight pull eyebrows. I have also seen them on the side of ashtrays etc. The original copies of this set are photographs and some do not photocopy very well.

Pearson-Page-Jewsbury also registered another set of standing creatures a month later on 10 February 1933 with numbers from 780440 to 780445. These include Bonso Dog, a cartoon character that was popular at the time.

This company completed their zoo on 16 July 1936 with four dogs with their front feet and chin designed as a cap lifter, Reg. Nos. 811349 and 813865-7.

Surprisingly, this prolific breeder of such cute animal corkscrews was not the first in the field. They were beaten to the idea with Reg. No 773243, a strange looking dog by Esencourt & Co on 13 May 1932 and later by The Hercules Cycle & Motor Co. of Crane Industries, Manor Mills, Long Acre in Birmingham with Reg. Nos. 777641-777644 on 20 October 1932. However it is documented that the latter sold the idea to P-P-J - "in pursuance of an application received on 26 September 1933, Pearson-Page-Jewsbury Co. Ltd., Soho Works, Western Road, Birmingham are registered as proprietors [of the design] by virtue of a deed dated 19 September 1933 between The Hercules Cycle & Motor Co. on the one part and Pearson-Page-Jewsbury Co. Ltd. of the other part. Clearly P-P-J knew a good idea when they saw one. I am sure they probably acquired the rights to 773243 also.

There are many other figural corkscrews known to collectors and time has not allowed us to cross check every one in the registers. However I can clear up one mystery. A number of brass figurals bear the initials C&A on the back. The seated Dutch boy Reg. No. 767310 is perhaps the commonest. This was registered on 4 September 1931 by Crofts & Assinder Ltd. of Standard Brass Works, Lombard Street in Birmingham. Only the handle design is shown and so this would never have been picked up from an index that exists in this era or from general browsing.

There follows a series of designs from the Registers and a list of all of the figural corkscrews that I know of to this date. The work will never be completed so your challenge is to add to this knowledge.

Acknowledgements.

Thanks are due to a lot of help from fellow collectors who responded to my request for information a year ago. Some responses added corkscrews to the list and others clarified badly struck numbers so that I can now present you with a list of all of the knowledge to date. I am certain there is more out there and I am sure that we will discover more in the Public Record Office. But as I implied in the introduction there is no simple way to do the research. We really need to go through all 2 million records from 1884 to 1990 to be sure of finding every item registered as a corkscrew with a picture. Of course we will never pick up things like the Dutch Boy and the Thistle (Reg. No. 779768) this way because they were only registered as designs for a handle - a handle for anything the manufacturer wanted to stick on the bottom.

Just to give you a feel for the immensity of the task, Barbara and I have diligently worked through each of 270,000 entries from 1884 to 1895 and this has taken approximately 20 man days. In practical terms that is about 10 Saturdays per year. You may think this is rather a stupid way to spend a Saturday but we are after a lot more than just figural corkscrews. We pick up information to support Barbara's collection of owls but the main aim is broader. We are trying to get a comprehensive survey of all registered corkscrews from 1840 up to Jan 1908 (Number 518643) after which point the Public Record Office changes its archiving system to make it essentially impossible to browse though books. After that there is a somewhat unreliable index which sometimes identifies a corkscrew as a kitchen tool or other such tantalising description.

It may sound an impossible task but the end is in sight. We have been through every entry systematically from 1840 to 1895 and have another 20 man days to get to Jan 1908. For the period after that from 1912 to 1950 I am indebted to Francis Hutchinson who has trawled through a slightly unreliable index and allowed me to use the information. The four intervening years from 1908 to 1912 may prove to be problematical.

Specific thanks are due to Francis Hutchinson for all the data he found a few years ago; to Tony Lopez and Alan Thomason for loads of information; to John Compton, Barry Taylor, David Smith, John Belcher, Mike Meakin, Ferd Peters, Dave Munday, Murray Atkinson, Wayne Meadows, John Cornell and Bert Giulian who all responded with further additions.

Finally to Dick Neumann who started it all with his Best 6 of 1997 and to Bob Roger who shared details of his figurals with Dick and copied me in to ask the stupid question " can you enlighten us any more - we are talking about your territory!"

http://www.corkscrewnet.com/EllisFigurals.htm


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