The golden age of Crown Lynn pottery

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A decade of crowning ceramics

Described as classic kiwiana, Crown Lynn pottery was a popular household feature in the 1960s. From its 1920s origins as brick and pipe manufacturers, the company expanded into the domestic market.

Successful Government lobbying to place higher tariffs on imported goods assisted in the company’s fortunes. By 1960 it reached its peak production of about 10 million pieces, becoming the largest pottery company in the Southern Hemisphere at that time.

Slide 1: The 1960s were a celebration of the new and Crown Lynn faced demands to develop shapes and patterns reflecting changing tastes. One initiative was the establishment of an annual design competition resulting in a number of entries being picked up by the company. Winning designs such as Otway Josling’s Reflections and runner-up Don Mills’ Narvick were popular sellers.

Slide 2: Along with a range of new dinner sets, Crown Lynn produced the ‘coffee can’ in 1963. Similar to a tea cup, the straight-sided cup was a novel concept to New Zealand’s caffeine connoisseurs.

Slides 3-4: The visit of Queen Elizabeth to its Auckland factory in 1963 was seen as a turning point in the so-called ‘snob wars’. Perceived as being inferior to British brands, the New Zealand-made product became more respectable to local consumers following the royal appearance. An ornate urn was specially presented during the Queen’s visit with lesser decorated replicas sold as souvenirs.

Slide 5: Fortunately you didn’t need to be the Queen of England to tour Crown Lynn as factory tours were introduced earlier in 1961. By 1986 around 150,000 people had visited the factory.

Slides 6-8: Growing market confidence saw the development of uniquely New Zealand designs with product names such as Egmont and Ponui. Traditional British rose patterns were replaced by forestry scenes like Sierra Pine. Crockery supplied for Air New Zealand in the mid 1960s featured earthy colours alongside a Maori kowhaiwhai pattern.

Slides 9-10: Crown Lynn commissioned international designers like the American Dorothy Thorpe. The Santa Barbara range launched in 1965 featured ball-handled coffee sets. While striking in appearance, they were difficult to hold and damaged easily. Not that this was a problem, as according to a Crown Lynn employee, 'you never used the damn things anyway'. Other designs released in this series included Pine and Palm Springs.

Slides 11-12: Crown Lynn embarked upon an exporting drive with Australia becoming the first international market. As well establishing numerous Australian outlets, the company won contracts with large organisations such as armed forces to supply tableware. Canada became another key market, leading to Crown Lynn being one of New Zealand’s top exporters for the 1960s.

Slide 13: Locally, five designs comprising of Autumn Splendour, Golden Fall, Shasta Daisy, Green Bamboo and Fashion Rose were promoted under an innovative policy which guaranteed that customers could purchase any replacements for broken items. No longer did a breakage mean owning an incomplete dinner set. Autumn Splendour went on to become Crown Lynn’s top seller in the 1960s.

Slide 14: To mark the changeover of New Zealand’s currency in 1967, Crown Lynn produced a cup and saucer featuring the new decimal system.

Slide 14: Not content with kitchens and dining rooms, Crown Lynn created items for the bathroom. The 1967 Feminine Approach range featured door handles, keyholes and light switch plates. Later, toilet roll holders, soap dishes, towel-rail holders and toothbrush stands enabled the use of Crown Lynn products throughout the house.

Celebrating the company's 21st anniversary in 1969, Crown Lynn’s founder Tom Clark remarked that 'only nine years ago Crown Lynn was a dirty word'. The success of the 1960s did not last, however, with import restrictions later lifted, economic difficulties and company takeovers all contributing to the demise of Crown Lynn in 1989. Ironically, 20 years on, Crown Lynn is more popular than ever, with pieces keenly sought out by collectors. Flick through any New Zealand interiors magazine and you will soon come across references to the brand. From op shops to auction houses, Crown Lynn has become desirable; businesses even hire out the company's iconic white swans. Once again, Crown Lynn is being adored by a new generation of Kiwis.

Further information

Links

Books

  • Gail Henry, New Zealand pottery: commercial and collectable, Reed Books, Auckland, 1999
  • Valerie Ringer Monk, Crown Lynn: a New Zealand icon, Penguin, Auckland, 2006

Credit

Images and text courtesy Fran McGowan, 2010

How to cite this page: 'The golden age of Crown Lynn pottery', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/interactive/crown-lynn-pottery, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-May-2013

Community contributions


Fran
14 Aug 2013

Not familiar with other pottery brands, so suggest consulting books such as 'New Zealand pottery marks', compiled by Alan Coates in 2003. I also checked 'Tea : a potted history of tea in NZ' which features some great examples of tea pots but unfortunately there were no references to SIRE/SIRL.

Brett Farmer
11 Aug 2013

I have an earthy glazed pottery tea pot with cane handle with a potters mark that looks like "SIRE" or "SIRL" stamped on the base of the pot. The last letter is difficult to read. I think It was an NZ potter. It was bought in Auckland about 30 years ago and I would love to get some background info. Thanks

Fran
23 May 2013

It does sound like Crown Lynn with the 'Made in NZ' mark. Early pieces of Crown Lynn including the number 30 can be found on the Crown Lynn Shape Guide facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.223046744415116.53576.12118270.... However the early number 30 piece is a vase rather than a jug. This jug could be a later piece produced for the hospitality industry. You might want to post a query on the shapes facebook page or another one at https://www.facebook.com/CrownLynnPotteries.

June
22 May 2013

I have a large plain white jug 28cm high. It is stamped underneath Made in New Zealand and stamped with the number 30. The handle is straight rather than curved. Do you know if this is Crown Lynn? I would appreciate your advice.

Fran
14 May 2013

Your nursery cup and saucer dates from the 1950s. According to Valerie Monk's excellent Crown Lynn book, this backstamp originates from 1955. During the 1950s, Crown Lynn introduced its nursery ware goods, competing with overseas brands. Decorated with imported transfers, Crown Lynn's range was more affordable and become well established by the 1960s.

June
13 May 2013

I have a nursery cup and saucer backstamped with a crown, a star, Crown Lynn and New Zealand. The cup is only 6cm high has gold rims on the top of the cup and handle, decorated with a boy on a hobby horse and "ride a cock horse to banbury cross" on one side, a snail pulling a cart on the other side and a duck on the inside. The saucer is 12cm across with a gold rim and a teddy bear a lamb and a duck decorations. Do you know how old this as it is much more delicate than the 1980's ones.

Fran
27 Jun 2011
Apart from TradeMe, you might want to post a note on http://www.collectiques.co.nz/forum. Registration is free and this is another way of making contact with Crown Lynn collectors.
Jayne Cummins
24 Jun 2011
I have a 36 piece dinner set, Pandora design I would like to sell. Absolutely as new. Not sure how much it is worth or where to try and sell it. Is anyone interested? We are in the red zone in Christchurch and have to prepare to move out pretty soon.
Fran
14 Jan 2011
According to Valerie Monk's book, impressed numbers were used for pieces made between 1943 and the 1960s. The numbering system ran from 1 to 900. Different sizes of the same shape were denoted by a dash and another single digit, eg, 1,2 or 3 depending on size. In 1964 a four-digit numbering system was introdued. In her book, Valerie notes that some pre-1964 pieces were re-issued using the same numbering system meaning that you could find two pieces that are the same shape but that have different numbers.
Jan Alvrez
14 Jan 2011
I have an old jug this has a picture of Gainsboroughby Joh Peters on it. It is not in the best condition but i think it might be old underneath it has Crown Lynn. the no.806-2. Can you tell me anything about it?
thanks, Jan

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