16 August 2010


We are having a clear-out at home. Partly because we need to do it - the house is overflowing with stuff. Also partly because the ground floor needs to be cleared to make way for the decorator to come and finish off the jobs he started and then abandoned last autumn. It has taken us this long to pluck up courage to strip the house of furniture, curtains and belongings all over again so that the work can take place.

These two stewpots live on top of the kitchen cupboards. They are nice decorative items, I feel, but they are also very useful and have sentimental value. They are definitely not amongst the things destined for the Oxfam shop.

The small one was a gift from a neighbour when I was about sixteen. At the time I thought it a very strange thing to give to a young girl who was more interested in The Beatles than beef stew. We were living with my grandmother then and the old lady next door died. Her husband, Mr Smith, was obviously clearing out things he didn't need, or maybe that he couldn't bear to have around him any more, and he gave me her stewpot. I recognised that it was a big deal for him to give it away and accepted it gratefully. I have only used it a few times.

The larger one is in regular use. It was my grandmother's. I remember her making beef stew in it throughout my childhood, which makes it over fifty years old. It is possible that she bought it early in her married life so it could be anything up to eighty years old.

When I was a child, ¾ lb of stewing beef with loads of vegetables and stock would go into the pot and cook in the old range for hours and hours. This would feed five of us easily, once the plate was piled up with even more vegetables (from the garden of course). As a special treat my grandmother would make herb dumplings and drop them into the pot towards the end of the cooking time. Crispy on top and fluffy inside, they were scrumptious. I have never been able to make any that taste as good. As an even greater treat, we would have the stew with home-made chips. Bliss.

My mother used the pot herself after my grandmother died - to say she inherited it sounds too grand. She just carried on using it. She then gave it to me when I first set up home by myself in the early 70's. I have used it regularly ever since. It goes into the dishwasher and comes out sparkling every time.

They were probably made by Pearsons of Chesterfield. In the 1800's there were many small pottery factories in Chesterfield and Pearsons was the biggest, outliving all the others but finally closing in 1994. During the 70's and 80's I acquired several pots and dishes made by them. I have few of them left now but I can't see me ever parting with my grandmother's or Mrs Smith's stewpot.


  1. Lovely pots with a wonderful history. I have a couple of pots hand made in what used to be Rhodesia probably in the 1950's which look quite similar. Maybe one day some one will appreciate them as much as you appreciate your pots. I hope so anyway. Diane

  2. Food just tastes better in this type of thing. Your pots are very nice looking and the stories make them special. I have "the boat dishes" brown dishes my Aunt used to serve meals on her family's cabin cruiser. She knew I liked the dishes and "sold" them to me for a very low price a few years ago. I use them mostly as winter china . Turns out they are Hull in the Brown Drip pattern.

  3. Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing it.

    It makes my new, stove-top stew pot look terribly modern and gauche.

    And it gives us new insight into you — "gone to pot" (so to speak) forty years, or so, ago.

  4. Diane and Anon - it's not so much the pot as the memories that go with it that make the food taste better.

    Rob-bear - "gone to pot" - I like that. As a teenager in the sixties I knew lots of people who were doing that. I was too scared myself - I was the sort of girl that people gave stewpots instead !!

  5. As long as you don't stew about not having gone to pot, we'll all be fine.

  6. What a lovely story. It's really nice to have something that means a great deal.

  7. I have just discovered my cooking pot in my boxes. It is exactly like yours and with a story too .. stories for food and the vessels in which they are cooked make the meal more pleasurable and memorable. Mine was a birthday gift from a fleeting Canadian friend whose lovely voice saying Thankyou Ma'am endears me to him even this day!