A-Z of Ceramics - F is for Flatback
This is the word used for cheap earthenware ornaments modelled only on the front and slim enough to fit the narrowest shelf. Staffordshire potters used the word 'images' for these ceramics.
In the grim and troubled mid 19th century, the working population of Britain was so hungry for folk heroes that even a small-time (but particularly vicious) 18th-century highwayman like Dick Turpin could be raised in the public imagination to the romantic status of Robin Hood. His figure was often paired with that of Tom King, another highwayman whom Turpin shot and killed by mistake. It is perhaps doubtful whether King would have wished to be immortalised alongside his killer!
Another popular hero, forgotten today, was Tom Sayers, a Pimlico prize-fighter whose bare-fist fight with the New-Yorker John Heenan at Farnborough in 1860 attracted a crowd of over 12,000. In the fourth of 37 rounds Sayers dislocated his arm, while the American was virtually blind by the time the fight was declared a draw after two hours and six minutes.
Huge numbers of these imaginary portraits were made to adorn humble cottage mantelpieces. They seem now to have a childlike charm, perhaps because they were actually made by children, who produced up to 400 small figures a day for as little as two shillings (10p) a week.