Although plates have been a necessity around the world for a long time, we have also long sought to make them more than useful items. We have displayed them as decorative pieces and symbols of wealth and status for centuries. The Neolithic dwellings of Skara Brae in Orkney include a shelved dresser built into the interior wall of each house where it is thought plates were kept and displayed, among other possessions, over 6,000 years ago.
We are lucky to have a living history museum local to us where we are able to explore buildings from 2,000 years ago to the present day. One of the highlights is a terrace of miners' cottages originally built in 1795. The six dwellings have had their interiors reconstructed to represent historically accurate homes from 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and 1985. It's fascinating to see that each home displays plates, progressing from wooden plates in 1805 right up to the heyday of collectable plates in the 1970s and 80s.
The 1855 home includes a plate displayed above the fireplace with the motto 'Thou God Seeist All'. By 1925 decorative and commemorative plates can be seen displayed above the mantelpiece as well as in display cabinets. The 1955 interior features decorative plates hanging on the wall, while the best china is kept in a corner display cabinet for special occasions or important guests. The 1970s and 80s saw a huge range of special edition collectable plate series with a vast array of subjects from flowers, vehicles and animals to Star Trek and Flower Fairies and the 1985 cottage also shows a decorative plate displayed on the wall above the fireplace.
According to this LovetoKnow article, most early collectable plates in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were blue and white Christmas plates. By the 1970s special edition plates made specifically for display were increasingly popular with themes ranging from Royalty to TV, vehicles, nostalgia and wildlife. As a result, today a wide variety of decorative plates are available at affordable prices, making this a rewarding and popular area of collecting.
Many of us can remember seeing these plates on the walls of our childhood homes and the growing resurgence of popularity for Welsh dressers and display cabinets means plates are once more coming out of the kitchen and being put on display.
Here are just some of the gorgeous and interesting decorative plates we currently have available.