Nothing says "spring" to me quite like my Royal Winton Welbeck dishes, and over the years many of you have commented that you, too, fell in love with this pattern when you first saw it in Victoria magazine. Over the weekend I looked back at my old Victorias and came across a photo of the Welbeck teapot in the July 1998 issue, and it was then I realized it's been almost 15 years since my Welbeck passion began!
I cannot think of Welbeck without thinking of a dear friend whom I'll call "Emma" (not her real name), who was my partner in crime in attaining these cherished teawares. Now the teapot was $150 when it was first reproduced and appeared in Victoria. Oh, how I longed for it, but I didn't have $150 to blow on a teapot back then. (Still don't, now that I think about it!) Emma found one for herself at a slight discount on a shopping channel on television, as I recall, but then one magical spring she began to find a few pieces of Welbeck at our local T.J. Maxx store. Thanks to her excellent scouting efforts, I soon owned the teapot and the enormous serving tray, both for something like $19.99, I believe, at any rate a fraction of the retail price. Emma had found some teacups for her own collection, but I had not. My mom and I hit every T.J. Maxx in the metro Atlanta area in search of more Welbeck, and though I found other Royal Winton chintz teapots (which I dearly wish I had purchased!), I didn't find the teacups. Emma was great about "hiding" chintz in other spots in the local store until I could get there after work and check things out, calling up with precise details about exactly where in the store I should go to look. I have said before that if we didn't love collecting teawares so much, we would have made great drug dealers.
"Patience, Grasshopper," someone should have told me. While I burned gallons of gas in my eagerness to get my greedy little hands on more chintz, Emma quietly, steadily kept an eye on the local T.J. Maxx for me. One day she called to report she had spotted four Welbeck teacups and saucers sitting on the "Hold" shelf at the store. She asked the salesclerk if those were scheduled for pick-up. Yes, the person said, but they were overdue for pick-up and if they weren't claimed by 9 p.m. that night, they would be restocked. Well, it *happened* to be my birthday, and I *happened* to be there waiting at 9 p.m. that night and got those teacups! Oh, the fun of that spring of chintz collecting!
I was writing a column about teatime in the newspaper back then, but I told Emma I would never use the word chintz, and I did not. I would write about my "English teawares" or my "cheerful yellow teacups" or my "sunny spring dishes," and though SHE knew exactly what I was talking about, I didn't want one other woman out there looking for chintz. Victoria had already created a collecting frenzy, and I was not about to add to that! I eventually added luncheon plates and a sugar and creamer to my set, and when my mother and I found matching fabric at JoAnn one day, she offered to make these cloth napkins to go with my teawares. Love them!
And so now, dear friends, when you see my little tea trolley set with Welbeck chintz, you know that this is way more than just a tea set to me. It's a 15-year-old memory of a fun collecting passion shared with a dear friend!