Wade Whimsies - A Short History

Everyone knows whimsies, they may not always know Wade but they usually know whimsies, those small porcelain figures of animals, birds, mammals, reptiles etc. which fell from christmas crackers or were given away with tea and toothpaste and were as popular with children in their heyday as Pokemon or Star Wars are today . They were sold in most tobacconists and newsagents in colourful little boxes for around 15 pence each from the mid fifties to the mid eighties.


The brain child of Iris Carryer to keep the factory in work when the post war boom was slowing up, the name or so the story goes, was coined by Tony Wade’s secretary who thought that the little figures were whimsical.
According to Pat Murray, the first boxed sets of whimsies cost 5/9 (28 pence!) when they were first issued in 1954. The set consisted of a leaping fawn, a horse, a spaniel with a ball, a poodle and a squirrel. A boxed set 10 was sold in 2001 on an internet auction site for £420 which must be a record. Sets 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 were all produced at the Northern Ireland Wade plant in Portadown whilst the remainder were made in the UK.
In England, whimsies of every description and colour have poured from the Manchester Pottery of George Wade & Son Ltd in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent for nearly fifty years and could easily claim to be Wade’s most popular collectable product ever and are possibly still their most prestigious although now with the sale of the Manchester Pottery, production has been moved to Hilltop Work (the old Royal Victoria Pottery of Wade, Heath).
Popular for many years were Tom Smith’s crackers which contained a whimsie and no Christmas was complete in the UK without a cracker on the table at lunchtime. First used in 1973, the first eight had previously been available in Red Rose Tea in the late 60s. Also popular were Tom Smith’s Cats, Hedgerow and Nursery cracker sets. The company was taken over in 2000 and no longer contain whimsies, Christmas just didn’t seem the same until Wade themselves filled the gap and produced their own cracker.
Lately collectors have had to make do with the occasional new colourway rather than an entirely new whimsie. However in 2001 C&S commissioned Wade to produce the first Arthur Hare whimsie. 1750 were produced in blue for the UK market with a further 250 intended for the USA.

Red Rose have included whimsies in their tea since 1967 in Canada and due to their success, the promotion it was extended to the USA in 1983 and is still going strong today. Following on from the Circus set of fifteen whimsies and the Endangered Species set of ten, a completely new series is about to be released in the US by Red Rose. The Noah’s Ark series is due for release in May. All the whimsies have been modelled by Ken Holmes and the Ark, some six inches long by 4 inches high is the work of Cyril Roberts. The set, with the ark really does look great but it’s a shame that it will be difficult to obtain them in the UK except through our American tea drinking cousins! So watch out for the new series from Red Rose!
There are a number of books available from C&S which cover whimsies.

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