Anyone who's ever picked up an antiques price guide, such as Millers, will have probably read that the main output of Powell, Bishop & Stonier, was nursery ware. Indeed, I do own several Bisto baby plates and bowls, and I have seen many pictures of others. But I have never managed to find one of their figure handled nursery rhyme mugs, even though this is the image often used by the guidebooks. So, finally, after several years of searching, I found one in near mint condition on a trip to Topsham antiques centre in Devon. Hooray!
Whilst I am delighted to finally be able to add this piece to my collection (which, by the way, was made at the time of George Jones ownership of the Bishop factory, so not strictly speaking Bisto ware), it does irk me that antiques guide books often overlook the wide variety of output from the Livesley/Powell/Bishop & Stonier stable. The history of this factory in its various guises covered nearly 90 years of changing fashions and tastes: high Victoriana and historical revivalist, Japanese aesthetic, decadent belle epoque, jazzy art deco. It is only in collecting from the entire time frame of a factory's life that one can see these changing styles: what trends lasted for only a few years, which pieces were reused time and again, how factories often used basic shapes and amended them with transfer designs or over-painting to suit the current taste, how they often copied their competitors.
If you are thinking of starting a ceramic collection of any factory, my advice would be this: either buy one particular type of item (vases or jugs for example), or one particular type of decoration (lustre or jasperware perhaps) OR, concentrate on finding the best examples you can which represent that factory throughout its life. If you buy the basic bread-n-butter pieces which kept a factory going (tea sets and wash basins), make sure they're either stunning examples of their type, or that you're just buying to educate yourself and you will probably want to sell it later on to "trade up". There are lots of things in my collection that are now just taking up space - pieces which i don't value aesthetically or academically, but which i learned from along my collecting journey. If you're a collector, don't be afraid to move on, and don't be afraid to get forgotten pieces out of your attic, dust away the spiders and trade up.