Learn more about Francesca
  and other Character Head thimbles  
--- thimbleselect.bizland.com ---

OTHER BRANDS - ACORN | ARTONE | COUNTRY LIFE DESIGN STUDIO | CROFT CHINA | HARLEQUIN DESIGN STUDIO | HARMER SCULPTURES | HEALACRAFT | JOHNSON | PERENNIS | RENAISSANCE | ROYAL WORCESTER | STAFFORDSHIRE FINE CERAMICS | SUTHERLAND CHINA | THEODORE PAUL | THIMBLE COLLECTORS SOCIETY | TONY WOOD STUDIO | VICTORIA CHINA | UNITED ARTISTS | WOOD POTTERS


FRANCESCA | AMERICAN COLLECTION | CLOWNS COLLECTION | COMPOSERS | DICKENS COLLECTION | DOGS HEADS | FAMOUS | FLORAL BONNETS | LITERARY COLLECTION | ROYALTY COLLECTION | SNOWMEN COLLECTION | TUDOR COLLECTION | OTHERS

back to Learn more about
Francesca ... introduction


  Francesca  

Francesca thimble character heads are the most prolific. At least count, there are 116 different characters. According to The Thimble Collectors' Guild in September 1985, Francesca were a small family firm in the heart of the Staffordshire potteries. They were named Francesca Art China.
'Baby Bunting' was first offered for sale in their catalogue of September 1984.

The company is no longer in existence. I believe that Francesca were taken over by Sutherland China, who used some of the Francesca moulds and destroyed the rest. Compare the Francesca head thimbles with the Sutherland China heads and you will notice the similarity in the shapes!

I understand from new information coming to light with the surge in interest in Francesca thimbles on eBay, that Francesca was started by a group of breakaway painters from Royal Doulton in the 1970s but thimbles only made their appearance from 1982. Francesca probably began their range with handpainted figurines, the earliest of which being August 1976, with the Francesca backstamp + Francesca Art China and signed and dated.
As well as figurines, Francesca also produced signed bells and candle snuffers in the shape of figures.


left - backstamp of cat figurine, dated February 1980, signed S Jones
right - backstamp of lady-shaped bell, dated 1987, signed P Ansell

The thimbles have the Francesca backstamp [an italic F], plus 'Staffordshire England' and usually the painter's initials, with a two-digit date, all lettered on the inside as well as the name of the character.
The dates on their thimbles range from 1982 to 1990. From observation there seem to be some Francesca thimbles that are unsigned, or have the Francesca backstamp missing, or have no markings at all. They are obviously Francesca thimbles: could these be from the later end of the production, as some have an 89 date but no "F" maker's mark? Or they could be early "experiments"?

       
a range of marks inside Francesca thimbles + Francesca thimble box

Each character has the indentations on the crown of the head, like traditional thimbles, but these are not always apparent as they are painted over. All the thimbles are handpainted and the finish is glossy, not matt. Being handpainted by a range of artists has led to colour variations and even variety in expressions. If you are a collector of Royal Doulton figurines, you will know the effect of a fine handpainter, as against an average one!

You will also notice that there is an increasing appearance of unpainted, tho glazed, character heads - are these seconds or just unpainted stock - surely defeating the purpose of collecting these delightful handpainted range of thimbles? The other thought tho, is that seeing the plain white blank, makes us appreciate the fine handpainting of each character? Many do carry the Francesca backstamp.

The following 31 painters' initials have been found in Francesca thimbles. It would be wonderful to discover all the full names of these talented painters. I have shared these names in the spirit they have been offered by collectors of the Francesca handpainted range - some still can't be verified at this stage. Can you help?

AD = Anthea Derry
AE = Alice Eckenstein
AG
BB = B Bream
DB = D Broom
DS = Dan Smith?
GC = G Czapski
GE [unverified]
IE [unverified]
IS = Ivan Sutton
JK = J Kelsall [or Kelshaw]
JL
JP = John Price
JS = Joan Sutton
KH = Keith Harrison
KS = K Sylvester
KT = K Taylor
KY [unverified]
MB = M Banks
MM = Michael J Middling
MW = Minnie Webb
MY = M Young
NE = N Evans
PA = Pat Ansell
PN
RB = Robert Band
RH = Ron Hearson
RS = Ray Shufflebotham [signs R Shuff]
was this the first painter to break away
from Royal Doulton - ie the founder of Francesca?
your thoughts?
SF
SJ = Stan Jones
TK = T Kelshaw

Under the Francesca backstamp, tiny character jugs, candle snuffers and busts were also produced.

 
these are included for completeness to show these non-thimble shapes - they are the Francesca tiny - not mini - character jugs

I have divided the Francesca thimbles by the various character groups (as named in the original Francesca brochure) and then alphabetised them. Where possible I have included the Dickensian story they relate to

I was so fortunate and happy to be sent digital copies of the original pamphlet advertising Francesca thimbles. Although the pamphlets appear to be undated, it is interesting to note the "subject" groupings used by Francesca, which I have tried to follow, including the group names. I have added the brochures below - the lettering is almost impossible to read but the groupings can be clearly seen - hope they are of use?

   


American Collection
there are 10 characters in the set

Presidents


Abraham Lincoln
+ unpainted, backstamped & part-painted versions

American Bald Eagle

George Washington
without a hat & unpainted versions
formed part of the original set

George Washington
with hat & unpainted versions
formed part of the original set

Huckleberry Finn

Lady Liberty
this thimble did not form part of the original brochure's set of 10 thimbles

Mark Twain

Martha Washington

Theodore Roosevelt
+ unpainted, backstamped version

Thomas Jefferson
+ unpainted, backstamped & colour variety versions

Tom Sawyer
+ unpainted without hat, backstamped version


return to the top


Clowns Collection
set of 6


Bojangles [720]

Coco [715]

Cuddles [716]

Sparkles [719]

Whoopie [717]

Winkie [718]

the clowns are only named on the boxes and not in the thimbles
the numbering alongside the names refers to the Francesca catalogue numbers

an identical example of the clown "Cuddles" has been found - painted in 1986 - that is named "Beppo" within the thimble

a very observant Francesca collector has noticed that the clown shapes correspond to the Dickensian character shapes. What do you think? I think it shows how artistic and brilliant the Francesca painters were!!
look at "Cuddles" and "Artful Dodger" - "Whoopie" and "Mr Dick" - "Winkie" and "Tommy Traddles" - "Coco" and "Bill Sykes" - "Bojangles" and "Uriah Heep" - "Sparkles" and "Mr Micawber"


return to the top


Composers


Bach

Beethoven

Mozart

Schubert
+ pair showing glossy & matt versions


return to the top


Dickens Collection
originally I thought this was a set of 29
on closer inspection of the Francesca brochure
Charles Dickens is not part of the Literary Collection
he must then complete this set of 30?


Charles Dickens


Artful Dodger
[--Oliver Twist--]

Bill Sykes
[--Oliver Twist--]

Bullseye
[--Oliver Twist--]
+ unpainted & unmarked version

[--David Copperfield--]
+ unpainted version

Estella
[--Great Expectations--]
+ unpainted version

Fagin
[--Oliver Twist--]

Little Dorritt
[--Little Dorritt--]

Little Emily
[--David Copperfield--]

Little Nell
[--The Old Curiosity Shop--]

Magwitch
[--Great Expectations--]
+ unpainted, backstamped version & colour variations

Miss Haversham
[--Great Expectations--]
+ unpainted, backstamped version

Mr Bumble
[--Oliver Twist--]

Mr Dick
[--David Copperfield--]
+ part-painted version & unpainted, backstamped versions

Mr Micawber
[--David Copperfield--]
+ unpainted version

Mr Pickwick
[--The Pickwick Papers--]

Mrs Squeers
[--Nicholas Nickleby--]
+ unpainted, backstamped version

Nancy
[--Oliver Twist--]

Nicolas Nickleby
[--Nicolas Nickleby--]

Oliver Twist
[--Oliver Twist--]

Pecksniff
[--Martin Chuzzlewit--]
+ unpainted version

Pip
[--Great Expectations--]
+ unpainted version

Sairey Gamp
[--Martin Chuzzlewit--]

Scrooge
[--A Christmas Carol--]

Sergeant Bux Fux
[--The Pickwick Papers--]
+ unpainted version


Smike
[--Nicolas Nickleby--]
+ change in hair colour version

Tiny Tim
[--A Christmas Carol--]

Tommy Traddles
[--David Copperfield--]

Uriah Heep
[--David Copperfield--]
+ unpainted version

Wackford Squeers
[--Nicholas Nickleby--]


return to the top


Dogs Heads
showing different breeds of dogs
a set of 8


Border collie

Labrador - black

Labrador - golden

Old English sheepdog

Springer spaniel - black
+ face-on view

Springer spaniel - liver

West Highland Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier


return to the top


Famous
originally a set of 6 leaders and heroes
according to the original Francesca brochure


Duke of Wellington

Francis Drake
+ signed & named
this thimble did not form part of the original brochure's set of 6 thimbles

Josephine

Lady Hamilton

Lord Nelson
with & without a hat
hat version is featured in the original brochure

Napoleon
with & without a hat
hat version is featured in the original brochure

Sir Walter Raleigh
unpainted version
this thimble did not form part of the original brochure's set of 6 thimbles

Winston Churchill
with + without a hat
hat version is featured in the original brochure


return to the top


Floral Bonnets
this is a set of 12 thimbles with four differently shaped hats - two types of bonnets, brimmed hats and cloches. Each has a flower attached but the flower is not named inside the thimble
there are identical thimbles that are also are named for the months of the year. The month is lettered inside the thimble
first offered for sale thru The Thimble Collectors' Guild in Scotland, in July 1985


month backstamp


Anemone
aka February

Christmas Rose
aka November

Cornflower

Dogwood
aka October

Forget-me-nots
aka August

Holly
aka December

Narcissus
aka January

Pansy

Pink Rose
aka April

Primrose
aka July

Violet
aka March

Wild Rose
aka September


return to the top


Literary Collection
set of 14
some are authors - some from fiction
many of these thimbles are pairs
the numbering alongside some of the names refers to the Francesca catalogue numbers


Anne Hathaway [609]

Anthony [616]

Cleopatra [617]

Desdemona [615]

Dr Watson

Juliet [611]

Lady Macbeth [613]

Macbeth [612]
+ unpainted version

Othello [614]

Robbie Burns

Romeo [610]

Sherlock Holmes

Tam O'Shanter

William Shakespeare [608]
the 83-dated thimbles show the indentations starting at the hairline


return to the top


Royalty Collection
originally a set of 6
a selection of European royal personages
the numbering alongside the names refers to the Francesca catalogue numbers


Albert [623]

Charles II [620]
with & without a hat
hat version is featured in the original brochure

Earl of Essex
this thimble did not form part of the original brochure's set of 6 thimbles

Elizabeth I [618]

Mary Queen of Scots [619]
+ unpainted version

Nell Gwynn [621]

Victoria [622]


return to the top


Snowmen Collection
a set of 4
all have a sprig of greenery on the hat


Bowler
+ unpainted version

Cap

Top hat

Trilby
+ unpainted version


return to the top


Tudor Collection
this set of 7 thimbles, featuring Henry and his 6 wives, is boxed
they are often displayed on a sloping vertical wooden rack, which was a free item on purchase of the set
the numbering under the names refers to the Francesca catalogue numbers


7 thimbles on display rack


Henry VIII
[604]

Anne Boleyn
[602]

Anne of Cleves
[606]

Catherine Howard
[607]

Catherine of Aragon
[603]

Jane Seymour
[601]

Katherine Parr
[605]


return to the top


Others


Baby Bunting - blue

Baby Bunting - pink

Baby Bunting - pink & blue
with crib
the crib forms a pintray

Good King Wenceslas
+ unpainted, backstamped & with gold crown & colourway versions

John Paul II


Any questions or comments?
thimbleselect@bigpond.com

  Last updated 9 March 2014  
return to the top