NOSTALGIA: How a present from ‘Ugly’ ended up in America

The inscription on the Eastbourne teapot
The inscription on the Eastbourne teapot

Every month Eastbourne Local History Society receives inquiries via its website (www.eastbournehistory.org.uk) from all over the world – from family historians, researchers, academics and authors as well as the mildly curious.

These are passed around the society’s research group, where members are usually able to provide an answer.

The collection of Measham pottery, with the Eastbourne teapot on the left

The collection of Measham pottery, with the Eastbourne teapot on the left

This arrangement is a quid pro quo – the society is pleased to help and in return, unknown history is brought to light.

A recent inquiry was from Marc Drogin in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA, an enthusiastic collector of Measham barge ware – gaudy, bespoke pottery produced between 1875-1914 and favoured by folk working the canal barges as presents for themselves, friends and loved-ones.

The pride of Marc’s collection is a huge 1897 teapot commemorating a centennial.

However, a smaller teapot was acquired during a recent trip – this about one foot tall and designed by William Mason, a potter in South Derbyshire.

It was probably purchased from the china shop in Measham by the canal and bears a curious inscription: ‘Mrs W Jaring, Marine Hotel, Eastbourne, 1895 – A Present from Ugly’.

Of course, one of the joys of collecting is unravelling history and adding a human element. So who was Mrs W Jaring? Did she own the hotel? And how about Ugly? Was this the nickname of a tea-loving swain?

Marc had already been in touch with Eastbourne’s Marine Parade Hotel but to no avail. So could we help to establish the history of this happy but mysterious teapot?

We noted a Royal Marine Hotel at 1 Royal Parade in 1897 (later Hotel Metropole, destroyed on June 4 1943, and now the site of Metropole Court) but this seemed unlikely.

The censuses revealed only 11 people with the name Jaring in the entire country. Ten lived in Norfolk, and one in Lancashire.

Of the 11 Jarings, seven were female but none had a given name beginning with W.

Of the four males, two were William and two were Thomas.

As an aside, there is a village in Essex called Ugley. Members of its Women’s Institute deplore the jokes at their expense.

Alan Smith, author of an upcoming book, Public Houses of Eastbourne - A history of Eastbourne’s public houses and breweries that existed in 1986 or before, reinterpreted the inscription not as Mrs W Jaring’but as Mr S W Jaring.

This was noted by Marc Drogin, who confirmed the pressing of letters was often imprecise. Thus either version was a possibility.

Alan confirmed that today’s Marine pub in Seaside had been the Marine Tavern in 1891 but become the Marine Hotel in 1892. Moreover, the landlord in 1897 was Sydney William Gearing.

An additional snippet was turned up: not only was he the landlord of the Marine Hotel, but also a blacksmith in Langney Road. And this was the end of the line as far as historical research is concerned. All that remained was surmise.

Marc has three theories: the teapot was a leaving present to a Mrs W Jaring, perhaps a barmaid; ‘Jaring’ (albeit misspelt) was a play on words, a nickname for the blacksmith-landlord, no doubt a burly man who would ‘jar up’ any awkward customers; or finally, Ugly was the nickname of a fisherman with bargee connections.

Personally, I am inclined towards Mr SW Gearing but with the name misspelt as part of an in-joke at the pub.

It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has researched the Gearing family.

Or indeed from someone who knows about Ugly.

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