THE QUEST FOR
|Frank found and bought an example in the
Wolverhampton market antiques centre. It was made of cast iron with a
distinctive, brown, stove enamelled finish.
Reg Aston identified the finish as apparently identical with that
which appeared on the Gas Miser fire produced by Cannon Industries.
A dealer in the antiques centre, a local man himself, confirmed the view that they came from Cannon. He suggested that other, similar but not identical, knights were made by other companies, possibly including Harper's of Willenhall.
|Reg suggested that Cannon had made other fireside ornaments, made in cast iron and using the same finish, and he cited a crocodile and a cannon. He had such a cannon.|
|There might be quite a range of cast iron, enamelled goods. Reg has this pipe smoker's ashtray, with a central rubber boss for knocking out the pipe on. It may have been a prototype.||Later Frank acquired, from the Sutton Coldfield antiques street market, another example of the knight but with three colours of enamel on it.|
|He then bought a crocodile at an antiques shop in Bridgnorth and, at an antiques fair in Stafford, a dish in the shape of a leaf, also in cast iron and with the same finish.||The crocodile was supposed to be used as a nut cracker; but the
intended use of the leaf is not clear. It seems to be meant for use in
Christine Radford suggests that it might have been intended as an ash tray or possibly as a place to rest the poker after use.
|Even later, in an antiques market in Shrewsbury, Frank bought a
galleon, again in cast iron and with a similar enamel finish. Though
some parts at the back are missing it was clearly a fireside companion
Also in the market he saw another cast iron piece, with the same enamel, in the form of a Scotty dog in a begging pose. Its back contained hooks for the fireside tools.
Jim Speakman arranged for stories of the search for the Bilston Knights to be put in the Express and Star and the Ad News. We wanted to know who had made them - because none of them we have seen has a maker's name or mark on them - and when.
|While this was happening Reg found an advert, in the
Bilston Carnival programme for 1932, for "The Bilston Knight". This
was a continuous burning fire made by Bilston Foundries.
The fire had a medieval design, with a portcullis surmounted by fleur-de-lys. The fire was available "in distinctive armorial and lustre finishes"; whether this meant that two finishes were available, or both finishes were on the same fire, was not clear.
Although the advert clearly identified the Bilston Knight as being the fire, the advert does contain a small drawing of a knight, though not in the pose of the companion sets.
One or two people have suggested that the idea of the "knight" may have come from a play on words. as the fire was supposed to stay in all "night".