Cup Shapes - An Introduction

Shelley and Wileman produced cups in many shapes and sizes.  This variety assures that every collector will find something to his or her liking.  Indeed, some collectors focus on finding one example of every shape and size.  The Australasian Shelley Collectors Club Inc. has published a booklet entitled “Pocket Book of Wileman & Shelley Cup Shapes” that illustrates over 137 different shapes.  This handy, pocket-size book is available for purchase through the Australian site at  Another book that collectors might be interested in is “The Shape Book” published by the United Kingdom Shelley Group in 2000.  To obtain a copy, please visit the UK website at

S-DaintyEach shape may come in several sizes:  the largest called the farmer’s cup (or grandfather’s cup), the tea size, the coffee size (also referred to as demitasse) and even a miniature.  When you factor in the different sizes available in each shape, there are hundreds to learn about and discover.  Here is an example of the Begonia pattern #13427 in the Dainty shape in both the farmer’s size and the tea size.

One collector might choose to search for every pattern that Shelley or Wileman made on a particular shape.  For many Americans the Dainty shape is the quintessence of Shelley china.  The Dainty shape was manufactured from 1896 until 1966 when Shelley China was taken over by Allied Potteries.  The number of patterns made in the Dainty shape no doubt number in the hundreds, perhaps more.  It would be a lifelong quest to find every single pattern that Wileman and Shelley made in that shape.

Another collector might try to find every miniature that Wileman and Shelley ever produced.  Yet another might seek to find an example of every cup shape in the demitasse size in pure white.  During WWII English china manufacturers were not allowed to produce decorated wares for the home market (all decorated ware that was manufactured was destined for overseas) so white ware is highly sought after for its simplicity and beauty of line, as well as the sentimental connection to the sacrifices it calls to mind.

A final focus might be to select a favorite pattern and attempt to find all the shapes it was produced in.  The Stocks pattern #13428 is shown here in numerous shapes and sizes.



Shape Letters

Collectors will note that the pattern number on an item of china may be preceded by a letter. This letter signifies the shape of that china.   Some letters were used for more than one shape, (although not at the same time), and many shapes were not given a letter at all.  The UK club has published a list of known letters here:

Further information, including photos of backstamps with shape letters, may be found at the Backstamps tab of this site.


Teapot and Coffeepot Shapes

Shelley produced a dazzling range of tea ware.  Although this site has concentrated on cups, no discussion of tea ware is complete without at least a passing reference to the pot. The UK club has a page showing examples of the known Wileman and Shelley tea and coffee pot shapes:

A handy reference book is available from the Australasian club at