There’s probably nothing that sums up mid-twentieth century middle class suburbia more than three ceramic ducks flying to nowhere on the wall of a terraced or semi-detached house.
They were designed at the Beswick Factory in Stoke-on-Trent by a freelance artist, Mr Watkin and produced in five sizes between 1938 and the early 1970s. As well as mallards, Watkins also modelled plaques in the shape of flying seagulls, pheasants, and blue tits. But it was the reasonably priced ducks that caught the imagination of post-war house owners looking for something to brighten up their walls.
The plaques might have disappeared into the mists of kitsch history, but in 1976 they suddenly became an iconic component of Granada TV’s Coronation Street when the plaster ducks were added to the mural – sorry ‘muriel’ on Stan and Hilda Ogden’s sitting rom wall at number 13 (below)
Their last appearance on the show was in 1987 when the Ogdens moved out. In response to Percy Sugden’s cheery suggestion that she’d be glad to see the back of the decor Hilda retorted:
“I’ve come in here more times than I care to remember. Cold. Wet. Bone tired. Not a penny in me purse. And seeing them ducks and that muriel… well they’ve kept me hand away from gas tap. And that’s a fact.”
We didn’t have a muriel but when we moved into our new house in Withington Manchester in 1985 we had a fireplace and the three plaster ducks which Angela thinks she probably won at Salisbury Fair in the 1960s were installed there. They had seen better days, one had been glued back together, and all of them were a bit chipped here and there.
So you’ll gather that these ducks were not things of beauty. In fact – in Angela’s words – they were crap. Their presence certainly baffled her mother who could not understand why we sullied our beautifully decorated sitting room with these things. Maybe it was an ironic statement about art, or maybe we just did it to her annoy her. Probably a bit of both.
Below – taken in the mid 1990s is one of the only photos we can find showing them. We were clearly on our way to some important function (We rarely dressed for dinner at home in those days!). And I assure you there was a third duck behind my head.