The King’s Plate

The King’s Plate

Uncovering the story of The King’s Plate Southport

The history of this ornate piece in The Atkinson’s collection had long been something of a mystery. That is until the team at Anglia Research harnessed their investigative skills to delve into the past. Which King ate off the plate? Under what circumstances? Watch the video below to find out!

Anglia Research are global experts in probate genealogy.

Thank you to Your Southport (Southport BID) for the video.

The King’s Plate

Paul Findell, Anglia Research

We looked at several people and stories connected with The Atkinson that we could research. Whilst The Atkinson has links to many famous people and events we wanted to find something that wasn’t well documented that could be investigated using genealogy and historical records.

The story that we thought fitted the brief was the tale of the King’s Plate. Mrs Maureen Ballard had donated an ornate dessert plate that she had inherited. The story that came with it was that during a royal visit to Southport the King had dined at The Atkinson and either her father or grandfather had opportunistically cleared the King’s plate away and kept it as an heirloom. To add further context, the ancestor in question had been in a position to provide fine chinaware to The Atkinson for the event in the first place.

To investigate this story we tackled two fronts, firstly to research Mrs Ballard’s family to see who might have had the opportunity to provide plates to The Atkinson, and secondly to identify which royal visit and which King we were dealing with.

After a little bit of digging we found that Mrs Ballard’s mother came from a family by the name of Gibson. During the late 19th and into the mid 20th century the Gibson’s had a shop on Chapel Street selling glassware and china. We were able to find out that her great-grandfather and grandfather had both been dealers in glass and china, as well as her grandfathers brothers.

Identifying the royal visit wasn’t as straightforward. Whilst Elizabeth II had visited Southport finding a reigning King making a visit was more problematic. George VI visited Bootle in the 1940’s but I could find no evidence of him making a visit to Southport. The prime candidate then seemed to be a visit by George V in 1913. I was able to find newspaper articles about the visit suggesting he stopped at Cambridge Hall (The Atkinson) but then discovered that 10 minutes after arriving in Southport the royal party re-entered the car and drove to Preston where they had luncheon. It didn’t fit with the story. I could find no other visits by reigning monarchs to Southport and feared that our research would end up debunking the whole tale.

The next thing to do was see if any other royals had ever visited Southport. It was then that I found details of a visit by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII on 18th May 1898. He was here reviewing the Lancashire Hussars on Southport’s sands.

The accounts of that day clearly state that the Prince and regiment dined at Cambridge Hall. This was much more promising. A royal visit of a future king who definitely dined at The Atkinson and right at the time when the Gibson’s were a well-established local dealer in fine china and glassware.

Then came the clincher, I found an advert in the local paper by Thomas Gibson selling off glassware and china that had been used for the royal dinner. So it would seem the Gibson’s loaned their wares for the event and then sold off what had been used as mementos. It would make perfect sense that they retained the actual plate used by The Prince of Wales as a memento of their own.

Posted on 21 June 2024 under General news, Museum

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