This sturdy British-made pot is built like a tank.
- Type: Tin-lined Windsor in hammered finish with an iron handle fitted with three copper rivets
- French description: Sauteuse évasée étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 25.5cm diameter at rim, 21cm at base, by 9.5cm tall (10 inches at rim, 8.25 inches at base, by 3.7 inches tall)
- Thickness: 3.4mm at rim
- Weight: 3237g (7.1lbs)
- Stampings: KF 17573 ; 10″ ;↑ ; 1952 L & W ; 575 ↑
- Maker and age: Lee & Wilkes; 1952
- Source: Newlyn Tinning
This is not a French pot — it’s English through and through. Just as Villedieu-les-Poêles in France and Dinant in Belgium were centers for coppersmithing and brassworks on the Continent, Birmingham represented England’s industrial center for metalworking. Vin Callcut’s oldcopper.org is a fantastic resource for the history of this industry in England and is worth your perusal, in particular for an understanding of how politics affected the growth of the copper smelting industry.
This particular Windsor was manufactured in 1952 by Lee & Wilkes, a metalworks on Brewery Street, New Town Row in Birmingham, and was intended for use by the British military.
I know this because this information is helpfully stamped directly onto the pot.
The upward-pointing arrow is called the pheon or Broad Arrow, and it designates objects made for the British military. Reader Roger Moore was kind enough to share some information for me about the KF17573 and 575 numbers based on his own research and collection of pre- and post-WWII military items.
After the Crimean War, the British army adopted the Vocabulary of Army Ordnance Stores (VAOS), a system of letters and numbers that identified military items. VAOS was phased out starting in 1956 and replaced by the NATO numbering system. The VAOS codes survived for a time as Domestic Management Codes (DMC).
“KF” is the DMC for “Oil Heating & Cooking Stores, Spring Balances & Galvanised Buckets.” (A fairly extensive listing of DMC has been compiled by Clive Elliott and it is a marvelous glimpse into the organizational thinking of the British Army in the 20th century.) The meaning of the “17573” and “575” codes remains obscure.
It is possible that this pot was made for domestic use but even if this pot did not see active service, so to speak, it was built for hard work. At 3.4mm thickness at the rim, it’s quite heavy at just over 7 pounds.
As suits its size and weight, it has a thick iron handle firmly fastened with an arrow-shaped bracket. The exterior rivet heads are faceted with hammer-strikes and slightly pointed.
The interior rivets are flattened flush with the interior surface.
The formidable iron handle is a centimeter thick and shows no taper from base to tip. The hanging loop is a simple lozenge cut-out.
All this utilitarian styling is softened somewhat by the pot’s gorgeous hammering. This finish has a purpose, of course — hammering work-hardens the copper, helping it resist dings and dents. But it is also beautiful. The hammering is even, and I counted eight rows from the base of the pot to its rim.
It’s a lovely piece, and distinctly British in its no-nonsense sensibilities. You can see these elements when you look at the pot next to others of French design, which are softer and more stylized by comparison.
I set this pot between a 1980s-1990s era Mauviel (stamped for Williams-Sonoma) and an early 20th century pot stamped for H. Pommier in Brussels. You can immediately see the differences.
The French and Belgian handles have a teardrop-shaped hanging loop, and the handles themselves taper to a slender waist towards the tip; the baseplates are broad lozenges. By contrast, the L&W handle is straight and almost hard-edged along its length, with a lozenge shape punched out for hanging. The arrow-shaped British baseplate with rivets in a triangular pattern is a motif you’ll see on other vintage English pans.
The handles also have different mounting angles. As you can see below, the L&W handle is raked at a higher angle relative to the two other pans.
As is likely obvious to you, I really enjoy researching and learning the history of vintage copper, and this was an especially rewarding episode. I’m proud to own a pot that did its part for the British war effort — but I do spare a bit of pity for the corporal whose job it was to carry it around!