Here is a lovely example of a pair of Staffordshire Dog Figurines.
Originated in early 18th-century England and used as symbols of protection and status, they were typically a matching pair of earthenware Spaniel dogs, standing guard and flanking the mantelpiece of many a well-to-do British household. Their popularity is credited to King Charles who favoured the Spaniel breed.
Seated in pairs and decorated with a gold chain and locket, they are often featured in a creamy white base coat with various facial expressions. More frequently they may be found with front legs moulded to the body. Rarer figures may be seen with one or two legs being featured distinctly in its creation.
The Staffordshire Spaniel was the quintessential Victorian bourgeois status-symbol ornament. No mantelpiece was complete without a pair of Spaniels standing guard.
It is said that the usefulness of the Staffordshire Spaniel Figurines extended to being placed on window sills. One story is that a woman could place the ornaments in her front window; if the Spaniels were turned back to back, it meant her husband was at home. If he was away or at sea, the dogs would be placed facing each other. When her lover passed the house, he would then know by the way the dogs were facing, whether it was safe for him to visit without her husband knowing.
Children as young as seven or eight years old were paid two shillings a week to paint the gold chains which were often included on the Spaniels in the 1800s.
It is sometimes thought that the Staffordshire Dogs were influenced by the ancient guardian statues of China – the Foo Dogs.