In the beginning, our trip to Maastricht had nothing to do with genealogy. The destination was Steven’s call – and after agreeing to be dragged through the Lowlands and spend a lot of time investigating my relatives, who could blame him for wanting a little time for his own explorations?
He was interested in Maastricht because of Petrus Regout. Way back in the dark ages, my college roommate had given me a plate as a 21st birthday gift – a plate showing a woman in a tea house, a bridge, all the usual Chinoiserie.
Several years later, on our first married vacation, Steven and I spent a week in Nantucket in mid-June, before the season. At an auction attended primarily by island antique dealers, we won three plates very similar to the original – for $5.00 each. Unlike the original, however, these plates had a mark on the back – the sign of the Sphinx, and the name Petrus Regout.
Over the years, on various trips for both business and pleasure, and in shops all over the U.S. and in a few places in Europe, we looked for pieces in “our” pattern, which, we learned, was commonly known as Tea House, although it’s official Regout name in Canton.
We learned that the transfer used to create the picture on the face of the plate was widely available, and dishes in this pattern – or something similar – were made in Staffordshire, England – as well as in Germany, France, and Belgium. We were even surprised to learn, on visiting Herman Melville’s home in Pittsfield, MA, that the Melville family’s china was in the Tea House pattern.
Although we have dishes in “our” pattern that were made in many different countries, we are partial to the Regout pieces. And Regout’s manufactory had been in Maastricht. Steven thought we’d have a good chance of finding more dishes there. Sort of like going to look for Stangl pottery in New Jersey — since it was made there, you might assume it would find it’s way into the market there.
Maastricht is a very interesting town. For one thing, it’s about as far south as you can go in Holland before running into Belgium. It’s also very close to Germany. The city of Aachen, the Emperor Charlemagne’s seat of power and a center of Christian learning, is about 20 minutes away.
Maastricht also is either the first or second oldest city in the Netherlands. (Nijmegen, where great-grandmother Paulina Kool Vanderdonck Vander Pyle was born, is in contention). There are thick city walls and Roman ruins, and a great series of marl caves lies nearby. These caves resulted from the quarrying of stones for local buildings. They were used, often, as a place to hide from the wars that ravaged the area.
In World War II, they housed both great artworks – to keep them hidden from the Germans – and members of the Dutch resistance — ditto. The caves are vast, with paths and galleries branching off in all directions, and it is easy to see how the locals could have led Nazi soldiers through the caves to convince them no one was hiding there, while still sheltering the resistance fighters.
On our first days in Maastricht, we looked in vain for signs of Tea House. It was Monday, then Tuesday – most of the shops in Holland and in Belgium are closed on these days. Finally on Wednesday we entered a lovely antiques shop and asked about our pattern.
The store owner shook his head. Apparently, Regout dishes never make it to the market there. Families who inherit these things guard them closely, though through an association that holds swap meets six times a year it is possible to trade pieces — my sugar bowl for your gravy ladle. But even joining the association is not an easy task.
We had to content ourselves with learning more about Petrus Regout himself. Expert as we’d become at researching, we dropped into the local Archives and learned more than we’d been able to in years of stateside study.
More on Petrus tomorrow – and how being in Maastricht led to some interesting genealogical finds.