Is there anything you can hang on a living room wall that screams mid-century, middle class suburbia more than a trio of ceramic ducks?
I’d argue no.
But how did this come to be? Where did these mysterious waterfowl originate and why do they still hold such appeal?
It all begins in the home of English pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, at the Beswick Factory. In 1938 they started producing wall mounted Mallard ducks in five sizes (as well as swans, kingfishers, swallows and a variety of other birds).
Beswick figurines were at the “affordable” end of the home decor market and in the post-war period the Mallards were hugely popular amongst the growing middle class, so much so that they were a stock item that continued to be produced by the factory right up until 1973.
Their most famous association, and one which probably secured their iconic status, is with Coronation Street where they graced the wallpaper mural or “muriel” of one Hilda Ogden.
By 1976, when they made their first appearance at the Ogden home the ducks had already been flying for nearly forty years (and boy were their wings tired). As a working class couple the Ogden’s ducks were probably meant to represent Hilda’s middle class aspirations, but it’s hard to imagine that viewers who grew up with similar ducks in their parents’ homes would have considered them anything but kitsch or even a bit naff.
The ducks made their last appearance on the show in 1987 when the Ogdens moved out. During the episode Hilda explained their importance in a typically dark, northern fashion –
“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.”
By that time the ducks were so beloved that the Ogden living room wall, complete with Mallards, became a feature set in the Granada Studio Tour when it opened the following year. When a commemorative 40th anniversary Coronation Street Monopoly set was created in 2000 the ducks were given their own square.
Three flying ducks even made an appearance in the most unlikely of places, namely Dr Who’s lapel in the 1979 4 episode storyline entitled The Power of Kroll.
I know. You’re shocked. But hush.
Flying ducks are experiencing a further resurgence in popularity as yet another generation experiences the nostalgia and joy of “putting a bird on it”.
Though they may have had humble beginnings original Beswick ducks are now highly sought after collector items with complete sets fetching hundreds of dollars. So it’s just as well that there are other more affordable options available for those hankering after a bit of ducky kitsch.
Duck fridge magnets, $25 from Moi Design
Flying ducks New Zealand stamp print, $25 from Pepin Design
Brass ducks necklace, $83 from Toggle
Acrylic ducks wall art, $14 from Toggle
Framed ducks framed art, $55 from Qwerky Home
Set of 3 flying ducks, $22 from Verge Art & Design Gallery
Ducks vintage cushion cover, $49 from Revamp Vintage
Mallard ducks embroidered wall art, $89 from Vintage Orders