The geography of Staffordshire in central England conspired to make it a center for slipware and other types of lead-glazed earthenware. Thick layers of clay lay only a few feet below the surface. In fact, there was so much of the stuff within easy reach that 18th-century potters routinely dug clay right out of the roads, thus giving us the origins of the phrase “pot hole.”

Coal to fire the area’s signature bottle kilns was also plentiful in the northern part of the district. The field that fueled the Potteries (as the industry that dominated the towns of Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke, and Tunstall is still known) covered roughly 100 square miles.

It’s thought that the two minerals first came together in 1467, 200 years before John Astbury introduced his red earthenware to the world, and almost 300 years before "Potter to Her Majesty" Josiah Wedgwood made his cream-colored, lead-glazed Queen’s Ware for Queen Charlotte.

The antique Staffordshire ceramics that we're most familiar with today are from these later periods, when as many as 4,000 bottle kilns spewed black smoke into the skies in the service of fine dinnerware and fanciful figurines.

One of the leading potters of the 18th century was Thomas Whieldon, who made everything from black tea and coffee pots to knife hafts for Sheffield cutlers to plates with richly ornamented edges. Whieldon had many apprentices (Josiah Spode and Ralph Wood are two of the most important) and he was a business partner for about five years with Josiah Wedgwood, who learned a lot from Whieldon before establishing his own firm in 1759.

Though rightly famous for his creamware, which was lightweight and seemed to shine thanks to its luminous glaze, Wedgwood also developed a line of unglazed black stoneware known as the basaltes. Some sported precise basketweave reliefs on their exteriors — these are highly sought by collectors. Others were decorated with terracotta figures — these Wedgwood-dubbed Etruscan Ware.

Charlotte was not the only monarch to choose Wedgwood. In 1770, Catherine the Great of Russia ordered a dinner-and-dessert set for 24 called the Husk Service and in 1774 he delivered to her a 954-piece dinner set known as the Frog Service. Other achievements by Wedgwood include the introduction of Jasperware (stoneware colored by metal oxides) and pearlware (a bluish version of his creamware)...

By the end of the 18th century, Staffordshire potteries were producing Anglo-American wares for the newly independent colonies across the Atlantic. Pitchers were decorated with slogans that celebrated American independence and the young country’s love of liberty.

At the beginning of the 19th century, transfer-printed scenes of everything from Niagara Falls to views of Boston Harbor were produced on monochrome blue platters and plates. Today the 800-some subjects in this series are known as Historical Blue Staffordshire, or simply Old Blue.

Other wares made for the new American market were Gaudy Dutch, whose vivid pink, green, red, and green glazes were aimed at residents of Pennsylvania. And as many as 40 patterns of sponged ware, also called spatterware, came out of Staffordshire potteries to supply Americans with dinnerware, tea sets, and washbowls for the bathroom.

Key terms for Staffordshire Ceramics

Slipware: A technique in which an aqueous clay body is painted, splashed, or used as a dip for a dry clay surface.

Haft: The handle of a knife or sword.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Thepotteries.org

Thepotteries.org

Steve Birks' super deep site is a tribute to a bygone era, chronicling how a pottery center of excellence (they did… [read review or visit site]

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Superb 19thc Staffordshire Blue & Wte Willow Pattern Cow Creamer C.185019 1/2" Staffordshire Transferware Platter Trophy Pattern Ca 1830Antique Historical Blue Staffordshire Platter 21x16.5 In1820's Enoch Wood Historical Blue St. Philips Chapel Transferware Plates - Two2 Historical Staffordshire Cup Plates ~ Wood Bridge + Stubbs Philadelphia~ Af/nr1820's Enoch Wood English Historical Blue Vue Du Chateau Transferware PlateClews China "the Valentine" From Wilkes Designs" Dark Blue Transfer Pearlware Fine Staffordshire Spode Caramanian Series Pierced Plate ~ Necropolis ~ C1820 NrAntique Enoch Woods Style Blue Stafforeshire Transferware Luncheon PlateAntique Staffordshire Dark Blue Transferware Cherub Teapot1820's Blenheim Oxfordshire Blue Transferware Soup Bowl (relist - Correct Pics)J & R Clews Mulberry Purple Transferware Transfer Ware Union 17 3/4" PlatterStaffordshire Childs 13 Pc Tea Set ~ Horseback ~ Black Transferware C1840 NrCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scene Dinner Plates (7)Crown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes TeapotRed Staffordshire Antique Transferware Moral Maxim Pattern Plate By Clews 8"Historical Staffordshire PlatterR. Hall Llanarth Court Picturesque Scenery Blue Transferware Dinner Plates - Two19thc Flow Blue Clews Staffordshire Plate-fonthill Abbey Wiltshire EnglandRowland & Marsellus England R & M Brown Transferware Dinner Plate W Large TurkeyAntique Early 19th C Staffordshire Adam Buck Campana Shape Buff Color VaseStaffordshire Hunting Scene Cereal Bowls (5)Staffordshire Prattware Britannia + Lion~ Brown Ground Pink Lustre Pitcher C18201893 Chicago Worlds Fair Columbian Exposition Staffordshire Souvenir PlateSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Pottery Carpet Ball With Blue & White Decor C1860Vtg Crown Staffordshire Fine Bone China Salt Shaker.fox Hunt SceneLarge Antique Staffordshire Striped HorseRed Staffordshire Antique Transferware Moral Maxim Pattern Plate Clews 10&1/2"Superb Early 19thc Staffordshire Treacle Glaze Foot Window Sash Support C1820Crown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes Preserve Pot & DishCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes Set Of 2 Dessert Bowls DishesCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes 4 Coffee Mug Cups & SaucersRare Antique Staffordshire Beehive Red Transferware Dome Lid Pot TeapotAntique Parian Ware Small Bust Of Lord Byron Staffordshire Circa 1830 Staffordshire Blue Transfer Flow Blue America IndependenceCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes Handled Milk JugCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes Sugar BowlAntique Staffordshire Blue & White Transferware Pastoral Scene Meat Drainer Royal Staffordshire Platter Rural Scenes W England W Crown A J Wilkinson Ltd1849 Staffordshire Sauce Tureen Historical Flow Blue, Small SizeCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes 2 Handled Bon Bon Sweet DishFabulous 19th C. Staffordshire Pink Sunderland Luster Lustre Wesley Plaque Red Staffordshire Antique Transferware Moral Maxim Pattern Plate By Clews 7&7/8"Antique Blue Transferware Large Oval Staffordshire Serving Platter Marked RhineAntique John Alcock Cologne Pattern 15.25" Staffordshire Platter! Nr!Antique Parian Ware Small Bust Of Apollo StaffordshireAntique Parian Ware Small Bust Of John Milton StaffordshireAntique Staffordshire ~ Pink Lustre Polka Dot ~ Copper Lustre Mug C1840 NrSadler Staffordshire England Teapot Gold X's, Pink Roses Swirl PatternAntique 19th C Staffordshire Whippet Greyhound Book Ends Vintage Porcelain OldPearlware Staffordshire Butterfly Toy Serving Tray Blue Transferware C1830Crown Staffordshire Hunting Scenes Trio Cup Saucer & PlateRidgway Potteries Staffordshire Homemaker Retro 1950s Glazed Plate Kitsch DesignRare 19th C. Reward Of Merit Good Behaviour Pearlware Child's Staffordshire MugAntique Salopian Monochrome Pearlware Handless Cup & Saucer England No Damage Staffordshire Hunting Scene Candle Holders (2)Antique White Ironstone Syrup Pitcher Wheat Relief By J. Alcock StaffordshireVintage Old English Staffordshire Ware Mackinac Island Michigan Souvenir PlateAesthetic Brown Staffordshire Transferware Soup Plate Birds C. 1875Diminutive Staffordshire Hen On Nest Perfect!!