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    

Rare Staffordshire Pearlware ~ Leopard ~ Enoch Wood Zoological Plate C1820 Nr6pcs + 2 Covers Vintage Miniature Crown Staffordshire China Imari Tea Set W TraySuperb 19thc Staffordshire Lidded Butter Dish With Recumbent Horned Cow C1880sSuperb 19thc Porcelain Staffordshire Cow & Milkmaid By Thomas Parr C.1870's Staffordshire Pearlware ~ Childs Teapot + Creamer & Bowl ~ Pratt Colors C1830 NrSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Figural Cow Creamer With Milkmaid & Calf C1860sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Cow With Recumbent Calf & Spill Vase C1860sGroup Antique Staffordshire Pearlware Miniature Child's Toy Dishes As Is No ResvAntique C1900 Miniature English Staffordshire Pottery Toby Teapot NrShipwreck Artifact Adgillus 1874 Stick Spatter Spongeware Bowl 10 1/8 Soft PasteAntique Staffordshire Blue Transferware Clews Plate 1830-40Antique Staffordshire Blue Willow Toby Mug, Scarce, Nr3 Staffordshire Brown Transferware Items ~ Clews Genovese ~ Plus 2 Cup Plates NrSet 2 Staffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Serving TraysStaffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Pottery Handled BowlFine Staffordshire Pearlware ~ Childs Toy Sauce Boat ~ Prattware Colors C1830 NrAntique John Ridgeway Transfer Decorated Staffordshire Giraffe Pattern PlatterStaffordshire Pearlware ~ Fonthill Abbey ~ Enoch Wood Transferware Plate 1830€Antique 19thc English Staffordshire Pottery Houses, Spill Vase & Incense BurnerVery Large Brown Transferware Soup Tureen ~ Sunflowers 1883Mint! Antique C1860 Coffee Pot Blue & White Transfer Ware Medina FurnivalPearlware Children's Cup-the Duet, Early 19th CenturyStaffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Handled Tureen W/ LidSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Thomas Parr Standing Cow With Cowhand C1860sOld Antique Clews Historical Staffordshire Lg Bowl Boat On Water Fort Etc 9 7/8"Early English Pearlware Mug, Polychrome Chinoiserie Design, Antique  pottery CupClews 1850 Staffordshire Greenwich Flow Blue Historical Plate No Reserve #1Antique Staffordshire Adams Transfer Ware Caledonia #14 Platter Tray 15"Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Hen On Nest Covered Dish, England Circa 1860Staffordshire Aesthetic Brown Transferware Ridgways Indus Cranes 1877 Covered Outstanding Aestheticmovement Plate ~ Albrecht Durer ~ Passion Flower ~ 1875Crownford China Staffordshire Calico Blue Teapot,cup & Saucer. Exc! .99 Open!Antique Staffordshire Blue Transferware Toothbrush Holder Decorated InteriorAntique Staffordshire White Ironstone Pigeon On Nest Covered Dish1830s Red English Staffordshire Pottery Scenic Transferware Pitcher Ottoman Staffordshire Blue Transferware Pitcher Cow County Scene 1830-40Pottery Ceramic-staffordshire, Liberty Blue, Old North Church, PitcherGenuine Antique Blue Staffordshire Spongeware Spatterware Ironstone Plate C1840sAntique Staffordshire Aesthetic Movement Victoria Blue Transferware Teapot NrStaffordshire Aesthetic Movement Indus Victorian Cake Plate ~ 1885Victorian Red Transferware Allerton Staffordshire Child's China Tea Set 1880 11pSuperb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Recumbent Cows C.1860's Vintage Churchill England Blue Willow Creamer And Covered Sugar & Butter Dish 1830s Red English Staffordshire Pottery Scenic Transferware Sugar Bowl Man HorseAdams Rainbow Spatterware Plate 1830sStaffordshire ~ Lord Byron ~ Childs Plate Pink Lustre Enamel Transferware C1830Staffordshire English Pottery Toby Jug, Wheldonware, 1800'sFabulous Green Transferware Tea Pot - T & J Mayer Longport Nonpareil - Ca. 1836Old Flow Blue Platter Cauldon Wedgwood Ridgeway 15" X 12 1/4" StaffordshireRare Crown Staffordshire Blue Bow Teacup Flat Cup & Saucer SetTwo Victorian Brown Transferware Heron Plates ~ Melbourne 1883Clews 1850 Staffordshire Greenwich Flow Blue Historical Plate No Reserve #219th Century ~ Staffordshire Hand Painted Hen On Nest / Orange / GrayAntique Staffordshire Hen On Nest Nice Colors!Dk Blue Historical Staffordshire Transferware Cream Pitcher Fruit Basket PatternBrown Staffordshire Transferware Shell Shape Relish DishSuperb 19thc Porcellanous Staffordshire Of The Royal Princess On Goat C.1860 Staffordshire English Pottery Toby Jug, Prattware C. 1790 Aesthetic Movement Brown Transferware Platter ~ Palmyra 1883