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    

C1830 Wood Staffordshire Blue Historical Transferware Lafayette Franklin CreamerAntique Johnson Bros. Staffordshire Flow Blue Pitcher "stanley" Very Nice Superb 18thc Staffordshire Pearlware Curly Horned Sheep & Lamb: Ralph Salt 1780Superb Pair Of Fine Mid 19thc Staffordshire Miniature Seated Dalmatians C1860sEstate Find Staffordshire Pre 1861 Adams Caledonia Hunting Serving Dish PlatterStaffordshire Transfer Ware Flow Blue Rectangular Dish Castle & Flower Border Antique Staffordshire Prattware Cottage Money Bank Box House Coin SlotAntique 19th Century White Ironstone J.w.pankhurst England Star Flower Pitcher30 Piece Vintage Burleigh Staffordshire Blue Calico Floral Pattern China SetAntique Staffordshire English Lady & Gentleman Figural Porcelain Table Lamp YqzAntique Staffordshire Stubbs Early 19th Century Transferware Platter WoodlandsSuperb Pair Of Mid 19thc Staffordshire Miniature Recumbent Greyhounds C1880s1895 Abc Plate Brownhills Pottery Staffordshire Famous Places Washington DcSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Of Pony & Royal Princess C.1860Art Deco Crown Staffordshire England Hollyhocks 7 X Piece Desert Set 1920'sHistorical Dark Flow Blue Transferware 5 1/2" Bowl Bird On Nest Floral Border8 Royal Staffordshire Tonquin Clarice Cliff Brown Transferware 10" Dinner PlatesPeriod Flow Blue Transfer Decorated Staffordshire Teapot Swan Decoration Royal Staffordshire Tonquin Clarice Cliff Brown Transferware Square TeapotRoyal Staffordshire Tonquin Clarice Cliff Brown Transferware Covered VegetableHistorical Staffordshire Blue University Of Maryland Cup Ca. 1825Art Deco Crown Staffordshire England Hollyhocks 6 X Tea Trio's 1920'sEarly Childs Transferware Pearlware Toy Plate Seaweed Floral Fibre Charles MeighAntique Staffordshire Pottery Figural Group Musicians With Bocage, Sheeps & Swan6 Vintage Blue Calico Staffordshire Dinner Plates-crownford ChinaAntique Staffordshire: Scotsman / Scottish Hiker C1860sAntique Enoch Wood Washington At Tomb Creamer Sugar W/lid Staffordshire As-isAntique 19 Century White Ironstone H.burgess Burslem England Stone China TureenAntique Staffordshire Cottage Pastille Burner With Thatched Detachable Roof 19th C Staffordshire Rose & Green Floral Spongeware Tea Cup & Saucer Set #7 YqzR & M Rowland & Marsellus Flow Blue Pitcher " Discovery Of America" 1908Beswick King George Iv Coronation Staffordshire Replica 6.25 Inches19th C Staffordshire Blue White Spongeware Sugar Bowl W/ Folk Art Tulip #1 YqzAntique Staffordshire Flow Blue **tureen W / Lid ** 1834-1848Set Of 2 Ridgway Plates Drabware With Grapes And Elaborate Molding-not MarkedAntique Staffordshire Davenport Bros Large Open Serving Bowl W/ Classical Scene19th C. Child's Cup Little Boy Blue Transfer SceneMyott Olde Chelsea Staffordshire England Pink 8"salad Plate Petite #6174Rare Pearlware Miniature Toy Dinner Set Plate Daisy Checkerboard Rogers 1830Pearlware Miniature Child Dinner Set Plate Hackwood Shamrock C1840 StaffordshireChild's Clobbered Pearlware Miniature Toy Plate Vine & Berries Staffordshire19th C. Child's Cup/mug Children & CharityRoyal Staffordshire Tonquin Clarice Cliff Brown Transferware Oval Serving BowlVintage Liberty Blue Coaster/ashtray Made In England Staffordshire Fine Bone China Set Of Plates And Cups 19th C Staffordshire Blue White Spongeware Petite Tea Cup & Saucer Set Nr #6 YqzVintage Mochaware Mocha Polka Dot 3.75" Pitcher Jug Cover OnlyPodmore Walker Staffordshire Transferware Pottery Venus Purple Mulberry Cup"caledonia" Antique Red 4" Cup Plate Staffordshire Transferware Adams C.1820-403 Antique Vintage 19c Stick Spatter Spatterware Adams Rose Cup SaucersLaura Ashley Blue Chintzware Cow Creamer England StaffordshireChintzware Staffordshire England Covered Butter Cheese Dish Laura Ashley 1989 Nr19th Century Staffordshire Blue White Spongeware Tea Cup & Saucer Set Nr #4 YqzAntique Early Staffordshire "blue And White" Large Tranferware Platter 19th C.Antique Vintage Staffordshire Three Sheep With BocageMiniature Blue Transferware Child's Sugar Bowl Ironstone StaffordshirePodmore Walker Staffordshire Transferware Pottery Venus Purple Mulberry Lg PlatePodmore Walker Staffordshire Transferware Pottery Venus Purple Mulberry Lg PlateStaffordshire Ware Cats, Made In England, 4 12 Inches Tall, Blue Gold19th Century Quart Staffordshire Pottery Tankard Mug Pratt Victorian Prattware.