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”)

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    

Staffordshire Toby Blue Willow Open Salt Cellar Figural C 1830Staffordshire Toby Blue Willow Open Salt Pepper Shaker C 183019th Century Rabbitware Stick Spatter Plate With FrogDark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Handleless Cup & Saucer StevensonSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Sheep With Applied Chipped Decor & Spill Vase C1890Antique Spatterware Cup & Saucer-ceramic-1840s?nr!Flow Blue R. Stevenson Staffordshire Transferware Shallow Bowl Panoramic Scenery1876 Ridgway Nautical Staffordshire Transferware Pitcher Nantasket Clovelly NrHistorical Blue Staffordshire Teapot Lafayette At Franklin's Tomb E Wood SonsSuperb Early 19thc Staffordshire Gothic Pastille Burner Castle C.1820Staffordshire Aesthetic Transferware Soup Plate ~ Exotic Birds 1885Blue Transferware Sauce Scenic Historic Staffordshire American Villa BostonStaffordshire Pearlware Plate Cow Fisherman & Castle Ca 1820Mochaware Earthworm Mixing Bowl Large Size Ca. 1820 Mocha StaffordshireEdge Malkin E. M. Tureen Tonquin Green Transferware Aesthetic Staffordshire 1883Antique Staffordshire J& G Meakin Ironstone China Soap Dish C 1900Clews Staffordshire Plate, England 1830s19c Leeds Blue Feather Edge Vegetable DishBlue And White Staffordshire Soft Paste Sugar Dish Ca 1815Staffordshire Pearlware Coffee Pot Floral Decoration Nice Color Ca. 1820Antique Black Transferware Staffordshire "the Sea" Plate By Adams Antique English White Ironstone Teapot Gothic Holland & Green 1854 StaffordshireLiberty Blue Teapot11 Dorothy Ann Staffordshire China Flower Place Card Holders Original BoxStaffordshire Pearlware Lot Of Cups Saucers Floral Decoration As Is Lot Ca. 1830Moore Leason Clyde Brown Transferware Plates, 8” Dia, Set Of 5, 1890sMyott Staffordshire Rose 4 Plates 8" Moore Leason Clyde Brown Transferware Handled Cups And Saucers, 4 Sets, 1890sLarge Crown B Burslem Floral Chintz Pitcher Staffordshire England Multi-colorAssorted Majolica, Staffordshire, And Motto Ware Including Matching SetsAntique Staffordshire Blue Transfer China Teapot ~abbeville~no Reserve~Vintage Pair Staffordshire England Sitting Cats With Backwards "r" Mark 8"Staffordshire Ironstone Liberty Blue 14" Platter - Washington Crossing DelawareAesthetic Brown Transferware Polychrome Victorian Plate~ Lahore 1885Vintage Midwinter Lorna Doone Bird Chintz Staffordshire England Sugar ShakerHistorical Staffordshire Wilkie Designs Waste Bowl Dark Blue Transfer 1825Alfred Meakin Tea Leaf Ironstone Mush Bowl, 6” Diameter, Ca. 1880sStaffordshire Childs Miniature Pearlware Cup & Saucer Floral Sprig 1840 AdamsWedgwood Fig Union White Ironstone Plate 10-sided, 7 3/8” Diameter, Reg. 1856Staffordshire Dark Blue Transfer Sugar Bowl, "gilead House Lancashire", C. 1820Small Ridgway's Bowl, Lonsdale-ca 1912 - Flow Blue Staffordshire TransferwareBlue And White Staffordshire Soft Paste Creamer Ca 1815Crown Staffordshire Fine Bone China 'gin' Decanter/bottle Label On Silver ChainAntique Mid 19thc Black Transferware Melbourne Ironstone Platter19th-c. Staffordshire Flow Blue Antique Oriental Manila(?) Lg. Pitcher StonewareStaffordshire Pearlware Lot Of Cups Floral Gaudy Dutch Ca. 1825 Hand PaintedJ. Heath Ontario Lake Scenery Blue Transferware Ironstone Cup And Saucer 1845-53Johnson Brothers Athena Set Of 8 Dinner Plates Ironstone Staffordshire RibbedAntique Blue White Fair Mount Philadelphia Plate..must SeeLot Of 3 Staffordshire Plate Black Transferware Castle Scenery Mint ExcellentJohn Alcock Trent Shape White Ironstone Posset Syllabub Punch Cup 2 7/8” T, 18552 Antique Staffordshire Creamers - (1)staffordshire Jessamine Pattern, 1 UnknownMyott Staffordshire Rose Vegetable Bowl PerfectMyott Staffordshire Rose Footed Creamer And Sugar PerfectMyott Staffordshire Rose Oval Platter 11 1/2 X 9" PerfectStaffordshire Ironstone Liberty Blue 14" Platter - Washington Crossing DelawareBoxed Crown Staffordshire Miniature Cabinet Cup & Saucer Sweetheart RoseOld English Staffordshire Ware Jonroth England 1000 Islands Club Butter Pat DishEarly Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Windshield Teapot W/ Floral MedallionMyott Staffordshire Ware Forget Me Not Pattern Large Tea Pot Very Nice