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    

Halcyon Days England Staffordshire Enamels Hand Painted Lot Of 6 Trinket BoxesSuperb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Grey & White Tabby Cats Sitting PoseSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Aesop's Stork & Fox With Spill Vase Antique Hand Stroke Painted Green Molded Edge Creamware Leeds Neale Plate C1800 Pair Antique Fruit And Flowers Blue Staffordshire Pottery Plates Mayer C1830 Blue Calico By Staffordshire England (4pc Canister Set) Rare!!!!!!!!Antique Leeds Green Feather Edge Creamware Oval Bowl No ReserveSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Inkwell With Child & Sheep By UrnDavenport Staffordshire 19c Hand Painted English Porcelain Footed Bowl Dish GoldVtg Touraine Stanley Staffordshire England Flow Blue Floral China Plate DishAntique Leeds Blue & White Pepper Pot Soft Paste Creamware 4 1/4 InchesAntique Early Staffordshire Hand Painted Creamware Tea Caddy PearlwareBrown" Millennium" Plate 10 5/8” “peace On Earth” By Ralph Stevenson Circa 1832Crown Staffordshire England Blue Bow #f4547 Bone China Cup & Saucer36 Pc. Demitasse Cups & Saucers Lot Tirschenreuth Haviland Staffordshire SadekAntique Historical Clews Blue Staffordshire Transferware Bowl Lafayette LandingAntique Staffordshire Brown Transferware Pitcher Ca. 1840Antique English Staffordshire Black & White Transferware Plate Pomerania J RMochaware Bowl, Dg,carpentier,05,.staffordshire,art Pottery,excellent And ScarceIronstone Tea Leaf Copper Lustre Shave Mug Cup Chinese Shape Anthony Shaw-1800'sHistorical Blue 9 1/2” Plate The Rookery Surrey Riley Plate Staffordshire EnglaStaffordshire Child Tea Stan Mulberry Flow Blue Flowers Tea Set Ridgway 1850Antique Staffordshire Motto Plate Welsh Rabbit Arts & Crafts Pottery English OldChilds Demitasse Cup & Saucer Devonshire Staffordshire1885 Duck Pelican BirdsChilds Pearlware Miniature Platter Vine & Berries Staffordshire 1835Crown Staffordshire Miniature Tea Set Pieces Pitcher + Cup And SaucerUnusual Rare Antique Staffordshire Faring.Vintage Set Of 4 Liberty Blue Coasters 4 Different Historic Colonial Scenes +1Old 1800's Staffordshire White Ironstone Food Mold, Pudding MoldBrown Aesthetic Transfer Butter Pat Devonshire Ridgways Staffordshire 1885Vtg Sutherland Fine Bone China Tea Cup And Saucer Pink Roses Staffordshire Eng.Historical Blue Staffordshire Auction Catalog - Goldberg & Brown CollectionAntique Staffordshire J & M Bell And Co. Royal.blue And White Platter-beautiful!Halcyon Days Fox Stirrup CupAntique Staffordshire 1890 Child Cobalt Blue Spongeware Spatterware Teapot & LidStaffordshire Ironstone Liberty Blue Sugar Bowl And Lid - Betsy Ross - England Antique 19thc Staffordshire Porcelain Late Adams Rose 2 Cups, 3 Saucers, 1 PlateStaffordshire Horoscope Fortune Telling Cup & Saucer Fine Bone China +instr.bookAntique 19th C Staffordshire Porcelain Spatterware Adams Pink Rose Small Creamer4 New Hall Hanley Staffordshire England English Porcelain Ring Pin Dish Tray Iwl Crown Staffordshire For Miniature Lovers Cup And Saucer Absolute Charmer Antique Copper Luster Pitcher Pink Luster Cottage Scene 5 1/4" 1850-1900Vintage Crown Staffordshire Hunting Scene 7.5" Coffee Pot Fox & HoundsAntique J Heath Ontario Lake Scenery Blue Transferware Tray Plate3 Brown Aesthetic Transferware 6" Plates Garfield Pattern 1884 Staffordshire3 Small Staffordshire Style Cottage Houses All Different VintageCrown Dorset Teapot Tea Pot Kettle Staffordshire England Ceramic Roses WhiteAntique C1850 "stag" Blue Staffordshire Plate Child's Dish ToddyBethany Fine Bone China Staffordshire England Teacup & Saucer No Damage1800's Antique Rare Staffordshire Cow Creamer With Gold Trim63 Pieces Of Staffordshire Liberty Blue Made In England Historic Colonial ScenesAntique 19 1/4" Staffordshire Chinese Gem Transfer Ware Blue & White Platter1820s Fine Staffordshire Handleless Teacup Tea Cup Strawberry Vine Pearlware N/rChilds Staffordshire 1835 Tray Miniature Toy Pearlware Transferware Tea SetAlfred Meakin Staffordshire England Fair Winds Blue Cream And Sugar Set-vintageSet Of 4 Antique Aesthetic Transferware Tea Cups Bowls Handleless Flowers LeavesStaffordshire Enamels Cairn Terrier Signed Pill Box Hand PaintedFour Liberty Blue Staffordshire Ironstone Mt. Vernon 6.5" Soup Cereal BowlsLiberty Blue France's Tavern Bowl 8 1/2 Inch Across Staffordshire Childs Toy Plate 1850 Fishers Fishing Blue Cow Transferware