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    

Historical Blue Staffordshire Lafayette At Franklin's Tomb Sugar Bowl 1825Antique Staffordshire Blue Pearlware Transferware Coffee PotAntique Elkin Knight Bridgwood 1830s Etruscan Dinner Plate Transferware Blue VtgFlow Blue Child's Dinner Set Pieces. Floral, StaffordshireStaffordshire Blue Transferware Castle Scene 5 Salad, 2 Dessert, 5 Bread PlatesSylvac Toby Jug - Made In Staffordshire, England - "toby" - **bargain Priced.**Fox Head English Stirrup Cup, Early 1900s, StaffordshireStaffordshire Childs Miniature Flow Blue 2pc Tea Set Forget Me Not Flower 18305 Beautiful Vintage Crown Staffordshire Porcelain Cups & Saucers ~ Blue BowSuperb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Black & White Cows, Suckling Calves C1860sBeautiful Vintage Crown Staffordshire Porcelain Sugar & Creamer ~ Blue BowFlow Blue/staffordshire Victorian ToiletCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scene Large Oriental Salad BowlPunch & Judy Childs Flow Blue Teapot Ragbaby Wizard Allerton Staffordshire C1905Staffordshire Childs Purple Toy 2pc Vege Tureen Moss Rose 1850 Beech & Hancock Historical Blue Staffordshire Mt Vernon Sugar Bowl 1840Pearlware Miniature Toy Dinner Set 2pc Tureen Vineberry 1830 Staffordshire ChildStaffordshire Teapot / Tea Pot (garden House) "dick Whittington And Cat"Miniature Flow Blue Pearlware 2pc Veg Tureen Dimity Dimmick Staffordshire 1840Complete 30 Piece Myott Finlandia China Staffordshire EnglandMint<>liberty Blue Staffordshire Ironstone China<>blue & White<>set 27p EnglandLot Two C1840s Staffordshire Flow Blue Syllabub Posset Punch Cup Oriental FloralC1840s Staffordshire Flow Blue Ironstone Brushstroke Morning Glory Coffee Teapot Crown Staffordshire Floral Green Daisies 10 Piece Mini / Miniature Tea SetEarly Antique Staffordshire Historic Blue Transfer Ware CreamerRare Antique Mr. Punch Lidded Staffordshire Pitcher/jug 1872Antique "rabbits" Abc PlateSuperb 18thc Staffordshire Pearlware Roman Centurian Soldier C.1790Staffordshire Pearlware Prattware Pink Lustre Hunting Jug W Angel Handle C1820Lot Of Four Antique Staffordshire Red Transfer Scenic Plates TransferwareStaffordshire Pearlware Children's Plate Man Donkey Pipe Ca. 1850Staffordshire Pearlware Prattware Miniature Child’s Plate, 1820s,Vintage Staffordshire England Dudson Salt Glazed Teapot - Jewel PatternStaffordshire Childs Flow Blue Mulberry Quirky 2pc Tea Set Minton C1850Blue & White Historical Staffordshire 10" Plate Antique Staffordshire Drabware Feldspathic Mug Turner AdamsParagon Tea Cup And Saucer Double Warrant England A391/1 Pink Rose Blue & Gold Ca 1850 Antique Staffordshire Flow Purple Mulberry Porcelain Vegetable Bowl6 Clarice Cliff Royal Staffordshire Tonquin 6 1/8" Soup Cereal Bowls Blue Blue & White Historical Staffordshire Under Plate 1820sSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Pepper Pot Shaker Blue & White Willow Pattern C.1820 C. 1840 Staffordshire,bluetransferware,11" Dinner/service Plate,"venus" Pattern*estate* Antique 1882 English Pottery Alphabet Wild Animals Kangaroo PlateDavenport Mulberry Transferware 10 1/4" Plate Chinese Pastime(6) Antique Staffordshire Mason's Gaudy Ironstone Ceramic Tankard Mugs4 Clarice Cliff Royal Staffordshire Tonquin 7.75" Salad Plates Blue TransferwareCrown Staffordshire Hunting Scene Ginger Jar, English China, Vintage 1970'sSuperb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellaneous Recumbent Horned Cows C1860sPearlware Miniature Toy Dinner Set Veg Bowl Flower Rose Bud Chintz Rogers 1830Child Pastel Blue Floral Doll Dinner Set Wine Cooler Urn 1830 Staffordshire Antique Staffordshire Pearlware Pottery Prepare To Meet Thy GodSix 19th Century Staffordshire Scenic Transfer Cup Plates Historical Blue2 Staffordshire Black Mulberry Transferware Tjj Mayer Rhone Scenery Dinner PlateAntique Mid-19thc Earthenware Staffordshire Plate Blue Transfer Pastoral SceneStaffordshire Childs Toy Plate 1850 Fishers Fishing Blue Cow TransferwareLiberty Blue Paul Revere Creamer/betsy Ross Sugar Bowl Made In England 22-6Davenport Staffordshire Black Transferware Coffee Pot C. 1860 Cyprus PatternFlow Blue Staffordshire Transferware Handled Demitasse Cup Saucer Alcock ScindeStaffordshire Miniature Toy Pearlware Tray Serving Platter Hackwood Shamrock1830Staffordshire Miniature Toy 1835 Pearlware Vegetable Dish Green Flora Flowers