Due to an abundance of naturally occurring coal and clay, the Staffordshire region of England is renowned for manufacturing fine china and dinnerware, though local ceramic companies also made a variety of extraordinary figurines. Staffordshire potters began producing these decorative figures during the 18th century, mostly from cheaper earthenware or salt-glazed stoneware.

Eventually, a greater range of colors was used, and potteries made figurines from the finest bone china, which necessitated a switch from hand-sculpted figures to those using press-molds. Staffordshire figurines had their heyday during the Victorian era, and began to disappear in the late 19th century, as imported German bisque products were more affordable.

Staffordshire designs included all manner of domestic and wild animals, as well as human figures taken from historic or current events. At the time, these figures were sometimes referred to as “image toys” or “chimney ornaments.” Those designed as actual chimney ornaments were produced with a flat rear side intended to be hidden when placed against the mantel wall.

Part of the charm of Staffordshire figures is their simple folk style, created mostly by forgotten potters with basic coloring and forms depicting elements of everyday country life. A few artisans working in the Staffordshire region did make figurines in recognizable styles, even though most were unmarked. These include John Astbury’s tradesmen and musicians, Thomas Whieldon’s animals with tortoise-shell glazes, and Obadiah Sheratt’s violent scenes from history, like the tiger mauling Lt. Hugh Munro.

Some of the many animals made into Staffordshire figurines include parrots, hens, roosters, horses, cows, sheep, elephants, cats, deer, lions, zebras, and, of course, dogs. Pairs of dogs were one of the most common forms of Staffordshire figure, often featuring regional breeds like greyhounds or pugs. King Charles Spaniels became the most popular, likely because of Queen Victoria’s famous pet spaniel, Dash.

Many Staffordshire miniatures depicted the royals themselves, such as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as other celebrities like stage actors or literary characters and exoticized individuals from places like Turkey, China, or India.

Interpretations of political events often provided fodder for Staffordshire ceramics, like the various figurines representing the controversy surrounding the New Marriage Act of 1823, which attempted to prevent clandestine marriages that weren’t approved by a couple’s family. The most fascinating of these scenes were drawn straight from tabloid headlines, like the series created after William Corder murdered Maria Marten and hid her body under a nearby barn. Marten, Corder, and the infamous “Red Barn” were all immortalized with Staffordshire figurine designs.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

V&A Porcelain Figures

V&A Porcelain Figures

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s online collection of Meissen porcelain figures includes more than 150 pieces, in… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

2-19thc Staffordshire Porcelain Cats Sitting On Pillow Hand Painted Figures 7"Superb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Seated Russet-red & White Spaniel Dogs No.2 C.1860Antique Rare Large Pair Staffordshire Pug Dogs Free Form Front Legs Nr!Large Staffordshire English Pottery Robin Hood Flat Back Figurine Group 1860sDelightful Antique Staffordshire Cow & Milkmaid Figure 8" By 6"Staffordshire Porcelain Figure Of A Ram C1830-40Pair Of Vintage Staffordshire England Small White Spaniel Dog FigurinesStaffordshire Pearlware Figure Of The Welsh Taylor C1800-20Staffordshire Pearlware Figure Of A Lady Archer C1820Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Of Hunting Dog Chasing Deer & Spill Vase C1860sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Napoleon Boneparte Figure Sitting On Rock C1840sSuperb Pr Mid 19thc Staffordshire White & Gilt Hearth Spaniel Dogs No 2 C.1860'sAntique Staffordshire Pottery Man Holding Baby FigurineMid 19thc English Staffordshire Pearlware Antique Figural Mantel Group Dog 2 YqzStaffordshire Pair Of Poodle Dogs Spill Vase With A Pen / Quill HolderVintage Staffordshire Pair Of Spaniel Dogs White & Blue Ironstone Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellaneous Female Figurine & Goats C1850sSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Figurines In Wonderful Dress Attires C1880sSuperb Early 19thc Staffordshire Figure Of Female Sitting On A Goat C.1840Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire: Mother & Two Children Figures & Spill Vase C1850Superb 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Figure Of John Milton C.1860'sPair Of Staffordshire Pottery Figures Of CatsC. 1880's 12" Antique Staffordshire Large Ceramic Pug Dog Figure W/ Glass EyesAntique Staffordshire China Cat Figure Fairing Adorable! Nr!Vintage Antique Pottery Rabbit Figurine Glaze Porcelain Bennington StaffordshireAntique Staffordshire Pottery - Pearlware Sir John Falstaff Figure - Unusual!