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    

An English Staffordshire Porcelain Figure Of A Poodle 19thcSuperb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Red & White Seated Hearth DogsSuperb 19thc Staffordshire White & Gilt Spaniel Dog With Large Spill Vase C1880sSuperb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Grey & White Tabby Cats Sitting PoseSuperb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Russet Red & White Spaniel Dogs C1850Very Unusual Pair Of Antique 19thc Staffordshire Poodle Dog Figure GroupsSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Parian Maltese Terrier Dog On Cushion Base C1860sStunning Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Russet Red & White Spaniel Dogs C1850Superb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Scottish Male & Female Figurines C1860sA Rare English Staffordshire Porcelain Figure/quill-holder Of Monkeys 19thcPair Antique Staffordshire Pottery Whippet Dog With Hare Figurines 19thc Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellaneous Seated Pug Dog With Collar C1860sOriginal1840s Large English Staffordshire Porcelain White Dog FigureMid 19thc Staffordshire Black & White Spaniel Dog With Separate Front Legs C1850Superb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Parr Figures With Deer Superb Pair 19thc Staffordshire Seated White, Gilt & Lustre Spaniel Dogs C1880sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Female Figurine With Horned Goat & Kid C1850s A Staffordshire Porcelain Figure Of A Man Playing The Flute And With Dog19thcInteresting Mid 19thc Staffordshire Poodle Dog With Applied Chipped Decor C1840sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Of: Napoleon Boneparte Figure On Horseback C1840sSuperb Pair Mid 19thc Staffordshire Male & Female Figurines Reading Books C1840sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Rabbits FigureAntique Victorian Staffordshire Figure Of Man Priest Judge Unsure OrnamentSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Scottish Male & Female Figurines C1860sInteresting Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellaneous Seated Miniature Cat C1860sAntique Staffordshire Pottery - Boy & Girl With A Chicken Figure - Unusual!Very Large Pair Of Genuine Victorian Staffordshire Figure Dogs 13.75" TallLate C19th Large Staffordshire Figure Of Two Fisher Women Each Holding A FishSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Scottish Female Figurine In Tartan & Sheep C1850sStaffordshire English Porcelain Signed J T Jones Bird Of Paradise Figurine AlbStaffordshire Pearlware Figure Of The Sailors Return C1820Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Black & White Cat C.1850'sSuperb Pair: 19thc Large Staffordshire Seated White & Gilt Spaniel Dogs C188012"Original Authentic Pair Staffordshire Dogs Figures 10"Superb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Male & Female Figurines With Dog & Clock C1860sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire: Lord Byron & The Maid Of Athens Figurines C1850sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Figurine Of: Rebecca At The Well C1850sSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Thomas Parr Vivandiere & Soldier Figurines C1850sSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Highland Figures With Black & White DogRare Antique Staffordshire Cat FigurinePair Antique 15" English Staffordshire Black & White King Charles Spaniels C1870Late C19th Staffordshire Figure Of A Boy Holding A DogGenuine Victorian Staffordshire Figure Spaniel Dog Mantle Pink Lustre 9.75" TallAntique Porcelain Inkwell, Dancing Girls, Dog, German, Staffordshire, FiguralSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Figure Of Highland DancersSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Figure Of Highland MusiciansVintage Staffordshire Spaniel Dog Coin BankPair Of Victorian Red & White Staffordshire Pottery Spaniel Dogs, 4.5 InchesLarge Pair Of Genuine Victorian Staffordshire Figure Huntsmen On HorsebackEarly 19thc Staffordshire Enoch Wood Pearlware Cleopatra Female Figurine C1800sSuperb 19thc Staffordshire Scottish Female Figurine In Tartan With Flag C1880s3 Old Staffordshire Ware Figurines Horses With RidersAntique Miniature Staffordshire Spaniel Dog FigureStaffordshire Spill Vase With DogsCavalier King Charles Spaniel - Pair Antique Staffordshire SpanielsSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Parr Figures In Turkish Hats With SpillSuperb Rare 19thc Staffordshire Pug Dog Wearing Clown Suit C.1850. Pair Of Tiny C 19th Staffordshire King Charles Spaniels. Gold Anchor Mark.Antique Staffordshire Figurine Parrot/ Bird Superb 19thc Staffordshire Porcellanous Figure Of The Lion Slayer