English Pottery - Part 1

The type of pottery described in the previous chapter continued to be made in all parts of England throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and much is still being made by the so-called studio potters. Among the more important later centres that have been identified with certainty, are: London (known as Metropolitan Ware); Wrotham, Kent; and Staffordshire, where the names of Toft, Simpson and Malkin are the best known. A further technique, known as sgraffito and consisting of decoration incised through a coating of light-coloured slip to a dark body, was practised in north Devonshire and other places.

John Astbury and Thomas Whieldon of Staffordshire were the foremost potters in the middle of the eighteenth century, and their output comprised wares of all the types that were then known. In particular, Whieldon's name is linked with wares with pale-coloured transparent glazes including early versions of the famous Toby Jug, and similar types were made by Ralph Wood and his son, also named Ralph. Astbury is noted for pieces made from red clay, either engine- turned on a lathe or with white clay ornaments in relief. These two men led the way to the perfecting oflead-glazedpottery,a step which was the achievement of Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood was a good practical potter, he had been for a few years in partnership with Whieldon, but was a better business man, and his cream-coloured lead-glazed earthenware, known from 1765 as Queen's Ware, was so successful that it competed with porcelain, and was imitated not only by other English makers but also all over the Continent of Europe.

The closest imitator in England was the factory at Leeds, Yorkshire, which approached the high quality of Wedgwood's products, but often used original patterns. Much of Wedgwood's creamware was decorated by his own men in Staffordshire, or at a workshop he had for a time in London at Chelsea, but a quantity was sent to Liverpool to be ornamented by a newly invented process. This was by means of engravings printed on paper and transferred to the china article; quick, cheap and effective, it was typical of Wedgwood to test the possibilities of something as novel and promising. For the collector it is reassuring to know that the majority of Wedgwood ware is marked.

Collectable Antiques: