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Pottery and Ceramics

The pottery produced in North Staffordshire has given the county’s name a world-wide currency and The Potteries has a unique claim in England to be named after its staple product. Stoke on Trent City Archives has developed a strong focus on records of the pottery industry.

Pottery: The records of the Spode Museum Trust comprise the archive of Josiah Spode and its successive owners. The core of the collection is the magnificent series of pattern books, 1800-1998, which show the company not only producing fine bone china, but also tiles, sanitary ware and architectural ceramics.

Other tableware manufacturers include the records of Wilkinson-Newport for which company the designer Clarice Cliff produced the famous Bizarre ware in the 1920s; the Eagle Pottery of Weatherby and Sons and many other smaller collections.

Architectural ceramics and decorative tiles are represented by the collection of H&R Johnson of Tunstall, prominent in its own right and the successor to both Minton Hollins, and Maw & Co. among many other manufacturers. The firm of George Wooliscroft & Son was also a significant manufacturer into the 21st century.

Electrical porcelain: The records of Allied Insulators plc represent the complete surviving archives of the British electrical porcelain industry.

Sanitary ware is represented by the extensive collection of Thomas Twyford, a global brand in sanitary ware and bathrooms.

Ancillary trades: Each of these is represented in the collections by the records of one or more major firms. The process of industry consolidation through the latter half of the twentieth century has frequently brought the surviving records of several significant firms together in the archives of a single depositing firm.

  • Colour manufacture is represented by the archives of Wenger Ltd, 1870s-1950 and Johnson Matthey plc, Colour Division, c.1900 -1990
  • Flint grinding is covered by the records of George Edwards and Sons Ltd, who by the end of the twentieth century had consolidated the mills in North Staffordshire under one ownership.
  • Calcined bone ash was produced for bone china by Jesse Shirley, whose records span the period 1807-1950.
  • Lithograph transfer printing: the records of Capper Rataud Ltd unite the two firms who had led in establishing this as the primary method of pottery decoration.

The pottery collections are further enhanced by the Louis Solon library of 5,000 books and associated printed material amassed by this leading pottery designer.  This collection is complemented by the 30,000 item Pottery Library held by Stoke-on-Trent City Archives.

The history of the industry as a whole is supported by the records of the British Ceramic Confederation, c.1895-c.2000, which is the manufacturers’ trade body. The early records of the potters union Ceramic and Allied Trades Union (CATU) are held as well as the personal collection of its General Secretary during the 1920s and 1930, Frederick Hand.


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