The Rise of the Potteries
Red earthenware teapot by the Elers brothers, ca 1765, credit Bonhams
Have you ever wondered why Staffordshire became the centre of the global porcelain industry in the late 18th and 19th Century? I dug into this question and you can read all about it in my latest column in Homes & Antiques.
This hilly area north of Birmingham, south of Manchester and east of Liverpool was an unassuming rural backwater up to about the year 1700. But what made it special was that the tiny villages, home to no more than a few thousand people, were sitting on extraordinarily complex and rich layers of clay and coal, the two most important ingredients for making porcelain.
Wedgwood creamware "Queensware" orange basket, ca 1765, credit Lawrence Jeffrey
Fast forward a hundred years later, and six small towns had grown together into what by then was called "The Potteries" and is now the sprawling city of Stoke-on-Trent. By the year 1800 it had no less than 1,000 bottle kilns bellowing out smoke into the previously pristine sky and employed 20,000 men, women and children - a stunning rate of growth. In less than a hundred years this rural backwater had grown into a central hub of the Industrial Revolution and the global market for homewares, and it produced some of the most beautiful porcelain items ever made.
How all this came about you can read in the column... enjoy!
Today you can find several wonderful museums in Stoke-on-Trent... The Potteries Museum, The V&A Wedgwood Museum and the Spode Museum Trust Heritage Centre. Go and visit if you ever can!
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Happy weekend, and go and visit Stoke!
A slightly sarcastic postcard from the 1950s, using an image from ca 1900
This week's new treasures: