the history of the Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent 


Early introduction of earthenware 


Early introduction of earthenware 
Source: "The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" John Ward, 1843


"…solely to the manufacture of EARTHENWARE, for which this District has been immemorially celebrated, does it owe its advancement.

Some… have thought that the Potteries established here have existed from the times of the Romans; and discoveries have been made of very ancient foundations of ovens and buildings…

 Upon this, however, we are not prepared to insist: but we shall contend for the fact of the Tilewright's (or Potter's) Art being established here during the Saxon period… from the name of Tellwright (formerly written Tylright).. here located in the most ancient period… a name that must have originated before the word Potter was introduced by the Normans, ..their Saxon predecessors exercised the.. art, which they called "Tigelwrtena-Crœft" (Vide Saxon Gospels, Matthew Ch27 v.10 'and they used them to buy the potter's "Tigelwrtena-Crœft"  field).

 There is nothing in any public record, or ancient historical document, which gives prominence to the District, as the seat of this manufacture; and, until the time when Dr. Plott wrote his natural History of the county (published in 1686), the Potteries established here remained altogether unnoticed. He mentions BURSLEM as being the seat of the greatest Pottery then carried on in the county; but he does not say, whether other neighbouring Potteries then existed, though he speaks of tobacco-pipes being manufactured at Newcastle, and that three sorts of clay were procured from between Shelton and Hanley Green".

Dr Plot gives the earliest account of the clays of the area starting with the brick clays between Newcastle and Keele ‘which when burnt became all over blue...

’ the famous Staffordshire Blue Brick. 'As for tobacco pipe clays they are found all over the county..... And Charles Riggs of Newcastle makes very good pipes of three forts of Clay, a white and a blew, which He has from between Shelton and Hanley green, whereof the blew clay burns the whitest, but not fo full as the White ie it fhrinks more; but the beft fort He has from Grubbers Afh, being whitifh mixt with yellow, it is a fhort britle fort of Clay, but burnes full and white, yet He fometimes mixes it with the blew beforementioned. But the greatest Pottery they have in this County is carryed on at Burflem near Newcastle under Lyme, where for making their feverall forts of Pots, they have as many different forts of Clay, which they dig round about the Towne, all within half a miles diftance, the beft being found neareft the coale, and are diftinguifh’t by their colours and ufes as followeth.

1)  Bottle clay, of a bright whitifh ftreaked yellow colour.
2)  Hard-fire clay of a duller whitifh colour , and fuller interfperft with a dark yellow, which they ufe for their blackwares, being mixt with the
3)  Red blending clay, which is of a dirty red colour.
4) White-clay, so called it feems though of a blewifh colour and ufed for making yellow-colour’d ware, becaufe yellow is the lighteft colour they make any Ware of all of which they call throwing clays, becaufe they are of a clofer texture, & will work on the wheel;'

In Cobridge, between Burslem and Hanley, yellow clay two feet thick lay only seven feet below the surface with six feet of red marl immediately below that. (This in the vertical shaft of a coal mine). Stoneware clays and fireclays were also found within easy reach. The geological strata of North Staffordshire are unusual and, with vertical faulting and extensive outcropping, a very great variety of clays and coals were available on the surface to anyone who dug a little deeper than usual. Red marls were the basic clays used for most early pottery. They were glazed with lead, applied to the dry clay ware as powdered galena (lead sulphide) or ‘Smithum’. Lead provided the gloss, and iron or manganese provided the colour. The ‘pipe-clays’, or white burning clays, were not so abundant and were used more sparingly either to coat the face of an article before decoration - as in slip-trailed ware - or in small amounts as the decoration itself. Later, mugs and jugs had a thin coating of white slip over the dark clay to render them more attractive.

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