Review by Troy D. Chappell
White Salt-Glazed Stoneware of the British Isles

Diana Edwards and Rodney Hampson. White Salt-Glazed Stoneware of the British Isles. Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2005. 336 pp.; 241 bw and 200 color illus., 5 appendixes, bibliography, index. $89.95 (hardcover).

I approach this book from the viewpoint of a collector with an interest in white salt-glazed stoneware and its contemporary British pottery.[1] Consequently, I am looking for a readily accessible and comprehensive guide that brings order to current, but scattered, information. The standard references by Charles Luxmoore (primarily on his collection) and by Arnold Mountford (on the holdings at what is now the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent)[2] have been overshadowed by a range of in-depth archival inquiries and recent scrupulously recorded archaeological finds at factory sites, waster tips, and domestic-use areas. These new revelations usually have made their way into specialty ceramics publications rather than books intended for a general audience. Quite often such works have brought enough light into dark cupboards and attics to reveal hitherto unrecorded examples of this salt-glazed pottery. Rarely displayed objects in this book include a snuffbox (color plate 65) and a teapot master mold (color plate 56).

Authors Edwards and Hampson previously collaborated on English Dry-Bodied Stoneware and each has published several scholarly studies and papers in ceramics history that have added to our knowledge of pottery identification, production methods and sources, marketing, and distribution. Diana Edwards has written six books and is best known for those on black basalt, feldspathic stoneware, and Neale pottery and porcelain. Rodney Hampson has written four books, whose subjects included Longton potters and Churchill china; he has provided historical research for many projects in addition to editing premier journals.[3]

This volume integrates data from disparate sources—such as academic journals, old newspaper accounts, technical reports, historical records, and ceramics publications—as well as providing extensive footnotes. Still, the sheer quantity of information presented can obscure for future analysts the wealth of data provided. These new contributions include summary histories of selected potworks, a list of documented producers of white stoneware, correlation of modest numbers of sherds with extant objects, and clarification and identification of individuals in pottery-owning families sharing the same or similar surnames.

The volume is bound well in boards following the tradition of the Antique Collectors’ Club, and the price is suitable for a book with many photographs. The Winterthur Museum and Ceramica Stiftung helped underwrite publishing costs.

Now, to open the covers of this new compendium to disclose what treasure might be at hand. A good beginning! The frontispiece gives a monumental centerpiece the public attention that it deserves.

The photographs (especially color ones) lend valuable insight into new discoveries (or rediscoveries). Pictures of inaccessible private collections and infrequently recorded objects are particularly welcome. Book design integrating color illustrations with the text aids in checking figures, but it would have been even easier if figure and plate numbers were highlighted in bold type in both text and captions. Black-and-white photographs that duplicate the same views in color should have been omitted. Altogether, the selections give a sense of the range of white salt-glazed stoneware produced, but not the relative frequency of each category.

New photography of far-flung pieces may not have been feasible. As a result, the resolution and orientation of various objects may thwart showing details mentioned in the text. Notwithstanding efforts toward consistency, these shortfalls in the illustration program are irritating. For instance, the text (p. 20) mentions knife-cut terminals and directs the reader to color plate 10, showing three mugs. Once there, though, the reader sees that the handle of the truly knife-cut mug is obscured while the other two terminals appear hand-manipulated, that is, thumbed or rolled. Further, the caption is incorrect, both as a result of reversing the sequence of the mugs as they are pictured and of using outdated interpretations.[4] Captions consisting only of source credits, not new information, may leave the reader with questions. Why, for example, is a blanc de chine porcelain mug paired with a salt-glazed one in figure 2? It also leaves open a potential chicken-or-egg question. Although globular jugs with short, often ribbed, cylindrical necks are thought by some to be based on Chinese wares produced for the western European market, the source for the profile could well be Rhineland stoneware imports to England.[5] In addition, the shoe model in color plate 9 has been recently proposed as Fulham, circa 1700–1710.[6]

The writers’ history of British white salt-glazed stoneware manufacture begins with John Dwight, the late-seventeenth-century entrepreneur who built on German stoneware techniques to establish the British stoneware industry. His startlingly clever, detailed white figures are shown in side-by-side, comparable-quality photographs. Although this book is dedicated to white ware, it would have been helpful for a novice to be directed to other spectacular pottery busts and figures in grayish color or finished “bronze.”[7]

The researchers describe economic and social contexts for the development of markets for white salt-glazed stoneware in the eighteenth century. To prepare the reader for considering the actual formative methods used in pottery designing, shaping, burning, and decorating, Edwards and Hampson give an overview of the sources, manipulations, and transportation of the fundamental ingredients—clay, flint, and salt.[8] The networking necessary to obtain raw materials in conjunction with attendant transportation modes is emphasized.

The spectrum of means and equipment used to mass-produce white stoneware is discussed extensively and portrayed from clay cleansing to surface decorating. The progression and endurance of design elements are traced. Nonetheless, a more clear-cut example of blue-colored applied relief would improve the coverage of forms and patterns. In color plate 49, for example, it is hard to tell whether the relief consists of blue-color clay or of blue color only on the surface. Applying relief was a troublesome technique, and some potters had difficulty removing air bubbles. Another move toward completeness would have been to include more specimens with reticulated walls and borders.

Quaint nomenclature to describe clay fabrics and the subsequent wares was too often used loosely and inaccurately in the ceramics literature of the early twentieth century. This work clarifies some of those misused terms, such as Crouch ware (pp. 65, 73) and ball clay (pp. 64, 66, 71).

The authors are unable to confirm whether plaster of paris mold-making was first introduced from France in the mid-eighteenth century, a traditional view. Semantics in the records may prevent our ever being able to distinguish this material from the closely related alabaster and calcined gypsum, cited in earlier documents, that might have been used in a similar way, but named differently. A defining sentence would have helped the reader separate the terms and realize the complexity of the situation.[9]

Despite the research at hand, unfounded tales persist. For example, the contribution and activity of mid-eighteenth-century Dutch enamelers, a Mr. Daniel, and the Warburton family—all in Staffordshire (p. 125)—remain uncertain. Another small quibble: The text establishes that particular salt-glazed stoneware with a possible lead glaze is inscribed “Swansea.” Sparse documentation, but not archaeology, hints at salt-glaze potting in that place. It seems hasty to imply (pp. 120, 232) on such sketchy evidence that a referenced teapot could have been made there.

New World archaeological reports, newspaper accounts, and probate inventories compensate somewhat for the loss of archival material through time. As a special bonus, controlled excavations have brought forth remarkably complete American-used thin-body pieces; these were buried soon after production circa 1720. Such early ware as shown here (color plates 12 and 139) is seldom encountered elsewhere in dated contexts.

Juxtapositions of extant objects with archaeological finds and a description of the colonial trade are helpful for attribution and interpretation. Also appreciated are thumbnail sketches of ownership and potting activities at several known work areas correlated with sherd discoveries. The limited number of sherds included still manages to indicate the typical extent and quality of evidence—match, near match, or no match—on which attributions could be suggested. As is now clear, the presence of a sherd does not always a factory make. The authors note a blue-dipped fragment from South Carolina (p. 165, color plate 137) with blisters and blowouts in the glaze. There is at least one extant complete teapot (private collection) with very similar blemishes. In the absence of more definitive pot-making indicators from Carolina, it seems that the remainder could well be a British product, rather than an American waster. After all, there was the world of “seconds” and “worse seconds,” as is amply indicated in appendix 3.

The book integrates the activities surrounding pot making with those of distributing wares for domestic sale and export. These operations extended to the management of work sites with the growing division of labor, capital formation, and vertical organization by ambitious owners who controlled supplies, transportation, production, and salesrooms. These areas of inquiry are fruitful for grasping the development of a national industry.

The Park Lane pothouse of John Eccles and Co. (1756–1767) seems out of place among Liverpool white stoneware occurrences in appendix 2 (p. 263). Only delftware was made at Park Lane, Eccles’s sole known location during that period. Salt-glazed oven spacers, which were recovered on the opposite side of town at Dale Street, are not traced to Park Lane or any other specific pottery. The text shows Eccles’s 1756 notice to make and sell all sorts of blue and white along with “black and white earthenware, being the first of the black and white Colours ever brought to Perfection in Liverpool.” The former colors were prevalent for delft decoration, but the other set might refer to an unusual “black enamel” version, rather than to “Jackfield” blackware and white salt-glazed stoneware, as construed by the authors.[10]

Pottery inventories in the appendixes facilitate the comprehension of colloquial terms, and the companion customer list reveals social hierarchy and potter interactions. The bibliography offers a wealth of primary material organized by chapter for future investigations.

The eighteenth-century phenomenon of white salt-glazed stoneware was fully English, and this practical and scholarly reference promotes the understanding of the manufacture, economic importance, and present-day identification of the ware. This book condenses much of the current knowledge of the subject and consolidates extensive pictorial material. It is a sober and worthy monograph bolstered by copious notes that should stimulate new research. This study takes its place alongside the Luxmoore volume, with its valuable visual summary of molds, and the Mountford book, with its emphasis on the regional Staffordshire industry. Together they are essential for interpreting white salt-glazed stoneware.

Troy D. Chappell, Collector


Ceramics in America 2006

  • [1]

    The authors had intended to consider pieces from my collection for this book, but publication deadlines made that impossible.

  • [2]

    Charles F. C. Luxmoore, “Saltglaze” with the Notes of a Collector (Exeter, Eng.: Pollard, 1924; reprint, London: Holland Press, 1971); Arnold R. Mountford, The Illustrated Guide to Staffordshire Salt-Glazed Stoneware (London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1971).

  • [3]

    Diana Edwards and Rodney Hampson, English Dry-Bodied Stoneware: Wedgwood and Contemporary Manufacturers, 1774 to 1830 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1998). 

  • [4]

    The mug on the left should read “Fulham (Dwight’s factory), ca. 1705”; the middle one, “Staffordshire, ca. 1700”; and the one on the right, “probably Fulham, ca. 1750.”

  • [5]

    Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain: The Ch’ing Dynasty, 1644–1912 (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), p. 82 and pl. CXIX (1a), for information and example.

  • [6]

    Peter Williams and Patricia Halfpenny, A Passion for Pottery: Further Selections from the Henry H. Weldon Collection (London: Sotheby’s Publications, 2000), p. 122.

  • [7]

    Robert L. Hobson, Catalogue of the Collection of English Pottery in the Department of Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography of the British Museum (London: Bemrose and Sons, 1903), pl. XIV for grayish and gilt bust of Prince Rupert (24 in. high), and pl. XV, for “bronze” figures of Meleager (12 in. high) and Mars (13 3/4 in. high).

  • [8]

    For the unsatisfactory thermal shock property of delftware (p. 53), “fracture” meaning “to crack” seems a better descriptor than “friable,” often used to describe a powdery surface condition before oven firing.

  • [9]

    Gypsum—the basic calcareous substance—has a fine-grain solid form known as alabaster. Plaster of paris is ground gypsum from which water has been driven off.

  • [10]

    For a synopsis of Park Lane products, see Frederic H. Garner and Michael Archer, English Delftware, 2nd ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1972), p. 62. For locations and map, see E. Myra Brown and Terence A. Lockett, Made in Liverpool, Liverpool Pottery and Porcelain, 1700–1850 (Liverpool: National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, 1993), pp. 23–24, 28. For advertisement with original emphasis, see Lionel Burman, “Excerpts from Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser and Mercantile Register—1756,” English Ceramic Circle Transactions 17, pt. 1 (1999): 34–46. For “black enamel” delft example, see Troy D. Chappell, “An Adventure with Early English Pottery,” in Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 2001), p. 203, fig. 29.