In 1888, four Pilkington brothers, who were colliery owners, encountered excessive quantities of clay while drilling for coal. They were advised by William Burton, a chemist at Wedgwood, that the clay would be suitable for manufacturing decorative tiles. The Pilkiington brothers began making tiles and William Burton joined the company in 1893.
William Burton introduced the production of fine pottery in the style of ancient Persian and Chinese potters, employing fine artists and commissioning work from some of the top designers of the time. He was inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, and in particular, the work of William Morris and John Ruskin.
In 1906, Gordon Forsyth who joined the company as a designer and the production of high lustre glaze finishes began. The name “Lancastrian” was used for these new wares.
In 1913, King George V granted permission for the Royal warrant to be used and the firm became Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian Pottery Company.
The company’s fortunes declined during the Depression and production of pottery ceased in the late 1930s. Production of wall and floor tiles and other building materials continued until 2010.