Until the 16th century, British potters produced only simple, practical earthenware vessels. In the middle of that century, three potters from Antwerp, in Flanders, set up a factory in London to produce tin-glazed earthenware. Their wares became known as “delftware”. Despite the name, English delftware was not only influenced by the Dutch., but also by Italian and French pottery and Chinese porcelain.
Alongside the development of delftware, notable refinements were made to wares decorated with slip (clay and water) whose roots dated from medieval times. The art of slip decoration reached a peak at Wrotham in Kent and in Staffordshire in the second half of the 17th century.
From about 1740, English pottery underwent rapid development in response to competition from Chinese porcelain. The basic improvements were to add white Derbyshire clay and flint to the clay which, together with a new method of slip-cast moulding, allowed the production of light, durable, white wares capable of being cast in delicate shapes and, most importantly, of withstanding the impact of boiling water for the newly fashionable tea. From about 1745, enamelled colours reproducing the Chinese famille rose and famille verte became popular.
The main English pottery factory styles are:
- Fulham (1670 – 1693): Produced huge brown & grey mugs with applied reliefs depicting hunting scenes.
- Bristol (1683 – 1770); Produced delftware. Early Bristol delftware is like Lambeth; late Bristol delftware is like Liverpool. After 1770, hard-paste porcelain was produced in Bristol.
- Nottingham (late 17th century to about 1800): Produced stoneware often with pierced, impressed or incised decoration. Like Derbyshire
- Wedgwood (1730): Produced green & yellow “cauliflower” wares, creamwares, “marbled” wares, unglazed stonewares, red wares (from about 1763), black basalts (from about 1767), “pearlware” (from 1779), “jasper” (from 1776). After Josiah Wedgwood’s death in 1795, the factory added silver lustre pottery and bone porcelain (from 1812 to 1816). See below for Wedgwood date marks.
- Leeds (1750): Produced fine creamware, frequently enamelled or pierced. Staffordshire-type figurines were also made.
- Minton (1756 – 1836): Produced blue painted, willow pattern, pottery and porcelain
- Davenport (1793): Produced mostly cream-coloured earthenware.
- Mason (1813): Produced “ironstone” china, usually painted blue and red..
- Doulton (1818): Originally produced brown stoneware. From 1867, Doulton began making figurines and, from 1920, toby jugs.
- Denby (1833): Produced brown stoneware and, later, kitchen and tableware.
- Walton (1820 – 1830): Produced small earthenware figures with floral backgrounds painted in opaque enamels..
- Derbyshire: Produced stoneware often with pierced, impressed or incised decoration. Like Nottingham.
- Lambeth (1665 to 1770):The term “Lambeth” is often used to denote a number of London delftware potteries including Lambeth itself.
- Liverpool (1710): Produced delftware similar to Lambeth and Bristol. Liverpool also produced soft-paste porcelain.