In 1890, James Wiltshaw, James Robinson and William Robinson formed a partnership to purchase the Copeland Street Works in Stoke-on-Trent. The factory was well equipped but had been occupied by a series of unsuccessful partnership. Wiltshaw & Robinson began manufacturing a range of useful earthenware items including blue ground wares similar to Royal Worcester, plain white and blue transfer-printed wares and Imari-style wares. In the early 1900s , they began making crested bone china Heraldic Ware. At the beginning of the 1930s, they took over a bone china manufacturing company, Birks, Rawlins & Co, enabling them to make their own fine bone china tea and coffee sets and figures of women and animals.
In 1911, James Wiltshaw bought out his partners and employed a new designer, Horace Wain, to develop a new range to replace the company’s old Victorian designs. His oriental patterns proved popular both in England and in export markets.
During the First World War, more sombre designs were introduced, including a matt black range and Carlton Cloisonné Ware, which used a gilt transfer print over hand enamelling to imitate Japanese cloisonné.
James Wiltshaw died in 1918 and was replaced by his son, Frederick who introduced brighter colours and a range “lustrous” wares which imitated the fashionable lustre ware but were fired at a lower temperature and, so, were less expensive to produce. The company also produced a range of expensive, elaborately designed true lustre ware called Carlton Armand.
In the early 1920s, Enoch Boulton replace Horace Wain as the designer of Carlton Ware. His jazzy Art Deco designs, commemorative wares and designs based on Egyptian art (produced to cater for the interest sparked by the discovery of Tutankamun’s tomb) made the 1920s the most creative period in the history of Carlton Ware.