Types of Ware
For almost 100 years Wiltshaw & Robinson, the makers of Carlton Ware, produced an extraordinary range of earthenware and china at its Copeland Street works in Stoke-on-Trent.
Here we briefly describe and show most of the main categories, roughly in chronological order.
Not long after its formation, about 1890, Wiltshaw & Robinson introduced a highly successful range of earthenwares, now called Blush Ware. This name aptly describes the delicate pastel shaded backgrounds to patterns, either printed or freehand.
The quality of some of these wares is very high, and, in the style of the time, W&R employed many elaborate shapes, often adorned with sumptuous gilding, including raised gold. ❑ ©HP If you would like to see a range of Blush Ware patterns named by the Pottery then click here.
Blue & White
As an adjunct to Blushware described above, the pottery used the same shapes and pattern prints to produce monochrome decorations such as Blue & White and Flow Blue, again often embellished with gold. ❑ ©HP If you would like to see more detail and examples, then click here.
Wiltshaw & Robinson was one of the first of many potteries to follow WH Goss's lead in the production of Heraldic Souvenir China emblazoned with heraldic crests. W&R introduced their models around 1903.
Production of this fascinating range of miniatures continued well into the 1920s. Initially W&R based its models on ancient artifacts found in museums, but within a short time, offered models of an entertaining and humorous nature.
Suffragettes, modes of transport, latest inventions, seaside themes and popular songs also provided inspiration to the pottery.
The 1914-18 war brought about the introduction of many models of a military nature. To commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the war During 2014 we published a series of 12 articles on Carlton Heraldic China related to the conflict. Click on the image on the right to view.
The quality of this Carlton China was high and W&R prided themselves on their accuracy of the heraldic devices. The wide range of shapes, estimated to have been almost 1000 in total, provide a fascinating record of the social history of the earlier part of the twentieth century. ❑ ©HP
Best Ware was the name given on the works for the more highly decorated wares, usually employing elaborate printed and enamelled patterns. The highly skilled techniques needed to make them had been established early on with the Blush Ware patterns, the Best Ware of their time.
Often Best Ware patterns were underglaze painted, as well as using onglaze enamels and lustres, gold printing and raised enamelling. The most popular were the many Chinoiserie patterns such as MIKADO, TEMPLE and the elaborate CHINALAND.
Perhaps, the most extraordinary Best Ware is from the Art Deco era with archetypal patterns such as FAN, BELL and JAZZ. Such exotic decorations will never be created again, because of the high cost of production and loss of expertise.
Best Ware can be divided into different categories, one of which is Handcraft. This is listed separately below. ❑ ©HP
Salad Ware's considerable popularity generated the revenue that enabled the extravagances of the highly original and expensive Best Ware patterns.
All was expertly modelled and hand painted in attractive colours. Today, we divide this wide range into Floral Embossed and Fruit Embossed wares, although on the works it was all known as Salad Ware, primarily because the first of these ranges was the highly popular Lettuce & Tomato, variants of which remained in production for more than fifty years.
Other popular designs were Apple Blossom, Foxglove, Buttercup and Wild Rose, but there were many more. ❑ ©HP
Predominantly, Handcraft was decorated using the palette of colours shown in the picture on the right, though eventually there were quite a number of exceptions.
W&R introduced this range c.1928, as a response to the fashion for freehand painted decorations.
Around this time, many other British potteries offered modern freehand painted wares, such as Poole Pottery, Grays Pottery, Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff. Such was the zeitgeist.
Most significant for Carlton Ware was its introduction of matt glazes, which distinguish much of this important range and which presents a luxurious, silky appearance. ❑ ©HP
Coloured Ware or Novelty Wares
Coloured Ware was the name the pottery gave to a range of novelty wares first introduced in the 1920s. All were executed with a wonderful sense of humour.
Novelties were to become another hallmark of Carlton Ware. It was widely acknowledged throughout the pottery industry that Carlton excelled in their production.
Carlton Ware produced so many different models that there was always something new for a customer. Coloured Ware complimented the vast array of Salad Ware, and like it, offered items to suit all pockets, as well as raising a smile. ❑ ©HP
In 1928, as a means of expanding its already extensive range of wares, Wiltshaw & Robinson bought the nearby Vine Pottery, previously the china works of Birks Rawlins & Co.
Carlton Ware had already established itself as makers of fine earthenware tea and coffee sets, so the diversification to china versions was a natural progression for the forward looking pottery.
Initially, Carlton Ware continued to fulfill orders for Birks Rawlins patterns, most of which were of a traditional nature, but within a short time many new and modern designs were introduced.
In 1931, somewhat erroneously, W&R's bank, forced the sale of the Vine Pottery. During its four or so years of production, astonishing numbers of new patterns were introduced. Two of the fourteen Founder members of Carlton Ware World Wide, Derek and Jane Towns, run a website specifically on Carlton China, where you can see many examples. Go to our links pages to view their site. ❑ ©HP
The earliest known Advertising Ware dates from about 1900 and took the form of match holders and strikers for companies such as Bryant & May and Burton Ale. From the 1930s onwards John Haig & Sons, distillers, became big customers using ware to advertise their whisky in pubs and hotels with specially modelled ashtrays and water jugs.
Others brewers and distillers took advantage of the skills at Copeland Street, most notably Arthur Guinness, Son & Co., especially with a range or bar ornaments. These were based on John Gilroy's animals and zoo keeper that had he first created for Guinness adverts. Alas, Master moulds for these charming figures have ended up in the hands of the unscrupulous and fakes abound. See our Guinness fakes pages to see these and more.
Of similar distinction are the models of vintage cars made for the British Motor Corporation and British Leyland. Cadbury's, Harrods and even Singapore Airlines were amongst many other customers. Like Heineken, another client, Carlton Ware reaches the parts that other potteries cannot reach! ❑ ©HP
Contemporary Ware - the 1950s & 60s
During the post war period many pottery designers looked towards Scandinavia for inspiration and Carlton Ware was no exception.
Fluid and freeform shapes were the order of the day. Windswept, a large range of tea, coffee and table ware, is a good example. The Triform and Shelf ranges are others employing the fashionable fluid shapes of the time.
Even Salad Ware was given the treatment with ranges such as Convolvulus, Magnolia and Orchid, all of which were popular and used new background colours.
This era of Carlton Ware's production is underappreciated at the moment, but its day will come. ❑ ©HP
The early Woods period 1968-1974
Two years After Cuthbert Wiltshaw's death in 1966 Carlton Ware was bought by Arthur Wood & Sons. The printed and enamelled Best Ware patterns that had generated so much prestige for the pottery were discontinued. They were replaced by a a much smaller range of less costly lithographic decorations, similar in appearance to their predecessors.
New Salad ware lines were introduced in the form of Canterbury, New Buttercup, with its variant Somerset. The new owners also looked to the past for inspiration with the resulting remodelling of Apple Blossom, to give us New Apple Blossom, and a range of flow blue decorations on traditional shapes.
Emphasis was given to the less expensive wares, many of which were of a practical nature, especially coffee sets in fashionable plain colours, but gift ware continued to play an important part. The mood of the time was caught by many of these items, especially a range of money boxes with psychedelic lithographic decorations. ❑ ©HP
Walking Ware period - c.1974 - 1986
In 1974 Roger Michell and Danka Napiorkowska approached Carlton Ware to make pottery under license for their Lustre Pottery. And so began the manufacture of the charming and amusing Walking Ware at Copeland Street. It's enormous success led to the introduction of similar ranges such as RJS (Running, Jumping and Standing still!) and Big Feet.
The popularity of Walking Ware stimulated the introduction of many other amusing ranges by Carlton Ware's in-house designer Pam Souch and a large number of more highly original and quirky designs entered production.
These wonderful wares were to be the swan-song for an extraordinary pottery, which survived for almost 100 years in an industry that had always been precarious. In 1987 Copeland Street was sold to a holding company. ❑ ©HP
County Potteries - a dark period
Disastrously, in 1987 County Potteries, a holding company, bought James Kent and then Carlton Ware. Two years later, the directors put Carlton and Kent into voluntary liquidation. County Potteries went into compulsory liquidation shortly afterwards.
Eventually, Paul Thompson, one of the directors of Kent, Carlton and County Potteries, was disqualified from running any company. The loss of so many jobs was a tragedy for the Potteries and the many former employees, who had dedicated their working lives to Carlton Ware.
During County Potteries mismanagement, little new ware was introduced. Carlton Ware, however, did rise again, though production ceased at Copeland Street when, during liquidation, the works was sold to a property developer and turned into student accommodation. After 125 years as a pottery, the building, at least, was saved. ❑ ©HP
John McCluskey 1989
Receivership meant that all Carlton Ware's assets had to be sold and in 1989 John McCluskey, a manufacturer of ceramic door furniture, bought the pattern and shape records, along with the goodwill and master moulds. His aim, initially, was to concentrate on more expensive lines and perhaps introduce high quality dinnerware. A limited range of ruby lustre ware would be available and all to be made at his industrial unit in nearby Stone.
Within a short time, Mr. McCluskey introduced more novelty teapots, all of which were modelled with great precision. His new venture, however, was short lived and production ceased about 1992. ❑ ©HP
Carlton Ware today
In 1997 John McCluskey sold the Carlton Ware trade mark to Francis Salmon. Mr. Salmon revived the Carlton Ware name, though not its originality. Ware was made for Mr. Salmon by various Staffordshire potteries including Moorland Pottery and Bairstow Manor Pottery.
For the first ten years or so designs were very much in pastiche, being copies of the work of Clarice Cliff, Shelley Potteries, Mabel Lucie Attwell, Florence Upton and other notable ceramic and graphic designers from the early part of the twentieth century.
In 2011 more original designs began to be introduced. There were short associations with Anita Harris, Marie & Peter Graves as well as Lorna Bailey,
Mr Salmon's Carlton Ware was aimed primariliy at the collectors market with ware being made in small limited editions to create rarity, though this marketing technique may have run its course since by 2015 it appears that production has ceased. ❑ ©HP
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