The term "Staffordshire china" refers to the pottery and porcelain made in what is now Stoke-on-Trent, which is turn consists of six smaller towns -- Burslem, Cobridge, Fenton, Hanley, Longton and Tunstall, collectively known as "The Potteries." Due to rich seams of both clay and coal in the area, pottery was being made in Staffordshire as early as the 15th century. By the mid 1700s it was the pottery centre of the United Kingdom. As of 2010, it continues to produce fine wares. There is no one distinguishing feature which will identify a piece of china as being made in Staffordshire, but you should be able to deduce it from printed or stamped marks with just a little research.
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Examine the base. Almost all Staffordshire china has some kind of manufacturer's mark. Big names to look out for are Minton, Wedgwood, Spode and Doulton. They all employed clear, easily legible back stamps.
Be vigilant for wares marked with a series of initials or an emblem, with another single initial underneath. Smaller Staffordshire firms often marked their products in this way, with the single initial standing for the town of origin. To research these initials, go to the library and consult a reference book such as "The Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks." You will find the initials listed alphabetically among the general entries. Emblems are usually dealt with in an appendix. The encyclopedia's entry will then confirm whether or not the mark is indeed that of a Staffordshire manufacturer.
Go online after following these steps and visit one of the many excellent websites devoted to Staffordshire china. (See Resources.) By following the links you will be able to learn more about individual Staffordshire factories and their various marks, as well as hopefully discovering more about your own item.
Tips and warnings
- Not all of the companies working in Staffordshire were of equal size. Wedgwood had a huge, state-of-the-art factory and a massive workforce, while others would sub-rent a part of a factory floor or even work out of the back of a shop.
- In the same way that it has no single distinguishing feature, Staffordshire pottery also has so single value on the collector's market. Pieces of Moorcroft can easily reach over £650 -- Christie's holds a yearly auction dedicated to it -- while some of The Potteries' humble backstreet wares might be lucky to fetch a few dollars at a yard sale.
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