Carlton Ware began as a partnership between the Robinson brothers and J.F. Wiltshaw in Stoke-on-Trent, England. They were determined to create colourful and functional pottery pieces with a high standard of quality. Those who collect Carlton Ware have hundreds of patterns and shapes to choose from, spanning more than 100 years of production.
Many different designs exist on the range of Carlton Ware pieces produced throughout the company's history. The company began with Victorian blushware. At the turn of the century, the company introduced a matt black finish with floral decoration that was very popular. Between the two World Wars, Carlton Ware produced many Oriental designs.
During World War II, Carlton Ware stopped production on fancy pottery pieces and focused on everyday tableware. After the war, the company released brand new patterns and colours for their products. Carlton Ware continued to reinvent the look of their pieces to compliment changing styles throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Carlton Ware is famous for its wide range of shapes. Many of the pieces created in the early years of the company are standard vases, bowls and other pottery shapes. By the 1930s, Carlton Ware produced many shapes that fit well with the art deco style of the period. Many of these shaped pieces were handmade by pottery artisans. The pottery was then hand-painted with a variety of subtle and embellished patterns.
One of the company's most famous designs is the ceramic toucans it made as promotional items for Guinness.
Dating Carlton Ware begins with the logo or back stamp on the piece. Carlton Ware has more than 15 different designs for the back stamp and each of these point to a specific time period.
Collectors can also use the pattern number of the piece to determine the age. The pattern number is located near the back stamp and is typically hand-painted on the back. Some Carlton Ware was produced without a pattern number written on the piece. Instead it was written on a sticker that was often removed from the piece.
A third way to date and identify Carlton Ware is to look at the impressed number on the bottom of the piece. This number may point to the pattern or to a specific lot.