Quite often I come across some very smart decorative patterns on Staffordshire pottery marked “Biltons”, with designs from the 1950s to 1970s.
There doesn’t seem to be much written about this maker, except for the timeline below which comes from ThePotteries.Org . They produced mainly inexpensive dinnerware for the domestic mass-market…and their peak seemed to be in the 1960s when they introduced mass production decoration techniques such as rubber stamped pattern making, and multi colour machine printing.
As happened frequently with many of the Staffordshire potteries, Biltons changed ownership often before being unable to continue into the 21st Century due to both changing markets and financial pressures.
Colin Melbourne (1928-2009) ranks highly along with the best of British Ceramic Designers of the 20th Century. It seems surprising that his work is not more widely known and appreciated outside the U.K, but many of his designs seemed to be ahead of their time.
The vase below I came across late last year is from Melbourne’s “Petra” – a series of several different camouflage style patterns for Royal Norfolk, Staffordshire, c late 1950s.
Colin Melbourne “Petra” Series Vase
Colin also produced a now very collectable series of animals for Beswick, another for Midwinter and one for Bossons. Colin also worked with David Queensberry on a series called “Drumlanrig Melbourne” with striking abstract patterns. You can see examples of most of these series on the UK website RetroSelect .
I think though, one of Melbourne’s most striking series was “Memphis”, for Crown Devon c1960. Read more
Kiln Craft Staffordshire – Bacchus Design
“Kiln Craft” Bacchus was huge in the 1970’s as utilitarian and affordable kitchen ware – It is probably not highly collectable, as it isn’t as tough and long-lasting as many wares from other English potteries of the period – but I like it because of the pattern design which couldn’t be more seventies, and also the forms in the series.
Additionally the trademark “Kiln Craft” logo would have to be one of the most iconic pieces of Graphic Design from the 1970’s
Kiln Craft Bacchus – Tea Cup
Kiln Craft Bacchus Stamp
Kiln Craft was produced by Staffordshire Potteries Ltd., which grew out of the Keele Street Pottery Group. In the 1950s they were producers of utilitarian white cups, and dinner wares.
During the 1960s and 1970s the company concentrated on the production of mugs as well.
Kiln Craft Bacchus Ramekin Bowl
Kiln Craft Bacchus Bowl
The Kilncraft brand name was introduced in 1972 and introduced a new range of modern shapes, colours and surface decorations, such as the Bramble and Bacchus ranges.
This range was so successful that the name and trade mark was adopted as the corporate symbol for Staffordshire Potteries Ltd.
Moira Pottery Staffordshire
Moira pottery was originally founded in 1922, and is still well known for its domestic or utilitarian earthenware which started with jam jars, and progressed to its well known “Hillstonia” range which was made from 1934-1972 . It also produced salt glazed stoneware, beer steins, and stamped/branded domestic ware of many types.
The pottery was located near Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire and mined its own clay on site. Moira is often (and seemingly incorrectly) documented as having closed in 1972 by a National Coal Board compulsory acquisition. (It sat on a valuable coal seam, which is often next to a clay seam)
From snippets of information I have come across it seems the original Moira location was closed, but Moira then either re-openend or operated at a nearby location until the mid 1980s when it closed and the site possibly became a textile factory.
The Victoria & Albert Museum also has 2 pieces of Moira salt glazed stoneware pottery in its collection, made in 1981. You can see one of them on the V&A site HERE.
The beautiful clay used by Moira pottery was very plastic in nature and beautiful for throwing as well as enhancing glaze colour and surface, and was also used by other potteries such as that at Albrighton.
The beautifully plastic characteristics of the Moira clay differentiates it from lesser quality creamware – in the jug I have pictured below you can still see the concentric rings from its throwing because it held shape so well.
If you know more about the later history of this pottery, or even worked at Moira I would love to hear from you.
Agincourt Design by Jon Anton, Crown Clarence, Staffordshire
The simple but catching design with its Celtic cross is stamped to the base “Agincourt”, Jon Anton. It is a design that pops up now and then, but doesn’t seem to have been produced in large numbers.
The crown on the backstamp of these pieces is the makers mark for “Crown Clarence”. Research tells me that this was one of the brands produced by “The Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd”, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. This maker produced a number of brands including “Windsor” and “Crown Clarence”.
This design is attributed to the 1960s, and came in a dark green and dark blue variation as well. It is slip cast stoneware pottery, and relatively light weight. As you can see the relief design of the stylised Celtic cross stands out more on some pieces better than others. Love the shape of the lidded sugar bowl. Read more
Hostess Tableware Staffordshire Designs by John Russell
These designs are stunning. British design at its best. They were all created by top British ceramics designer John Russell c1970s for a company called Hostess Tableware Staffordshire.
He designed a number of patterns for this company, but these are the standouts I think.
The company was formed by the merger of Royal Stafford China and British Anchor Pottery c 1970, which as far as I can discover, closed in the 1990s.
John Russell is primarily known for his designs at Midwinter Pottery, where he created Midwinter “Riverside”and numerous other Midwinter designs in the 1960s. These however are far much more impressive, bold, clean and resolved designs to me, than any of his Midwinter designs.
Black Velvet Design – John Russell
Black Velvet Coffee Set – John Russell – Photo from “H is for Home” on Flickr
Black Velvet Design Backstamp – John Russell
The Apollo Series Vases – Royal Norfolk UK, 1960s.
Way back in July 2011, on the previous version of this site I posted about a spectacular very large blue vase with “Apollo 11” stamped underneath. I couldn’t find anything out about it until after several comments on the blog it was identified by Steve Optix from Retro Mojo UK as being produced by Royal Norfolk (UK).
What I love about this series is the way the textured ripples on the surface remind me of the Apollo rockets on take off when you had all gasses and steam rippling and flowing down the sides of the rocket. The designer of the series is yet to be identified.
Apollo 11 Vase, Royal Norfolk, UK
Over time, in my experience, all mysteries to do with vintage ceramics are resolved. Late last year Steve from Retro Mojo put together information about the Apollo series forms, and below is a summary of the background discovered. Read more
"Homemaker" A design by Enid Seeney (1931-2011) has become a 20th Century Design Classic.
Homemaker was designed in 1957 by Enid Seeny and Tom Arnold for Ridgway and was sold through Woolworth's. It had a long production run and was still made as late as 1968 such was its popularity.