Museum Magpie: Frank Bradbury, gilder and greengrocer

January 15, 20203:34 pmApril 16, 2020 8:20 amLeave a Comment
Frank Bradbury Cup Backstamp

Read about the fascinating stories behind some of the objects in Gladstone Pottery Museum’s collection in the Museum Magpie Blog

In the Decorating shop at Gladstone you can see some of the work of skilled amateur artist Frank Bradbury.

Frank was born in Longton in 1873 and his family worked in the local pottery industry. His father was a gilder, his two older brothers worked as pressers and his sister was a paintress. Frank followed in his father’s footsteps and became a gilder.

Gilding was one of the better paid jobs in the industry and involved the application of gold decoration to pottery. The materials were expensive and the process was labour-intensive, requiring a great deal of skill. The gold was used in liquid form, usually mixed with oil, and was painted on to the glazed surface with a brush. Gilders had to be trusted to work with valuable materials and even the rags that they used were saved to be burned so that any gold residue could be recovered and re-used.

Frank showed great promise, decorating this intricately patterned cup and saucer in 1889 when he was just 16 years old.



He clearly had considerable artistic talent and whilst working as a gilder he also painted for his own interest and pleasure, creating these two plates in 1890…

… and this plate with a raised-gilt border in 1892.


Frank got married in 1895 and by 1901 had three small children to provide for. He had left the pottery industry by then and for the rest of his life ran his own greengrocer’s business. Whether his change of career was by choice or for economic reasons we’ll probably never know, but it must have been successful as he stayed at his Trentham Road shop for over 10 years. Even if it was circumstances that meant Frank’s life took an unexpectedly different direction his story can still inspire people to follow their interests and develop their talents.

Sadly, Frank died in 1911 at the age of 38. When Gladstone Pottery Museum opened in the 1970s his son kindly donated Frank’s lovely plates and the paintbrushes that he used to create them to the museum’s collection so that they could be looked after for future generations to enjoy.

Written by Nerys - Modified by Glenn Roadley (Curator, Natural Sciences)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *