A Brief History of Gladstone China

May 15, 20201:14 pmMay 18, 2020 9:29 amLeave a Comment

Browsing in an antique or charity shop, the stalls at a flea market or a car boot sale you might come across wares with the backstamp Gladstone China. These items would have been made at the Gladstone China Works, in the buildings that are now Gladstone Pottery Museum. The factory produced good quality bone china tablewares. They didn’t employ well-known designers but followed popular trends, adapting fashions of the day to decorate a range of standard shapes. If you have a piece of Gladstone China the information here should help you to work out approximately when it was made.

Pottery has been made on the Gladstone site since the late 18th century, by several different companies, but until 1891 no pieces appear to have been stamped with a makers mark. 

From 1866 the factory was occupied by china manufacturer Richard Hodson. W. E. Gladstone became Prime Minister for the first time in 1868 so it’s likely that Hodson was responsible for giving the premises the Gladstone name that it is still known by today. After his death in 1880 his son-in-law George Proctor, who was already a partner, took over and the business became Proctor, Mayer and Woolley as seen in this Pottery Gazette advert.

From 1891 Proctor took charge and the company operated as George Proctor & Co. until 1939, although George himself died in 1910. Backstamps started to appear on their bone china tablewares from 1891. They included the initials G. P. & CO, sometimes with the letter ‘L’ added for Longton, and occasionally a pattern name. Any hand-painted marks that you may notice on these wares are likely to have been added by the decorator for the purpose of quality control and because they were on piecework, paid by the number of items they decorated.

From 1924 to 1939 the backstamp with a crown (see below) was in use, although during that period the company does not seem to have been named Gladstone China officially.

The Proctor’s were closely connected to another local pottery manufacturing family, the Poole’s, both by marriage and as shareholders in the company. In 1939 Thomas Poole, whose daughter was married to George Proctor’s grandson (also named George), took control of the business. It became known as Gladstone China (Longton) Ltd and a new backstamp was adopted. 

As you can see in the catalogue photographs below, the pattern name used generally referred to the shape of the ware and the number to the decoration, for example the shape Isis is shown decorated in three different designs. 

Sometimes it must have made good marketing sense to give popular patterns a name, so the Scattered Primrosepattern (also known by the less catchy 5494) in Stratford shape, was available in tea, coffee or breakfast sets allowing the discerning buyer to mix and match all three. Unfortunately few records survive so we don’t know exact dates or quantities produced, however, floral patterns remained a firm favourite with customers.   

No wares were produced on site during the Second World War. The factory was closed from 1941 to 1945 and was used as a storage facility. 

In 1952 the company dropped the (Longton) Ltd and became simply Gladstone China but continued to use the same pre-war backstamp until 1961. The Clean Air Act of 1956 banned the smoking chimneys of the pottery industry and changes soon followed. Gladstone’s bottle ovens were fired for the last time in 1960.  The company reduced operations on the site to decorating and despatch departments only, using the two backstamps below from 1961 to 1964. The Gladstone China factory finally closed in May 1970.

Written by Nerys

30 thoughts on “A Brief History of Gladstone China”

  1. Susan Gordon says:

    Such an interesting amount of information. Many thanks.

    1. Nerys says:

      We’re very glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Bill Brooke says:

    we have a coffee set pattern number 1504. from between 1924 to 1939 we are looking form a valuation can you help?

    1. Nerys says:

      Hi, I’m afraid that, as a museum, we cannot give valuations.

  3. Revd Graham Halsall says:

    We have an old 12 x set of a Gladstone pattern, without the tea pot, which we would like to add back into the collection. I cannot identify the name of the pattern. Is this anything you can assist with? We know that a grandmother had the set in her possession when her daughter was born in 1926.
    It has square plates with a larger square serving plate. Decal is gold trim, blue multi-pattern border, an inner gold trim with a gold circle in the middle of the plate. Any clues? It would also be of great interest to age the pattern and production. We have no interest in its value as we would never sell, but insurance may be of subsequent interest.
    Can send image.

    1. Nerys says:

      We would be happy to try and find out more about your set. Please could you email photos of the items and the backstamps to [email protected]? As a museum we’re not able to give valuations but will share any information we have about the pieces with you.

  4. Pete says:

    We have a single “Welsh Costumes” cup and saucer with the “inter-war” backstamp, but Im not sure if the pictures are transfers or painted. Any idea when they produced such wares?

    1. Nerys says:

      Please could you email [email protected] with photos of the items and the backstamps and we’ll see if we can help.

  5. William Rimmer says:

    I have a tea set of Imari pattern 937?
    Why did they not make tea pots to accompany the set?
    Surely this would have been a good business move.

    1. Nerys says:

      We don’t have full records for all of patterns made at Gladstone China so wouldn’t know for sure that they didn’t. What we can say for sure is that every home would have had a teapot of some design.

  6. Dave White says:

    I have a tea set marked GP & CO plus an L looks like 1856 or 1B56 in red with a triangle also in red, do you have any information ??

    1. Nerys says:

      Hi, please could you email photos of the pieces and the backstamps to [email protected] and we’ll see if we can help? Best wishes.

  7. Mike F. says:

    I have a Gladstone “Chrysanthemum” pattern miniature creamer. I believe it was made somewhere between 1939 and 1959. Can you tell me any more information about the Chrysanthemum pattern?

    1. Nerys says:

      Hi, please could you email photos of the creamer and it’s backstamp to [email protected] and we will do our best.

  8. Mike F. says:

    Pictures sent under seperate email.

  9. Lynne Robertson says:

    Hi, i have a teacup and saucer with 25th anniversary design. Given as a gift around 1974/75. Can you tell me anything about it. Many thanks

    1. Nerys says:

      Thanks for getting in touch. Please can you email photos of the items and the backstamp on the underneath to [email protected] and we will do our best to give you any more information we have.
      Best wishes.

  10. Kate Brown says:

    My Grandmother was apprenticed as a paintress and gilder on Gladstone from the age of 14 around 1910. She remained at Gladstone until transferring to Shelley in the 1920’s. I have a few pieces which incorporate aspects of her work. These carry the backstamp with the crown.
    Some also have what may be a paintress’s mark of G1/1.
    2 plates which I always believed came from Gladstone have no factory mark save for the pattern title of “Mayfair” plus “made specially for Herbert S.Hamilton, English Bone China”.
    Hamilton’s was a store in Ontario, so these were part of an exclusive export order. Since it was the norm only to send “firsts” for export, these will probably be “seconds” .
    They have a back mark in gold of an x with a small crescent shaped line.
    A few years ago, I was told by staff that the Museum wasn’t a Gladstone museum, but rather one that bore witness to the whole industry. My direct connection with the museum was of no interest.
    However, if you wish to comment on the Canadian connection and possible decorators’ marks, then I will be pleased to receive what you say.

    1. Nerys says:

      We are always interested in hearing about people who worked at Gladstone and items made here. Recently we have become more active in collecting Gladstone china as an example of ware produced at a small factory. Please could you send us some photographs of the pieces and their backstamps to [email protected] – if we do have any more information about them we’ll be happy to share it with you.

  11. Bonnie Swanson says:

    I have a tea cup by Gladstone – Laurentian with yellow flowers and brownish leaves and green in the center of the flower. Gold trim. Is it a valuable piece or just run of the mill?

    1. Nerys says:

      Gladstone China made ceramics which were affordable to many, I’m afraid as a museum we are not able to give valuations.

  12. Bonnie Swanson says:

    I have a Paragon by appointment England registered
    teacup and saucer. Large pink rose in the center of cup and saucer, green leaves all around rose and then a very dark circle going around rose and leaves.
    Cup and saucer are pink on the inside and white on the outside, with gold trim on both cup and saucer.

  13. Carol Bailey says:

    My Gladstone cup and saucer have the usual crown stamp, Made in England, as well as ESTD OVER 80yrs. Is this unusual? I could send a photo if that would help.

    1. Nerys says:

      If you could email photos of the cup and saucer and their backstamps to [email protected] we’d be happy to share any information we have about them.

  14. P. Obery says:

    I have a tease which is now 80 years old .it s the Gadfly design wth sugar bowl and jug. I am missing one cup which I have tried to fnd everywhere it’s n luck.

    1. Nerys says:

      That’s a shame, there are some online china matching services but it can be difficult to locate a missing piece.

  15. Fiona Warin says:

    We have a tea service that has the crest that was used from 1939, we believe it was bought in that year. It is the primrose design but the flowers are blue, not yellow. Was there a pre-war shortage of yellow glaze or another reason this might be the case?

    1. Nerys says:

      Hello Fiona, Thank you for getting in touch – we’ve responded to you by email. Best wishes.

  16. Pamela ferris says:

    What year was Gladstone China 5684 made white and gold oattern

    1. Nerys says:

      We can’t identify the pattern from the pattern number alone as our records are incomplete. Please can you send us photos of the pieces and their backstamps to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to find out what we can.

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